Trump-Elected Stress Disorder
Having experienced sexual harrassment and an attempted rape, and working within Native American and Indigenous Studies and with Native and Indigenous people, I am familiar with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a psychological, spiritual, physical, and transgenerational condition resulting from the experience of sexual violence.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event” or a “sudden, expected” experience including the death of a loved one. (NIMH) Symptoms can begin early or years afterwards and can become chronic. They generally involve “re-experiencing” the trauma, such as through flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts. To avoid “re-experiencing” the trauma, an individual may attempt to stay away from particular places, events, objects, or people or avoid certain kinds of thoughts and feelings. These efforts can result in an individual being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge,” insomnia, and anger. They may also include trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event; negative thoughts about oneself or the world; distorted feelings like guilt or blame; loss of interest in enjoyable activities. PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders (NIMH)
For those with PTSD resulting from sexual violence, the discourse of this presidential campaign has provided a steady supply of prompts to rememeber and re-experience the violence — in the moments of news reporting Trump’s behaviors, attitudes, and talk and reviewing federal lawsuits and in the moments of Trump’s supporters dismissing and trivializing the allegations and disparaging the women.
For myself, I had a particularly difficult in the moment of hearing Trump brag about sexually violating women (“grab her by the pussy”) and Trump apologists dismissing the behavior as ‘men will be men’ ‘locker room talk’. (Youtube) It was the proverbial last straw for me after a long year of hearing the allegations of sexual violence from underaged girls and young women, from strangers on planes and business associates and employees, spanning decades and social situations. The audible record of Trump’s sexual assaults and sense of patriarchal entitlement to women’s bodies folded too neatly into another round of public dismissals of its seriousness and relevance, in effect affirming its normalcy and inconsequence.
A part of me believed, though, that voters would care. At least I hoped they would.
But while not all men are Trump, the fact that Trump earned as many popular votes as he did, that the electoral college chose to throw down for him and override the popular vote, and that there has been a rash of hate crimes by Trump supporters towards Latinx, Arab and Muslim immigrants since Tuesday, have made it very clear to me that not only do “We don’t care about you” (as an individualizing of sexual violence) but “we don’t care about sexual violence as a political issue.”
Tuesday’s result was an affirmation of the normality and banality of sexual violence in U.S. politics — of the centrality of rape culture in setting the norms for social behavior and attitudes.
Sexual violence is a rampant, epidemic condition within the United States, particuarly for women of color and Native American and Indigenous women who have a one in three chance of being raped in their lifetimes.
Trump-Elected Stress Disorder is the realization that that sexual violence is altogether unimportant to U.S. voters and their electoral college, at least of the “white” identified voters both male and female who overwhelming supported Trump, those who apparently care more about punishing the system than they do about sexually predatory behavior and attitudes towards women.
Trump’s Sexual Assaults, Harrassments, and Misconduct
For those who haven’t heard the stories, I think it’s important to listen to the women who have spoken up about their experiences of being assaulted by Trump.
Jessica Leeds. “More than three decades ago, when she was a traveling businesswoman at a paper company, Ms. Leeds said, she sat beside Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before. About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her. According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.” She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.” (New York Times)
Rachel Crooks. “Ms. Crooks was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in Manhattan, when she encountered Mr. Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning in 2005… Aware that her company did business with Mr. Trump, she turned and introduced herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.” It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.” “It was so inappropriate,” Ms. Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.” (New York Times)
Kristen Anderson. “Anderson was deep in conversation with acquaintances at a crowded Manhattan nightspot and did not notice the figure to her right on a red velvet couch — until, she recalls, his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear. Anderson shoved the hand away, fled the couch and turned to take her first good look at the man who had touched her, she said. She recognized him as Donald Trump: “He was so distinctive looking — with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows.” At the time of the incident, which Anderson said took place in the early 1990s, she was in her early 20s, trying to make it as a model. She was paying the bills by working as a makeup artist and restaurant hostess. Trump was a big celebrity whose face was all over the tabloids and a regular presence on the New York club scene. The episode, as Anderson described it, lasted no more than 30 seconds. Anderson said she and her companions were “very grossed out and weirded out” and thought, “Okay, Donald is gross. We all know he’s gross. Let’s just move on.” (Washington Post)
Barbara Cockoran. “The 67-year-old real estate mogul shared that the Republican presidential candidate, 70, once compared her breast size to that of his second wife, Marla Maples, during a business meeting. “I’ve never been in a room with him alone except on one occasion. I was pregnant with my first child at the time, and so was his second wife,” Corcoran said. “He compared my breast size to his wife by putting his hands in the air. I was in a business meeting! I was shocked.” (CNN/People)
Cathy Heller. “Claimed that in the late 1990s, she was attending a brunch at Mar-a-Lago with her in-laws and children when her mother-in-law, a club member, introduced her to the businessman. Instead of a handshake, though, Heller told PEOPLE that Trump pulled her toward him to deliver a kiss on the mouth. When she pulled away, Trump allegedly got “angry” and said, “Oh, come on.” “He really grabbed me and he was holding me very tight to kiss me on the mouth,” she charged, noting, “I was able to turn my head a little, so he didn’t get my whole mouth.” (People)
