Having that man as president is like having to face my attacker all over again. Every. Single. Day.
I read last week’s article here, and comments on it, about a pedophile who managed to hide within boundaries of what should be a safe environment. The man in question was a school teacher and coach at the junior high/middle school I attended. I’ve heard discussions of “why was I not chosen,” “how could I have trusted, even admired, this person” and “what if it had been me.”
There are even people who have expressed doubts about why the victims would wait 30 years to come forward. Such conjecture does what is often done with victims of abuse or rape – cast doubt on their accounts of what they endured. At a time when the focus on campus rape has, rightfully, increased, and people in power believe they can treat women as less than human, I’ve been having flashbacks and issues arising from being raped almost forty years ago. I hope sharing my story will help others who are experiencing similar problems or who don’t fully understand because it’s never happened to them.
The decision to publicly tell my story is not an easy one. As I write this I’m not even certain I’ll hit ‘publish’ when I finish. If you’re reading this my better angels won out over my demons.
What are the ways in which sexual predators determine their victims? Appearance of vulnerability is pretty high on the list.
For context I’m going to begin by sharing some of my childhood history.
I spent a great deal of time searching for studies finding any links to childhood physical and/or emotional abuse and the likelihood of becoming a rape victim. Normal Google searches yielded no results, which I found disappointing, especially when I finally discovered a lot of information through Google Scholar. One study found:
Results of hierarchical logistic regression analyses indicated that childhood victimization increased the risk for adulthood victimization by any perpetrator for men and women, and by an intimate partner for women but not men. Female and male victims of physical and/or sexual child abuse are at higher risk for adult victimization by non-intimate perpetrators.
I was raised in a fashion which, by what seems like reasonable logic, should have prevented me from being a victim of rape. Our household was extremely strict with rules for pretty much all actions. Some of those rules were about when we could date, what kinds of clothes we could wear ‘to town’ or school, and even girlfriends with whom we could have sleepovers (my parents had to know their parents and my parents never made the effort to meet any parents that weren’t within a couple of houses from us in our neighborhood).
Another study found:
Compared to controls, the date-rape group had significantly higher scores on a measure of overall childhood stress and maltreatment and scored significantly higher on the principal subscale of that measure, which assesses negative home environment/neglect…..the relationship between date rape and other negative childhood experiences remained statistically significant after sexual abuse was partialled out. Thus, forms of maltreatment that are not specifically sexual are also associated with an increased likelihood of sexual victimization later in life. Maltreatment was significantly associated with dissociation, depression, and other psychological symptoms of trauma. Findings are consistent with a model in which the psychological consequences of trauma increase the likelihood of later traumatic experiences.
Like school, where children should feel safe, a home should be a safe haven for children. The household in which I grew up was one of intense and secret abuse. For me, there was no sexual abuse involved. I outlined a little of that environment last year so I won’t rehash those circumstances. We were always told any mention of the leather belt
spankings beatings we received, starting as small children, to anyone outside the immediate household would result in “getting worse than we had already received.” So we lived double lives – trepidation and terror when my father, a truck driver, was around; smiling, seemingly well-adjusted, polite girls in public. In all likelihood the overbearing paternal influence may have played into my reaction to my rape – which I talk about below.
So the ground rules were explicitly defined and were not to be defied.
The strict structure concerning dating included no dating until fifteen and a half and then only double-dates with single dating allowed at sixteen. Dates were only allowed on Wednesday (6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.) and Saturday nights (6:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.), and on Sundays (2:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.) One minute late meant being ‘grounded’ (no friends allowed to visit or going to visit them, no dates and no phone calls for at least a week). I don’t know how the ‘dating rules’ were devised. They began with my oldest sister and applied to both middle sister and me. No exceptions. So, as a high school student, I was never permitted to go to any sporting functions on Friday nights as a date. Truly, the only sporting events I did attend were when I was a cheerleader in my freshman year of high school or as part of the school pep and marching bands.
Even as small children we were not allowed to wear shorts to the grocery store with my mother on even the hottest summer days. If she did let us wear shorts we had to stay in the car while she shopped – I know this because I remember my legs sticking to the red vinyl seats of our 1964 Ford Galaxy 500. Otherwise, we had to wear dresses or skirts and tops or long pants anywhere we went except in our own neighborhood. When we finally were allowed to wear pants to school they had to be long pants and initially even jeans were prohibited (primarily because my father saw dungarees as a sign of the poverty in which he grew up).
As an adult, I have indignantly listened to men pontificate about how what a female wears creates a signal to be raped. I once walked out of a Sunday School class in my late twenties because some the men in the class were saying how short skirts and ‘revealing’ clothing meant a woman was asking to be raped. Clearly, the message that rape is not about sex but about power and control has yet to get through. In Unsafe On Any Campus, published in July of last year, author Dr. Samuel R. Staley notes a limited study of college students by psychologists Lori Koelsch, Amy Brown and Leah Boisen found:
When asked about personal responsibility within the context of sexual assault, women and men blamed women for their behavior, either by attending parties by themselves, drinking to the point of becoming inebriated, or wearing sexually provocative clothing.
Dr. Staley goes on to say, “It’s no wonder that psychologists have coined the term “Rape Stress Syndrome” and often diagnose survivors with PTSD.”
However, the public side of my formative years was not always pleasant either.
I was a quiet, studious child in part because of the fear of what punishment would be meted out if I didn’t make good grades or misbehaved in any way. As is often the case with children my peers picked on me mostly through taunts of ‘goody two-shoes’ and “teacher’s pet.” I felt embarrassment and humiliation even though I believed I was just being obedient and I liked learning.
When I was in the seventh grade I dared to start “going with” (a quaint term used in my school for having a boyfriend even if you really never went anywhere together) a boy in a grade above me. By this time, most of the taunting by my fellow students had subsided to a great degree but I was soon to find out there are other types of humiliation. This boy allowed me to wear his football jersey over the long-sleeved white blouse I’d worn to school a couple of times. (I could never wear it to/from home because I was not supposed to have a boyfriend at my age.) That simple act constituted living dangerously in my regulated world.
On one such day the lad in question waited until a break when the halls were full of other students to tell me, at the water fountain, with people in line behind us, to give him his jersey back. He had someone else he wanted to wear it. I recount this event because my reaction is indicative of how I behaved under the thumb of my male parent. Stunned and completely humiliated I took the jersey off right there, incredulous but obedient, and somehow made it through the remainder of the day. In researching this article I found this statement in a Psychology Today blog which shows my reaction was pretty typical.
People who are in the process of being humiliated are usually left stunned and speechless, and, more than that, voiceless.
Again, growing up with my paternal figure no thought of anything but acquiescence occurred to me. I remember crying silently on the bus home and when I arrived with red eyes my mother assuming this was due to allergies and gave me a dose of Allerest to treat my pain. This would be the first in a long pattern of humiliation in my interactions with the opposite sex. There would be two boys I dated “seriously” in high school who I would find out through friends were dating someone else behind my back. I assumed those “infidelities” were because I wouldn’t have sex with them.
I had a chance to start over when a new middle school was built and the two local elementary feeder schools were combined when I began my eighth grade year. I was in a new place. There were new people to meet. People who hadn’t witnessed my early elementary school taunts or the degrading incident the year before. I started to come out of my shell but when I could begin dating I almost exclusively dated boys who had come from the other elementary school.
By the end of my eighth grade year I was convinced by an older neighborhood friend to try out for the Junior Varsity cheerleading squad even though I had never cheered or played any sports. She coached me through the spring and I ended up being the co-captain of the squad. Even though I only participated one year, doing so gave me a way to enter high school with more self-esteem. Less positive changes to my self-image began as I approached the summer after I turned sixteen.
Both of my sisters had graduated and left home and were now unmarried and pregnant. My father, who believed in appearances above all else, “disowned” them. My mother and I were “not allowed” to speak their names in his presence. I was not allowed to visit them or call them except when my truck-driving father was on a long trip and my mother would let me go and visit them. Through that experience I learned another “family lesson”: any infraction could now result not just in beatings but in ostracization.
Then my first experience losing someone I loved dearly happened. My father married my stepmother when I was not quite two years old, my mother having died shortly after my birth. Since my stepmother grew up in a town five hours from where we lived we visited her parents in the summer and spent one or two weeks each year living with them. My MaMaw and PaPaw were wonderful, kind, loving people and I adored them.
Even in my earliest memories of those visits my PaPaw would have a horse for us to ride while we were visiting. This particular visit was special. He had been battling cancer since before my thirteenth birthday but was now back to his normal weight and looked the best he had in years. I spent every day with him on his doctor-prescribed walks. As we strolled up and down the dirt road in front of their house he apologized several times for not having a horse for me to ride.
Two weeks after this visit PaPaw went to the stock sale with my uncle and purchased a colt to train up for me to ride the next summer. He brought it home, tied it to the gate post and as he went to open the gate and get the young horse settled in, had a fatal heart attack. I was inconsolable. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t stop crying. I was alone at my grandparents’ house because my sisters were unable to make the trip – one due to her advanced pregnancy and the other because she was still persona non grata in my father’s view.
With all of that emotional turmoil as background, I was raped a couple of weeks after my grandfather’s death. I had been on a couple of dates with a neighbor’s friend (the neighbor who had helped me with my cheerleading training). He was buddies with the fellow she was dating, and would eventually marry. He was a cute guy – baby-faced and well-mannered. Even though he was three years older than I, unlike other boys I had dated, my parents liked him. I thought I was safe and lucky to be going out with such a nice young man.
He never seemed to have money for a typical date – movie and/or dinner – so we would drive to a pond near where he lived and sit and talk for the whole date. Nothing untoward happened – kissing and hugging only – until the third date. He wanted to touch me and I said no. He wasn’t pleased but he didn’t seem angry and didn’t become insistent. The insistence came on our fifth and final date.
There was a large lake in the county where I lived and we went there and parked instead of at the usual pond location. He suggested we walk down under the bridge and talk. As he began to try to touch me and suggested we have sex I kept saying no. I truly wanted to wait for the right time and person. But this time, in such a secluded place, he became emboldened and decided no was no longer an acceptable response to his advances.
As I stated I’ve shared my emotional state leading up to the assault because most studies, as does this one, agree the primary characteristic perpetrators of sexual assault look for in a victim is vulnerability. Isolating their target is also common.
…how most rapists plot their assaults. They identify their victim, isolate her, attempt to gain her confidence, and then suddenly become aggressive to shock her into doing what they want. The primary quality rapists look for in a potential victim is vulnerability.
I blocked out a lot of what happened but one memory has remained constant. Having tried to rebuff his advances, and believing another “No” would prevent further advances, I am on the concrete, my pants and underwear wrenched down, and he’s on top of me. I am screaming and shaking my head no. I see a light come on in a house across the lake. My hope of someone helping me fades as he puts his hand over my mouth. I focused on that light until the assault was over. I don’t remember getting my pants back on or getting back to the car – but I do have this sense of him being unaffected by his assault on me. I don’t remember what passed by the car window – only that I sat pressed against the passenger-side door sobbing.
I had never been more thankful that my mother was not waiting up and my father was not home than I was then. I knew my father would blame me so I began to control only the things I could to keep anyone from finding out. I hid my bloody and stained light blue corduroy jeans and underwear until the next morning. I was working on a farm that summer and was always up and ready to leave by 6:30 a.m. My mother didn’t get up with me since the farmer I worked for picked me up and brought me home each day. That morning I rose extra early, after crying myself to sleep, so I could sneak into the half bathroom that adjoined what had been my sisters’ bedroom and wash everything out in the sink. I dressed in my jeans and work shirt and again hid those telling garments in my closet to dry out. Eventually, they made their way into the hamper to be washed more fully with the rest of the laundry. No evidence. No one would know.
The boy never called me again, thankfully. I suffered in silence, believing if I told my parents my father would treat me the same way he had treated my sisters. I lived in fear I, too, would end up pregnant and be unable to continue to hide what had been done to me. To this day, based on his continued pattern of behavior, I still believe my father would have blamed me. I didn’t have any experience with society’s tendency to blame the victim – I just had the history of the behavior of my father.
I later found out the young man had gone to prison for dealing drugs. I made myself believe he would never be released. He was in prison. He could never get to me again.
What happens when it is me?
I wanted to know if my personality or behavior changed in any obvious ways. I decided to go back through my high school yearbooks and see if there was any indication my classmates saw changes. I had never looked at the notes in those books as a continuum. I read through each of the notes and paying careful attention to what people had to say each year – particularly adjectives they used to describe how they saw me. Some of those common adjectives and comments follow.
