I attended the Women's March on Washington last weekend pumped up on adrenaline, intersectional female empowerment, and unity. The crowds that literally suffocated me and forced me into one location for extended periods of time did not leave me feeling the normal impatience, but instead extreme excitement. I kept thinking about the fact that me, an average 22 year old college student, contributed to making history about causes that I will be dedicating my entire social work career to -- like sexual violence, reproductive rights, immigration and refugee rights, and Black Lives Matter. I returned to Philadelphia that evening exhausted yet unable to sleep. I read articles upon articles about the marches across the nation and globe, researching what my next move would be and how I can continue to be a voice for those who are consistently unheard.
My power transformed itself to a shaking fear the next day at work. I hostess part-time at a popular sports bar in Center City, and on that Sunday night there were two NFL playoff games. Floods of fans poured through the front doors, up the few stairs, past me at the hostess stand and straight to the crowded bar area. One face in particular startled me to the point of a panic attack that I did not foresee and could not control. Within seconds, my brain and my bodily functions could not communicate and connect any synapses. My skin immediately flushed, I could hear my heart pounding all throughout my head, my breath was short, and my hands shook uncontrollably. Servers would come to the stand to engage in casual conversation with me, but I had tunnel vision. I was immediately taken back to a night many years ago that I was raped and could not stop replaying the incident in my head. I was triggered in my place of work and I felt trapped, like I had no escape. I knew that I could not finish out the rest of my shift, yet I wanted to be strong and overcome the temporary sensations that my body activated in order to keep me safe. Eventually when the crowd started to die down, I let my boss know that I was not feeling well and he let me go home without any reluctance or questioning. I stayed overnight at a friend's house, crying for hours about how exhausting it is to deal with the aftermath of my trauma each day and not ever feel completely safe.
It takes me days to recover from a triggering situation, and I am still recovering as I type. I have had minimal energy these last few days and what I imagine to be a screen of some sort over my eyes, dulling the colors of my surroundings. The way the human brain operates is fascinating -- how did I go from feeling my highest high to my lowest low in less than 24 hours? I reflected on my time at the march and my purpose for attending... then all at once, it hit me how deeply terrified I am that Donald Trump is the current president. Our president has been accused of sexually assaulting over a dozen women, sending the message that you can blatantly violate someone's human rights and still hold the highest position that this country has to offer. Our president views the female body as an entity of his own, signing anti-abortion acts that prevent a woman from having the right to choose -- whether this choice is to save her own life, minimize a traumatizing rape, or simply choose not to give birth because that should be her right. I am terrified that, once again, my body will no longer be in my control.
I am terrified because justice is rarely served. I am terrified because, just like Donald Trump, my rapist could one day be the president of these United States.
* If you or anyone you know has been sexually assaulted, you are supported and loved. Below are just a few resources available to you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week *
National Sexual Assault Hotline : 800-656-HOPE
Women Organized Against Rape : 215-985-3333
The National Domestic Violence Hotline : 1-800-799-SAFE
loveisrespect : 1-866-331-9474