I’m sitting on a plane, looking out the window at a sun that seems only willing to shine above the clouds today. The man in the seat in front of me just closed his window shade – ironic. As a woman, it’s only up here in the clouds that I feel a sense of security right now. How do we Americans look the little girls of this country in the eye and tell them they are equal? “Do not let anyone ever convince you that you are less,” they say. “You can do anything a boy can do,” they promise. Keeping Santa Claus alive has become an art perfected in this country – we revere our ideals.
I am a hospital social worker. It is my job to offer a sense of hope and convincing reassurance to victims of unspeakably atrocious aggression who must undergo the most intrusive, uncomfortable, and shaming physical examinations imaginable. In this political climate, what am I supposed to tell a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence who enters the emergency department after an assault? As she stands naked over a blank canvas, examined with a black light for evidence of assault, at what point do I suggest she is now safe? Will she even have rights as a victim under the upcoming administration? Our own president-elect is currently under investigation for rape with a running score of accusers. And White America didn’t bat an eye when casting its ballot. So what happens when the predator is granted a position of power greater than any other in the world?
This election cycle has unveiled an ugly truth that Americans cannot deny. No matter how smart the pantsuit, women are not seen as equal to men. This election was never about figuring out if Hillary Clinton is a liar or how many emails she deleted. The most qualified person to ever run for the presidency in the history of the United States lost the general election to a reality television show celebrity because she is a woman. This is not a reality television show and our ballots reflect both the values and mentality of the American people. And something is fundamentally wrong.
One out of six women in the United States has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. From Day One, the Trump campaign propagated words of hatred and violence towards women. Our country cannot stand to go back in time on issues surrounding violence against women. How do I as a woman offer safety to the women who enter my emergency department when our Commander in Chief is a sexual predator and accused rapist? Suggest that his comments about sexual assault are simply “locker room talk”? Not good enough. We are better than this, America.
The 2016 election has exposed the pervasiveness and severity of rape culture in the United States. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. And now, all signs suggest that we can no longer rely on big government for protection. What will become of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)? State and local funding for victim services was never guaranteed, but was made a priority under preceding administrations. Our nation of privilege is soon to discover that protections offered to crime victims were merely optional.
But now is our time, America. It is time to look in the mirror and reflect on our individual thoughts, values, and actions. We cannot change the results of the election, but we can consider how each and every one of us perpetuates violence against women. We cannot grow and heal as a nation until we identify our own prejudices and biases that contribute to the injustices committed towards women in this country. This is not an effort to shame or blame, but to encourage all Americans to look at how we are a product of our society. This is the greatest nation in the world and it is our duty under the United States Constitution to promote and ensure equality and justice for all. This election has gifted us the opportunity to do better. Now is our time, America.