Mariah Billado. “Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing. “I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’” said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA. Trump, she recalled, said something like, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.” (Buzzfeed) Temple Targett,
Jill Harth. “A makeup artist, has stayed quiet for almost 20 years about the way Trump pursued her, and – according to a lawsuit she instigated – cornered her and groped her in his daughter’s bedroom.” (The Guardian)
Karena Virginia. “Alleged in a New York City press conference that Trump touched her breast while she waited for a car at the U.S. Open in 1998.” (People)
Mindy McGillivray. Groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago 13 years prior, when she was 23. (Palm Beach Post)
Natasha Stoynoff. During a 2005 trip to Mar-a-Lago to interview Trump and wife Melania — who were celebrating their first wedding anniversary — the PEOPLE writer alleged that Trump assaulted her. (People)
Jessica Drake. “Adult film star Jessica Drake accused Trump of sexual misconduct during a press conference with her lawyer Gloria Allred in late October. Drake claimed that Trump had tightly hugged and kissed her without her permission at a Tahoe, California, golf tournament in 2006.” (People)
Ninni Laaksonen. “Told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that the businessman groped her before both appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2006, according to a translation of the interview in the U.K.’s The Telegraph. “Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt,” claimed Laaksonen, who is now 30. “He really grabbed my butt. I don’t think anybody saw it but I flinched and thought, ‘What is happening?’” (People)
Summer Zervos. “Season 5 The Apprentice contestant… charged last month that Trump assaulted her at a Los Angeles hotel in 2007. Zervos said that she reached out to Trump after being “fired” from the popular reality show, and asked him to grab lunch while she was visiting New York City. Instead, Trump invited Zervos to her office, where he greeted her with a kiss on the lips, she alleged. The incident, she said, was just the beginning. Trump later phoned Zervos at her California home, and asked her to visit the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he was staying, for a business meeting. After arriving at Trump’s hotel room, Zervos alleged that Trump began kissing her “very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.” Despite pushing back, Trump tried to pull her into the room’s sleeping area, and put her “in an embrace.” “I pushed his chest to put space between us and I said ‘Come on man, get real.’ He repeated my words back to me, ‘Get real’ as he began thrusting his genitals. He tried to kiss me again and with my hand still on his chest I said ‘Dude, you’re trippin’ right now,’ attempting to make it clear that I was not interested.” (People)
Cassandra Searles. “Miss Washington 2013, Cassandra Searles wrote in a June Facebook post, which was screen grabbed by Yahoo, that Trump treated the pageant contestants like “cattle.” “Do y’all remember that one time we had to do our onstage introductions, but this one guy treated us like cattle and made us do it again because we didn’t look him in the eyes? Do you also remember when he then proceeded to have us lined up so he could get a closer look at his property?” she wrote. “Oh I forgot to mention that guy will be in the running to become the next President of the United States.” Searles further alleged in the post’s comment section, “He probably doesn’t want me telling the story about that time he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room.” (People)
Salma Hayek. “Said Donald Trump repeatedly called her asking for dates. She claims he befriended an old boyfriend of hers to acquire her number. When she turned him down she said he planted National Enquirer story. Hayek claims he contacted her again afterwards to insist story wasn’t true.” (Daily Mail)
Jane Doe. “An anonymous “Jane Doe” filed a federal lawsuit against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump last week, accusing him of raping her in 1994 when she was thirteen years old. The mainstream media ignored the filing.” (Huffington Post)
For further information, see:
- Michael Barbaro and Mehan Twoheymay, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private” (New York Times).
- Lindsey Kimble, “Everything You Need to Know About the Sexual Assault Allegations Against Donald Trump Before Election Day” (People).
Trump’s Talk and U.S. Rape Culture
Even before his presidential campaign launched, Trump’s open prejudice towards women’s bodies, particularly those who are considered “overweight,” was well-known. He publicly criticized Tara Conner and Rosie O’Donnell for being overweight, ugly “losers.” (CNN) He used this same language to challenge the credibility of his accusers, some of whom he said were not attractive enough to warrant his unwanted sexual attentions.
By the time we hear Trump brag about sexually violating women (“grab her by the pussy”) during his campaign, we were not surprised. (Youtube) He dismissed the talk as “locker room” banter. But isn’t that the point? Talking about women that way, bragging about sexual misconduct of underage beauty contestants, bragging about his physical prowess and successes, are considered normal for men in a culture that tolerates sexual violence against women.
As the video of his comments replayed over news and social media, it was difficult for survivors not to re-experience the event of their assaults and harrassments. Every time someone on the news or in social media minimized Trump’s remarks and behavior as “normal” or irrelevant, they affirmed the remarks and behavior.
The importance of Trump’s remarks and behavior go to the place of sexual violence within the United States. So tolerant are we that Jane Doe, who charged that she was raped by Trump when she was 13, withdrew her complaint because of mounting death threats against her attorney Lisa Bloom and herself. And no one cared.
If I hear one more person tell me that I need to care about or learn to talk nicer to the “white middle class” or “white men” or “white women” or “white feminists” who voted for Trump…. These categories of people are the categories protected in the law and in society. Everything is already about them and their interests.
If I receive one more invite to a hand-holding meditating anti-Trump gathering…. The time is for organizing direct action against Trump and his policies. And I’m sorry. If that organizing doesn’t address sexual violence and rape culture, I’m not interested. And if you don’t understand why sexual violence is a core social condition on which Trump’s empire is going to be built through pro-oil/gas, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black policies, then you have some work to do.
If one more person tells me I need to participate in an overhaul of the Democratic party…. I don’t care about the DNC and it’s autopsy and musing over how to make it better for the next election cycle. The RNC and DNC have made themselves irrelevant. And no. I don’t care about third party politics either. We need something else.