The guy who assaulted me wasn’t like Donald Trump.
Trump said he groped women because when you’re a star, you can do whatever you want. The guy who groped me wasn’t a star. He was poor. He was an immigrant. He was a victim.
For the past few years, I told no one that this guy had assaulted me a lot of times over the course of two years. I flat out said I had never been assaulted because I didn’t know it was assault.
An “assault” involved using privilege to take away someone else’s power. I didn’t know I could call my situation assault if both participants were powerless outsiders of many realms of privilege.
Entitled, privileged people committed assaults—frat boys, Ivy League white college kids, work bosses, billionaires that claim they can assault women because they’re a star. These were people who were accustomed to stealing power from the less fortunate. All the Brock Turners and Donald Trumps had the educational prospects and material comforts, maybe because of work, but also because these prospects were denied to the low-income, overweight immigrants like my assaulter.
The person who took away my agency had very little agency of his own: He was a troubled, severely depressed teenager whose mom punished him for Bs by making him walk 90 minutes to school before sunrise. He walked past drivers in dangerous circumstances, darkness when he walked in the early morning and in three-digit-degree heat if he walked in the later morning. He walked past hundreds of apathetic drivers as he walked along the side of a highway’s access road, focused on not tripping over the uneven, unpaved path into the speeding traffic.
Only once to my knowledge did anyone ever pulled over and offer him a ride. Never did I hear anyone express concern about the circumstances that led him to walk 90 minutes in a narrow strip of grass beside a highway. If any passerby I knew—my parents’ friends or my classmates—mentioned seeing the guy walking by the highway to school, they hypothesized that he was trying to lose weight, or maybe it was just part of “his culture.”
Even before taking classes about the effects of institutional biases, I knew that if my assaulter wasn’t poor, fat, or Asian, someone would have called child protective services and stopped the cycle of disrespect and dehumanization that he internalized and later projected onto me. If he had lived in comfortable financial circumstances, looked like someone who didn’t need to change with exercise regimens, had a racial origin that was accepted as kind and humane and non-criminal, somebody would have shown concern for his mental state. They would have shown concern long before it manifested itself in such an anti-social act as repeated sexual assault.
I never named my assaulter for his crime because he was a victim and needed support, not punishment. Yet I knew that if I kept silent, assaults like mine would continue to occur, either with me or with other victims.
Even before Donald Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” tape, I knew Trump’s build-a-wall proposal would perpetuate the disrespect my assaulter had learned to mimic and reflect onto me. Even before Clinton fought against Trump’s misogynistic entitlement, I had some hope that Clinton’s political proposals might alleviate the institutional factors underlying assaults like mine.
I watched the debates and imagined a scenario in which three of Clinton’s proposals were achieved, and I imagined what would have happened if high-school-me and high-school-him could have experienced these policies’ effects:
Policy 1: Debt-free college education for the poor.
My assaulter wouldn’t have been so fixated on making straight 100s to earn his college education, and he wouldn’t have been forced onto the streets when he got Bs instead.
Policy 2: Loosened immigration and asylum restrictions.
Maybe my assaulter’s family wouldn’t have struggled financially if immigrants weren’t so disadvantaged in the job market. Maybe if people had been more accustomed to seeing Asian immigrants as regular, non-criminal people, they wouldn’t have attributed blatant child neglect to Asian culture.
Policy 3. Gun control.
There would have been fewer successful suicides and more suicide attempt survivors to teach people like my assaulter that their lives mattered, no matter how their world seemed to want them unhappy and on the streets.
Three of Clinton’s proposals would have stopped my assaults from happening. So when I learned the morning after the election that Donald Trump would be the president, I was afraid that more assaults like mine would occur.
I suspected this not just because of Trump’s own history of sexual assault but because of Trump’s unwillingness to mollify all the other relevant factors—the ones that made my assaulter believe that the only way to attain a sense of agency was to leech off someone else’s. Trump didn’t just propose to leave the factors of lack of educational access, racial stereotyping, xenophobic job markets, and suicide-apathetic gun laws alone—he wanted to make them worse.
Since Election Tuesday, I’ve asked myself questions to which I dread the answers.
How many more passersby would let an Asian teenager shrivel for 90 minutes in the heat because of “their culture” when the president claimed a judge was a criminal solely because of the judge’s immigrant ancestry?
How many more immigrant families would remain poor when the president of our country aims to wall out and criminalize immigrants, when he promises to bring back white America’s jobs by denying immigrants theirs?
How many more families would cling to the slim hope that unnatural perfection would be a path—the only path—out of poverty and joblessness, and how many more Americans would ignore the signs of mental illness because our nation refuses to believe suicide is a real threat worth fighting with real policy?
How many stars will assault women because Donald Trump said powerful men can abuse women, in addition to powerless men who assault women because they know no better than to abuse as they are abused?
The danger of a Trump presidency lies not [only] in its normalization of rich white men assaulting women. The danger of a Trump presidency lies not [only] in the increased threat of assault against those who have already been assaulted. The danger of a Trump presidency lies in its assault against humanity.
I fear a Trump presidency not [only] because I am a victim of the sexism that Trump perpetuates but because I am a person, and every person’s humanity is threatened when a powerful figure labels a human being “illegal” and unimportant simply because of their circumstances of birth, orientation, and group association.
This presidential campaign does much more than make my individual assault more likely to recur. I’m afraid for all people.
Amy Gu is pursuing degrees in the liberal arts and thrives on opportunities to contribute to education and social justice. A Chinese-American Texan from Austin, she loves quirky art, slam poetry, local cafes, tea and cats.