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I understand your discontent with the current state of affairs in the United States.
The level of dysfunction in government and distrust of politicians—our elected leaders—is unprecedented. Quite frankly, it’s a sorry state we find ourselves in: two candidates deeply mistrusted by the opposing side and a populace who simply wants to stick it to the government.
One candidate’s entire career has been built by being part of the establishment. The other’s entire campaign has been built by dissociating entirely from political protocol.
So I get it. I understand your need to stick it to the powers that be and, with your vote, give them the middle finger and say screw you. But, before you cast your vote for the candidate who represents everything the government is not—who purportedly represents the anti-establishment—please consider what this candidate (yes, I am referring to Mr. Trump) does represent. Fear. Anger. Hatred. I could go on.
It makes me sick. I just fought the hardest battle of my life to win back my health and, quite literally, my life itself. We can’t let fear win.
I do not claim to know a great deal about politics, but I know all too well what it’s like to be a victim of sexual assault.
As I sat watching the latest debate, I grew increasingly uncomfortable, increasingly unsettled, and—I realized—increasingly fearful. Is it really possible this man could become the leader of our country? In my mind, he is no leader. He is a loud-mouthed, domineering bully who has captured the attention of America, but certainly no leader. As disappointed as I am in our presidential options, I cannot sit here idly and say nothing.
I am a victim of sexual assault, and I cannot stand the idea that a man who so crassly jokes about violating and objectifying women might be elected to lead the free world, simply because people want to say screw you to our government.
Here’s what being a victim feels like; what being violated feels like: It feels like having the life sucked out of you. You feel empty. You feel nothing. You feel helpless. You feel insignificant. You feel mute. You feel numb. You feel ashamed. And you feel isolated. And when you feel like that, because you’ve been taught that women ask for it, and that you somehow brought it on yourself, that it was your fault, you start to doubt yourself. You tell yourself to just move on. But you know better, so you fight an internal battle—the anger simmers, then it boils.
The anger makes you feel alive momentarily, but doubt creeps in again, then quickly subsides and gives way to fear. Fear. And sadness. But mostly it’s the helplessness that gets you. In the moment, there was nothing I could do about it. Afterward, I felt alone. My trust was violated, my life was assaulted.
Living like this—under a constant state of helplessness and alert—diminishes your immune system. After the incident, I was sick in bed for a few days at a time every month like clockwork for over a year. Life went on, but I was living in a fog of anxiety and less than optimal health. I sought help. Things got better for a while, but the stresses of life mounted. I plodded on and put on a happy face. Eventually though, it became too much.
In April I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. I received 600 hours of chemotherapy this past summer. On September 27, just over four years after I was violated, I was declared cancer-free. I’m just getting my life back together and slowly getting back on my feet, and I’ll be damned if the next four years of my life—or anyone else’s—are taken away again.
I’ll be damned if the next four years of our lives are governed by fear and uncertainty.
We need to know that the next president has our backs and will stand up for women, stand up for what’s right, and put an end to this rape culture. I know that person is not Mr. Trump.
You see, my assaulter was white, wealthy, well-educated, and well-to-do. When my body instinctively seized up and froze, he knew. But it was too late. “I didn’t know you actually meant no.”
He didn’t know no meant no?
This incident was born from a culture that blames the victim and makes excuses for the perpetrator. It happened because young men, especially those of privilege, are bombarded with messages of dominance and aggression.
Gender cuts across race; it cuts across religion. To vote for Mr. Trump is to vote against minorities; against religious freedom. And it is also to vote against women, who make up half of our population. It is, actually, to vote against everything this great country stands for: equality and justice for all. We certainly would not live up to that standard if Trump became president.
Violence against women, born from a culture of violence, impacts everyone. It affects men. It affects our children. Men are victims of other men’s violence. Bullying is on the rise. Social media aggression is rampant. We must ask ourselves: do we want the elected leader of our country to espouse the very ills that haunt us?
Your vote matters. You have the power to choose the leader of our country. You have the power to influence the direction our country takes over the next four years. This is our privilege of being American, and this is the reason our country is so great. Yet with this privilege comes responsibility. Your vote not only impacts the future of our country, but the stability of the world. Because, yes, America is great, and it is the most influential, most powerful nation on the planet. This decision is huge. And we cannot risk placing the presidency, the next four years of our lives, or our future, in the hands of a man who leads with fear and aggression.
Why do you love America? What is it that makes our country great?
In my opinion, it’s the people who uphold the values and ideals upon which this country was founded, with ideas that generate growth and promote progress. Great people make America great. And great people do not condone racism, inequality, and outright abuse of others. They stand up for what’s right and what’s good.
Please consider my story and take a moment to reflect on your own values. A vote for Trump is not just saying screw you to the government, it’s also saying screw you to every woman and minority in this country. It’s saying screw you to our future. It is also saying a profound screw you to our Founding Fathers. Would a win for Trump would make you proud? Would you truly be a proud American?
We cannot perpetuate a culture that simply forgives abuse and makes excuses for infractions committed by privileged white males. We cannot perpetuate a culture that marginalizes and disenfranchises over half the population. This is surely not a road to economic growth, and it surely not a path to greatness. Fear cannot win.
I’m not asking you to vote for Hilary; I’m imploring you to not vote for Trump. If Hilary is not your cup of tea, there are other candidates—other options—on the ballot. Voting for these candidates would send a powerful message to the establishment. Whomever you choose, please choose wisely.
Vote with your conscience. Vote with pride. Make America Proud Again.
Author: Amanda Kelly
Image: Michael Bentley/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren