More than words

I intentionally don’t engage in talking politics on social media. My Gramma always taught me to “keep your politics to yourself if you want to keep friends.” I have anxiety just “liking” things other people have posted. This post isn’t about politics. It isn’t really even about a politician. It’s about a man, his words, his actions, and how painful they are to a person who has been the victim of sexual assault. It is also about the people who have supported him, condoned his words as “just locker room talk.”

If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, those words, yes, even words spoken eleven years ago, are painful. They are wrought with fear, guilt, mortification. They are objectifying. Even worse than those words spoken eleven years ago is the downplaying of that conversation to “just the way men talk.” That’s NOT the way real men talk. That’s not the way my husband talks. That had better not be the way my sons EVER talk. That’s not the way my male friends talk. That’s not the way my brothers, nephews, uncles, or father talks. That’s the way men who don’t respect women talk. That’s the way men who think it’s okay to use their position of power over women talk. That’s the way men talk who put rapists in jail for just six months while the rapist’s victim’s life is destroyed.

I have been heartbroken, and wanting to throw up, over so many of the comments on social media and in the news since Friday night. I can’t believe anyone would excuse his actions in any way, shape, or form. I’m incensed at anyone trying to deflect the conversation towards anyone or anything else, try to point the finger any other direction. I cried listening to that tape, reading the transcript of that conversation. I’ve been made to feel all over again the way I felt that day, and the weeks and months that followed.

I’ve grown up around athletes. I’ve heard some pretty crude conversations. But not once did they ever talk about sexually assaulting women and have everyone around them say it was okay. Because that’s exactly what this conversation admitted to – sexual assault. SEXUAL ASSAULT. Let’s not call it anything but what it was. As a victim of sexual assault, calling it anything else victimizes me all over again. It takes me back to that day when my choice was taken away, and then I was made to feel like the guilty, responsible party.

The lack of a sincere apology makes it that much worse. The refusal to call it what it was makes it that much worse. Pointing the finger at someone else as being just as bad, rather than taking ownership of his own actions makes it that much worse. My God – my kids did that when they were toddlers – pointed their fingers at another guilty party rather than just saying they were sorry for their own actions. They’ve learned better since then. They know it doesn’t take away from their own guilt to deflect to someone else.

Don’t downplay what he said. Don’t make it anything less than what it was, because that victimizes every victim of sexual assault all over again. That tells young men it’s okay to touch women who’ve said no, that it’s okay to make women less than men, that it’s okay to use your position of power and fame to take women’s choice away, that it’s okay to sexually assault and harass women. It’s NOT okay. It’s contributing to the rape culture. They are more than words. And it’s not okay.