In my Freshman year the most common adjective is sweet or sweetest. Other comments included “good friend,” “fantastic,” “nice” or “lovely person,” “great personality,” and “someone who doesn’t judge people.” People frequently mentioned my smile. When I was a sophomore “sweet” or “sweetest” were again the most commonly used word to describe me. Then there’s “wonderful personality,” “understanding of others,” “considerate,” “best friend anyone could have,” and “lovely person.” Similar comments are on those pages from teachers whose classes I had been in that year. Even given the propensity to exaggerate with compliments in yearbook notes I seemed to be well-adjusted, polite, and well-liked by male and female classmates and even teachers. And my ready smile was again often mentioned.
That sophomore year I was struggling with my personal situation involving my older sisters and some of my closer girlfriends were aware of that and it shows up in their notes. But again most often my peers described me as “sweet,” “the sweetest” or “nicest.” From teachers – there are phrases like “pleasant company” (LF) and “charming, and special girl” (EM). Other classmates noted “It seems that you had a pretty bad year this year”; twice someone wrote (one female and one male classmate) “Keep smiling – because you are beautiful when you do/you are so beautiful when you smile.” Another female classmate stated “I’m glad you’re learning to smile” and still another, “Keep your chin up.” Then there are the “understanding,” “special,” “unique,” “great listener,” and again “good sense of humor.” There seem to be cracks showing in my carefully crafted façade. “All you need is a little self confidence…” (Surprisingly, a couple of comments from my classmates jolted me because I don’t remember the girl they mentioned – “You kept the class in laughter” and “Always fun being in your class.”)
The next year not only did the number of people who commented in my yearbook drop but there’s a sense that while I was still seen the same way by some classmates others noticed a change. I still hadn’t told anyone what had happened to me but some said things like, “It seems that you had a pretty bad year this year.” And, from a girl I had been very close to since the 7th grade, “We haven’t been as close and I haven’t figured out what changed.” But while I was still listening and trying to help others with their problems I refused to open up about mine. Attesting to this are two notes – “Thanks for being there when I needed someone to talk to about my problems” and “Thank you so much for being a great listener when I had problems with my parents. You really seem to understand.” My teachers continue to say positive things like, “Your sensitivity and maturity have been a constant source of inspiration to me.” (CS) “…friendly, smart, joy to teach” (BM) and “Your presence always cheers me up” (GP).
But in looking at this in light of events in my life I can see how I was pulling away from people. The research I’ve read in preparation for this piece often mentions self-isolation and lack of trust as side-effects of rape survivors. In Dr. Staley’s book mentioned above he notes,
The event and the depression experienced by rape victims isolates them from the world and their friends. Their depression deepens, and they struggle in silence….Many find ways that compartmentalize the event – and hence, ignore it – or otherwise cope in ways that allow them to move forward….for many, the psychological effects are long-lasting and change the way they relate to others….While survivors may heal and adjust, like any other trauma, the rape or assault will continue to be a part of their experience and identity in the world. Our social institutions weaken because individuals are less trusting, have greater fear about the intent and actions of others, and lower self-confidence limits their ability to fully engage in the community.”
The coping seems to have begun by my senior year of high school and while there are even fewer entries I seem to have returned to the illusion of what I had once been. The smiles are back – “You always have a sweet smile on your face…” and “I will especially miss your warm smile and cheerful laugh.” And from a teacher, “You a sweet young lady which seems to have it all together” (BT). But I didn’t have it all together and I didn’t want anyone to know what I’d gone through. In many ways, I still don’t. One study from 2001 provided insight into my reactions.
Not thinking or doing anything about the problem, and keeping busy and suppressing negative thoughts were associated with less psychological distress immediately following a rape….Several studies of adult survivors of child sexual abuse and rape survivors interviewed at least one year post rape found avoidance coping to predict psychological distress..studies of sexual abuse survivors generally find avoidance to be helpful in the short-term but maladaptive over time.
