As a woman, I can’t help but be horrified at Donald Trump. Even before the Billy Bush / Access Hollywood tape was outed, I was disgusted at his treatment of women. But my issues have gone beyond that of feminism and now reach into my personal experiences of assault and the people who covered it up.
I’ve discussed this before, but for those just joining us, I was molested by my stepfather until I was 14 years old. I suffered constant covert molestation even after that; comments about my breasts, questions and suggestions on masturbation, being called a slut for doing less with a boyfriend than what I suffered from my stepfather; the list goes on.
For most of my life, I believed that the molestation started when I was about seven years old because that was the first memory that really stood out in my mind as outright sexual assault. I will spare the details because even writing about it turns my stomach to this day. Sadly, it’s not the worst thing he ever did to me.
However, during therapy in my late 30s, I kept flashing back to a time when I was playing with the little plastic circles that were in the middle of film that came in canisters. My stepfather was a movie projectionist, so I spent a lot of time in various theatre booths as a kid. Because he could take me with him to work, this was my parent’s solution to child care. This particular time was at the Majestic Theatre, which was converted into a performance venue a while back, but was a film theatre during my earliest childhood. I’ve attended many an event there as an adult, and sitting in the balcony still has the power to make me queasy and shakey.
It wasn’t just one, but two separate events that stick out in my memory of the Majestic. The first involved my stepfather sitting me between two film reels that were used to hold the film that needed to be spliced together. Back then, movies came in three to five canisters and had to be carefully spliced into one long strip that sat on platters that seemed 10 feet wide to me. I think they were actually about five feet in diameter, but I was only three at the time. Anyway, when the splicer was turned on, film would go by in a blur; the edges of the film were very sharp and I was often warned not to touch it. I saw my stepfather get cut more than once, so I had a healthy fear of the splicer. Needless to say, sitting behind the splicer with my legs dangling over the edge of the desk and under the moving film, I was trapped. I couldn’t slip under the film because it was only a few inches above my legs. I couldn’t move forward or jump down without being cut. I wasn’t bound or gagged, but I was caught and speechless with fear.
After my stepfather placed me on the desk and wound the film in front of me, he told me not to move so I wouldn’t get cut. When I asked to get down, he said he would let me down after I spread my legs and let him touch me. I could either acquiesce to his abuse, or I could risk being sliced to ribbons. Instead I sat there and cried and screamed. He slapped me and told me to shut up (although he was quite safe as the projectionist booth was solid and nearly sound proof). Eventually, crying and near hysterics, I let him touch me between my legs and once the film ran out, he let me down. I now know that it only took a few minutes for film to wind on the splicer, but to me at that moment, it was an eternity.
Not too long after that, I met my stepfather’s colleague. My stepfather worked the night shift, and this older Latino man worked days. As they chatted, I went and sat in the balcony to watch whatever movie was showing at the time. A few minutes later, the day shift man came and sat next to me. My stepfather was busy doing his beginning of the shift work and so couldn’t see or hear me (as I said, the booth was nearly soundproof). This man proceeded to offer me candy and kept stroking my hair. I didn’t like it and asked him to stop. He told me I had to respect my elders, then he put his hand on my knee. I was wearing a dress that day. I cried as his hand crept up my skirt and in the words of Kirstin Anderson, he touched my vagina through my underwear. He told me I couldn’t tell anyone or I would get in trouble.
But I did tell. I told my mom, who said my stepdad could never find out or he would kill this other man. Of course, then she told my stepdad, and he was FURIOUS. I remember this was the first time I was caught in the hypocrisy of molestation. Although it was fine for my stepfather to molest me, I was HIS property and wasn’t to be touched by anyone else.
But nothing ever happened to the older man who touched me. My parents never left me alone with him, but everyone pretended that nothing really occurred. The message I got was clear: I was my stepfather’s property, and my importance was well below that of his comfort with his coworker.
There are many more incidences of my being molested by my stepfather; as I said above, I used to believe it didn’t start until I was seven, but in my 30s I realized I must have been age three, if not younger. I didn’t know how to read yet, and I learned to read at age 4, so that helps me with the timeline.
As more and more (over nine million at last count) women speak out about their first encounter of sexual abuse, I am encouraged to once again speak out about mine. It is difficult. It is disgusting. I still feel shame even though I now know I was not to blame. I feel dirty. I don’t want my husband to touch me.
Even so, I know I am a survivor. I will move past this. Again. This time, I know I am NOT ALONE. Over nine million other women are openly with me, with God only knows how many still hiding in the shadows. If nothing else, this election is shining a light into dark corners.