Especially for the Pittsburgh Current
Editor’s Note: The author’s name has been withheld due to the sensitivity of the story.
I I can still feel his fingerprints nick the sides of my hips, the marks he carefully marked on my back, and my blonde hair slowly sliding through his fingertips. My body froze in fear because I had never felt so vulnerable.
Many months later, I was sitting in front of my managers in a conversation that I was too scared to initiate myself. The musty smell of their office is still alive in my nostrils as I remember the firm grip of the ballpoint pen between my shaken hand, remembering and recording his actions. My tears collided with the paper and smeared my words. The red stains from the cold bathroom tiles hugging my legs stay clear in my head as I cried next to the toilet and muffled my sobs with the sound of a blush to silence any vulnerability that might escape between my breath . I was sixteen. He was forty.
I am still reminded of it every day. “A young Philadelphia woman who was drugged and attacked outside a bar escapes rape but is in critical condition,” I muttered loudly as I turn on the television. I learned two very important things from a young age: pepper spray and a rape whistle would become my two main protectors, and I should never go home alone in the dark. I always had to make sure my clothes weren’t too revealing before I left, and I’ve also made a habit of keeping track of how many drinks I consume so men can’t use my rudeness as an excuse to benefit from my body. Living my life and always looking over my shoulder has become a very stressful lifestyle, so much so that I have become deaf to everything.
It is both inducing and traumatic that for the past four years I have had to live under a president who is a rapist and treats women like objects, especially because that treatment is all too familiar to me. The worst part is that my father voted for this misogynist man not just once but twice.
In recent years it has been a challenge to see how my father sees politics as he has done it. I believe that these 2020 presidential elections are more about human decency than anything, and I also believe that they have drastically separated the younger and older generations of voters. My father made it clear that he likes Trump’s politics, but not him.
My father grew up in a rural county in Pennsylvania. If you look at the map of Pennsylvania, walk near the city of Pittsburgh, and then scan over the endless acres of cornfields to the right, you can find his hometown. After visiting and being by his family several times, I saw where my father’s political views came from in the Republicans, and I grew up seeing his views mirror our lifestyle.
In 2008 my father lost his job. My parents had to pack up birthday meals and memories from this house every Christmas morning, stuff them in a brown box, and give them to the bank when we were evicted from our house. As a young girl, I had no idea what was going on. (I was just excited to get my own room.) I moved three more times after that because our leases were running out and for a while we had nowhere to call home, it all just felt so temporary. Every two years we would have to reuse those brown boxes and start the process over. When I saw my dad transition from his 9-5 job in town to nightly scrubbing toilets and my mom take three part-time jobs to keep us alive, everything was put into perspective.
When I look back now, I understand. My dad advocates Trump’s policies and traditional Republican values like cutting taxes and creating more jobs because we had nothing at one point. We were unstable, had reduced lunches and bought second-hand stores. My dad doesn’t want us to be cold and hungry because he feared we’d be at one point. The responsibility and pressure he feels every day to provide for his family is why he believes in what he does.
Watch women around the world fear their right to their own bodies will be deprived as my “growing up” era passed as I had to practice hiding under my desk to protect myself from bullet hands Authority and witness as the empowering members of the BLM movement are forcibly gassed and shot at by police in tears while white terrorists called by Trump were escorted down the Capitol steps during a riot. This is more than just foreign policy and health plans to me. It’s about human decency. By educating myself on political affairs, using my voice on social media to influence change, and voting in my first presidential election, I am trying to find my place in all that is trying to be on the right side of history and to fight for human decency
When my father voted for Trump, I have to wonder if he considers my experiences as a woman to be less important than trade policy and the economic success stories of Trump’s presidency. I sit and wonder why he would vote for a man so similar to the one who took advantage of me. Am i really protected?
I remember asking my father in the weeks leading up to the election who he would vote for. Since I already knew the answer, I held on to the hope that maybe he would change his mind. But he told me exactly what I suspected. My stomach sagged and my heart followed suit. My throat choked as he tried to barricade himself against the tears that were hiding behind my eyes. Part of me wanted to scream. “WHY WHY WHY? After all, do I have to go through? Why do you choose it for me? “But I stayed silent and hung up the phone. Because it gets difficult sometimes to talk to my father about what happened to me at work and what continues to happen to women everywhere. It’s not because I think he’s not sympathetic It’s because it’s sometimes too difficult. How can I tell my father that a man put his unwanted hands on his little girl? Or that his little princess is sexualized by men on street corners at night? That little innocent girl that he put to bed with a hug and a kiss every evening, is no longer protected by her youth? I also think that I’m too scared that if I talk to him about it, I’ll have to live it all over again.
My father is not a monster. He’s just the opposite. That’s why it was so unsettling to me. There is no reason to hate my father. He’s not an abusive drunk. He’s not a deadbeat who went to the store for milk eighteen years ago and hasn’t been seen. He is the hardest working man I know and has given my family everything we could ever ask for. He rebuilt our family and refused to let us break and he stayed so strong, even if it becomes almost impossible. I know deep down that it is our generational differences, our gender, and our life experiences that make our political views so different.
As much as I wish I can say Donald Trump is the only misogynist rapist out there, he isn’t. I admit that if my dad voted blue, girls would still be attacked and raped, and black men and women would still be treated inhumanely by many. It’s just how the world seems to have become. But if my father hadn’t voted for Donald Trump, it would help make my experiences seem important and more meaningful than topics like foreign policy.
With Donald Trump out of the office and our first female vice president, it’s a big step for women everywhere. This new era is new territory and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared as hell. Our country is divided and broken, and who knows how to achieve that golden ray of unity that President Biden has preached so strongly to achieve. Hopefully, while the fear that our country will be ruined remains in the back of our minds, this is the first step we can take to grow and move forward. Change had to come so that we could heal, so that I could heal.
It’s refreshing to know that human decency won that day, not just tax plans and health care reforms. People turned out to be more important than politics. While having a dad who voted for Donald Trump is so contradictory, trying to change my dad won’t change what happened to me, and I have to live with it. Even if every time someone touches me I shrink back and look over my shoulder while dreading the dark night, that doesn’t mean women should go on living like this every day. It doesn’t live. We’ve gotten so numb that we’re normalizing what’s happening, but hopefully we can change when we turn a new page so girls don’t have to say “me too” anymore.
JS is a student at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is studying Communication on the Digital Media track. As a writer for The Pitt News, she mostly writes about her college experiences during a pandemic, including her own experiences with mental health. They asked that their name be withheld.