My first semester in college is a testament to a significant change in my behavior. I was so angry inside and I was determined no one else would ever have that kind of control over me again. I even told myself I would kill anyone who tried to do that to me again. I adopted an “I’ll show them” attitude in an attempt, I now believe, to wrench back control from my rapist – which I could never do. I used the excuse that it didn’t matter if I were sexually promiscuous since my virginity had been taken from me. I therefore had nothing special to offer anyone. I had multiple partners in just a couple of months and am thankful I did not contract any diseases from those actions. My thoughts about why I reacted that way seems supported by remarks in Dr. Staley’s book – an attempt to control my body.
I own my body. I have the right to decide what I can do with it, who has access to it, and under what conditions….”Yes” means “Yes” and “No means No.” End of story…When someone imposes their will on someone else – forces someone to have sex without consent – that person is violating the [person’s] right to self-determination, to control [their] mind and body.
I saw myself as tainted goods and even said so to my college roommate who was the first to know about my assault. It was four years before I finally told my sisters but most of my family and friends still don’t know. It was not until I read another study that I realized the people I told first were all females. I eventually told a few men in my life over the years but not until the event was extremely distant. In examining social support as a form of immediate coping strategies of survivors at three days post-rape the study examined the people to whom survivors disclosed. Females friends (49%) were among the most frequently listed.
[T]he mean ratings for specific groups indicated that SARS nurses (who were all women) and the victims’ sisters were rated as most supportive….Men, in general, were rated as less supportive than were women.
In my personal situation both my sisters were very supportive. My avoidance of sharing with any men around me stems from the male parent figure with whom I had grown up. But even so I was four years from the event. I kept busy. The farming family for whom I worked readily allowed me to work more hours, a pattern that would follow me into adulthood when I would often work 10- and 12-hour days as a salaried employee.
So how often DO victims delay disclosing abuse and why?
An article published in Child Abuse and Neglect The International Journal found
Fully 28% of child rape victims reported that they had never told anyone about their child rape prior to the research interview; 47% did not disclose for over 5 years post-rape. Close friends were the most common confidants. Younger age at the time of rape, family relationship with the perpetrator, and experiencing a series of rapes were associated with disclosure latencies longer than 1 month; shorter delays were associated with stranger rapes. Logistic regression revealed that age at rape and knowing the perpetrator were independently predictive of delayed disclosure.
Conclusions: Delayed disclosure of childhood rape was very common, and long delays were typical. Few variables were identified that successfully predicted disclosure behavior, but older age and rape by a stranger were associated with more rapid disclosure. This suggests that the likelihood of disclosure in a given case is difficult to estimate, and predictions based on single variables are unwarranted.
What causes survivors to remain silent about such violent attacks? In my case my family and childhood background played a huge role but in reading an article in The Globe And Mail I saw a lot of other reasons for my and many other women’s silence. For instance,
Women all over the world are still blamed for the violence committed against them. Think about that. They are blamed if they speak out, and if they don’t. It’s a wonder anyone comes forward at all.
This is not to say that women shouldn’t be encouraged to report their abuse, only that the reasons they don’t are complex and intractable, and so deeply ingrained that they span generations and cultures.
According to an article in The Globe and Mail, Nancy Venable Raine, author of After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back, says writing it was “…an attempt to defeat the words that her rapist yelled at her – “Shut up, shut up” – she decided to speak out.” The hand over my mouth as I tried to scream for help has remained there, in many ways, for most of my life. While I managed to move forward I find that since political events of the past year have pulled me back. Most rape survivors never fully recover. And how many people would expect a loved one to ‘recover’ from such a vicious attack. Study after study supports the long-term effects of sexual assault on survivors. As in this one,
Even after many years, rape continued to be a serious trauma for these women, resulting in fairly high levels of symptoms across a wide range of problem areas. Individual differences in severity of symptoms were related to age, socioeconomic status, time since rape, force used during the rape, and prior history of sexual assault. Also related to current level of functioning were whether or not rapes were reported to the police and the amount of time women took before confiding in another person. Both approach and avoidant coping strategies were observed to be negatively related to recovery.
The article I mention at the beginning of this piece is not the only reason, perhaps not even the strongest reason, for me to publicly relate my journey as a rape survivor. The main reason is the emotional paralyzation I’ve felt since the presidential campaign. I tortured myself through the debates often yelling at the TV about the misogynistic behaviors of Donald Trump. The history of such behaviors in this man is chronicled in The Telegaph .co.uk. From the first debate on September 26, 2016:
It escaped almost no one’s notice that Trump constantly interrupted Hillary Clinton (25 times in the first 26 minutes), talked over her and mansplained. It was painful to watch.
