Special to the Pittsburgh Current
Editor’s Note: The author’s name has been withheld due to the sensitive nature of the story.
I can still feel his fingerprints indenting the sides of my hips, the traces he carefully marked up my back, my blonde hair slowly gliding through his fingertips. My body froze in fear as I never felt this vulnerable before.
Many months later, I found myself sitting in front of my managers in a conversation that I was too scared to initiate myself. The musty smell of their office still inhabits my nostrils, as I recall the firm grip of the ballpoint pen in between my shaken hand recalling and recording his actions. My teardrops collided with the paper, smudging my words. The red marks from the cold bathroom tiles that hugged my legs remain clear in my mind as I cried next to the toilet, muffling my sobs by the sound of a flush, silencing any vulnerability that would escape between my breath. I was sixteen. He was forty.
I am still reminded about it every day. “A young woman from Philadelphia drugged and assaulted outside of a bar escapes rape but is in critical condition” is loudly muttered right 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 primary protectors, and I should never walk home alone in the dark. I have always had to make sure my clothes were not too revealing before leaving and I have also gotten in the habit of keeping track of how many drinks I consume so men cannot use my insobriety as an excuse to benefit from my body. Living my life always looking over my shoulder has become a very exhausting lifestyle, so much that I have become numb to it all.
It is both triggering and traumatizing that I have had to live the past four years under a President who is a rapist and treats women like objects, especially because this treatment is one that I am all too familiar with. The worst part of it all is that my father voted for this misogynistic man not only once, but twice.
It has been challenging these past couple of years to see my father view politics the way he has. I believe that this 2020 Presidential election has become more about human decency than anything, and I also believe that it has drastically separated the younger and older generations of voters. My father has made it abundantly clear that he likes Trump’s policies, but not him.
My dad grew up in a rural county in Pennsylvania. If you look at the map of Pennsylvania, go near the city of Pittsburgh, then scan over the endless acres of cornfields to its righthand side, you will find his hometown. After visiting multiple times and being around his side of the family, I have seen where the root of my father’s Republican political viewpoints stem from, and I have grown up seeing how his views reflect on our lifestyle.
In 2008, my father lost his job. My parents had to pack up every Christmas morning, birthday dinner, and memory from that home, stuff it into a brown box and hand it over to the bank as we were forced out of our home. As a young girl, I had no idea what was going on. (I was just excited to get my own room.) I have moved three more times after that due to our leases coming to an end and for a while, we couldn’t call anywhere home, it all just felt so temporary. Every two years, we would have to reuse those brown boxes and start the process all over again. Seeing my dad go from his 9-5 job in the city to scrubbing toilets at night and my mom taking on three part-time jobs just to keep us alive put everything into perspective.
Looking back now, I understand. My father favors Trump’s policies and traditional Republican values like decreasing taxes and creating more jobs because at one point we had nothing. We were unstable, on reduced lunches, and shopping at second-hand stores. My father does not want us to be cold and hungry, because he feared that we would be at one point. The responsibility and pressure he must feel every single day to take care of his family is why he believes in what he does.
Since my “coming of age” era happened, during the times where I had to practice how to hide under my desk to shield myself from bullets, watch women all over the world fear that their right to their own bodies would be stripped away from the hands of male authority, and witness the empowering members of the BLM movement be violently tear-gassed and shot at by police all while white terrorists summoned by Trump were escorted down the Capitol steps during an insurrection, it has become more than just foreign policies and health care plans to me. It is about human decency. From educating myself on political matters, using my voice on social media to influence change and voting in my first Presidential election, I am trying to find my place within all of this, which is trying to be on the right side of history and fight for human decency
So when my father voted for Trump, I cannot help but question whether he views my experiences as a woman as less important than the trade policies and economic success stories of Trump’s Presidency. I sit and ponder why he would vote for a man who is so similar to the one that took advantage of me. Am I really protected?
I remember during the weeks leading up to the election, I asked my dad who he would vote for. Already knowing the answer, I clung to the hope that maybe he would change his mind. But he proceeded to tell me exactly what I had suspected. My stomach dropped and my heart followed right with it. My throat choked up as it tried to barricade against the swell of tears hiding behind my eyes. Part of me wanted to scream. “WHY WHY WHY? After everything, I have to go through? Why are you choosing him over me?” But, I stayed silent and put my phone down. Because at times, it gets hard to talk to my father about what happened to me at work, and what continues to happen to women everywhere. This is not because I think he is not sympathetic, but because sometimes it is too hard. How do I tell my dad that some man put his unwanted hands on his little girl? Or that his little princess gets sexualized by men at street corners at night? That the little innocent girl he used to tuck into bed every night with a hug and a kiss is not protected by her youth anymore? I also think I am too scared, that if I talk to him about it, I will have to live it all over again.
My father is not a monster. He is the exact opposite. Therefore, it has been so troubling for me. There is no reason to hate my dad. He is not an abusive drunk. He is not a deadbeat who went to the store to get milk eighteen years ago and has yet to be seen. He is the most hardworking man I know and has given my family everything we could ever want. He rebuilt our family, refusing to let us stay broken, and he has stayed so strong, even when that becomes nearly impossible to do. I know deep down that it is our generational divide, gender, and life experiences that make our political views so different.
As much as I wish I can say Donald Trump is the only misogynistic, rapist man out there, he is not. I acknowledge that if my dad voted blue, girls would still be assaulted and raped, and black men and women would still be treated inhumanely by many. It is just how the world has seemed to become. But if my dad did not vote for Donald Trump, it would help my experiences seem like they matter, making them more meaningful than issues such as foreign policy.
With Donald Trump out of the office and our first female Vice President in it, it is a huge step for women everywhere. This new era is unknown territory, and I would be lying if I said I was not scared shitless. Our country is divided and broken and who knows how we are going to reach this golden beam of unity that President Biden so heavily preached about obtaining. Even though the fear of our country remaining broken stays in the back of my mind, this is hopefully the first step we can take to grow and move forward. Change needed to come so we can heal, so I can heal.
It is refreshing to know that human decency won that day, not just tax plans and healthcare reform. People proved to be more important than policies. Even though it is so conflicting having a father who voted for Donald Trump, trying to change my dad is not going to change what happened to me, and I must live with that. Even though every time someone goes to touch me I flinch and I live my life looking over my shoulder while fearing the dark night, that doesn’t mean women should continue to live like this every day. It isn’t living. We have become so numb that we normalize what happens, but hopefully, as we turn a new leaf we can begin to change so girls no longer have to say “me too”.
J.S is a student at the University of Pittsburgh where she is studying Communications on the Digital Media track. As a writer for The Pitt News, she primarily writes about her college experiences during a pandemic while also touching on her own experience with mental health. They asked that her name be withheld.