And that was before he questioned Clinton’s health, saying: “She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina.” For which read: ‘She’s not strong enough to cope with the job.’
What is the presidential ‘look’ in Trump’s mind? Coming from a man who can’t resist commenting on women’s physical attributes, that remark is pretty un-presidential stuff, too.
But as last night’s final presidential debate highlighted, Trump’s candidacy has become personal for American women far beyond those he may have groped, resurrecting their experiences, large and small, of misogyny and objectification.
When debate moderator Chris Wallace raised the subject, Trump claimed the allegations were lies. In his telling, the women are either seeking fame—because what woman doesn’t want to be internationally known as one of the many objects of Trump’s fingers?—or they were manipulated by Hillary Clinton’s “sleazy campaign.” After denying the allegations, Trump quickly pivoted to blaming Clinton for violence at his rallies: “They hired people,” he said of the Clinton campaign. “They payed them $1,500 and they’re on tape saying ‘Be violent, cause fights, do bad things.’”
Trump also denied saying he couldn’t have assaulted the women because they aren’t attractive enough. (“Look at her,” he said at a recent rally, referring to one of his accusers. “I don’t think so.” At another: “She wouldn’t be my first choice.”) He also made the point that the fact that he has not apologized to Melania is further proof that he couldn’t have sexually assaulted other women…..
In response, in perhaps her most poignant statement yet about Trump’s attitude toward women, Clinton nailed the truth of his misogyny: “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
Even his predatory attempts at intimidation – walking around, walking behind the opposing candidate spoke volumes to me. It was like watching my menacing father run for elected office. I could only hope that people would see his behavior and vote against such a tyrant and bully.
The morning after the election I kept periodically breaking into tears. I kept saying to myself, “I’m disappointed but what’s this really about?” Mid-morning I realized having that man as president was like having to face my attacker all over again. Every. Single. Day. I have gone back through the self-incrimination of not telling anyone at the time, of why I couldn’t do so and how similar the personality of the elected president is to that of my biological father.
The trauma, combined with having more time on my hands than I want, as I pursue a return to the public job market has left me edgy at times, suspicious of people who I thought were friends, who I thought were smarter but who still voted for that man, people who refrained from any discussion at all, and even withdrawing from family and friends. Earlier this year I went through and did the “unforgivable” in social networking – I unfriended people who were spouting support for Trump or outright attacking me for my views. It’s not that I don’t think they have a right to their opinion. It was because I simply couldn’t take the denial and the vitriol any more. Every time someone vocally opposed my opinions, talked to me in a condescending fashion, or accused me of not knowing the facts it underscored the memories of oppression from my father and the violence I experienced through that rape. For me, the election was never about having a female president. I was about not letting someone who admits to, and exhibits, sexually abusive behavior represent our country. But he got away with it.
That made me think about how my rapist also got away with it. I wondered what happened to him. Was he still in jail? Had he followed a lifetime of crime and violence. These thoughts caused me to do something I truly regret. I looked up my rapist on social media. He’s not in prison. He’s living in the community in which I grew up with a wife, kids and grandkids. He’s living a normal life while I still live – Every – Single – Day – with what he took from me. I live with the fear that he may have done the same to others because I didn’t speak up. I keep telling myself there was nothing else I could have done in my situation back then. I try to keep my renewed anger in check – most of the time I want to scream out loud. I’m still struggling with how to forgive that scared girl for not speaking up, for not taking the chance someone would believe her.
But what I have learned thus far through this lapse back in time is that I was taken advantage of because of my emotional state and because of my oppression by a male parent. I’ve searched for ways in which I can connect or somehow understand the people who would vote for such a malevolent person. As I write this I have found similarities I had not noticed before. Trump had the same sense who in our country were vulnerable and preyed on their emotional state. He knows how to use power to oppress and therefore recognizes behaviors of people who are feeling oppressed. Those people trusted him and we’ve seen him abuse that trust just in the first 100+ days of his administration.
It feels to me as if Donald Trump is raping America and many, like me, who have survived sexual assault are being forced to relive our nightmares on the public stage.