In the Shadows: Victims of Sexual Violence in the Age of Trump

Originally posted at Eat Pray Vote on February 23, 2017. Updated to reflect current events.

By Kevin Bailey

Over the course of Trump’s campaign (and now the first half of his “presidency”), many things have horrified me. While most of these were based around his rhetoric and slogans, what repelled me the most was (A) His treatment of women and girls; and (B) how he and his followers treated the women he has sexually assaulted and sexually harassed over the years. The first bothered me a lot because I am an uncle of two fantastic girls, ages 12 and 9. I would never want them to grow up in a world where it’s okay to treat women the way Trump has during his life. The second bothered me on an even more personal level. In this column, I will outline why.

When I was 18, I was sexually assaulted by a fellow student at Manhattan Christian College, during an episode of hazing commonly referred to as being “Shanghaied.” The previous night, I’d come home late from visiting a girl I was dating. I was caught by an RA, and as punishment was restricted to my dorm room. This was called a “campus restriction” (or being “campused”, for short), and was sometimes the precursor to being “Shanghaied” by a few guys in the dorm.

I should explain a bit about what a “Shanghai” was. It usually involved dragging the person outside in their underwear and taping them to the Bell Tower, or some similarly embarrassing stunt. Usually, 4 or 5 guys executed the Shanghai, and it was—for whatever reason—tolerated by MCC. Usually, very little physical harm (if any) happened to the person getting Shanghaied, but it was extremely embarrassing, as Johnson Hall (our dorm) had a girls wing and a boys wing, and the Bell Tower was in full view of both.

With that as background, I had an inkling that a Shanghai might be coming my way that night. My friend, Jeff Stillwell, came by my room and said he’d heard a couple of guys talking about it. I decided right then that if they got me, they were going to pay for it, so when I heard them at my door, I was ready. I curled up in the corner of the top bunk, with my arm looped through the metal frame. The guys at my door had an RA’s keys (I still don’t know whose they were, though I have my suspicions), and let themselves in. There were only 4 of them, and I warned them not to come close to the bed because I wasn’t going with them.

The ringleader said, “What are you going to do, fight us all?”

I just replied that I would if I had to, but I wasn’t being taped to the Bell Tower. He laughed and came closer. I warned him again. When he got to the edge of the bed, I planted my heel hard into his chest and he reeled back against the opposite wall. Another guy came close, and my foot caught him flush in the forehead. They all four came at me then, and I used both feet to connect with noses, mouths, and whatever else was in range. They finally got my feet, but they couldn’t detach me from the head of the bed, until finally the Dorm Supervisor (whose room was only maybe 10-15 feet down the hall from mine, and he had to have heard the commotion from the start) intervened and sent them back to their rooms. One of them whispered that they’d be back, though.

I really wish he’d been lying.

Perhaps a half hour later they came back again, but this time, with 7 or 8 guys. After some scuffle, they detached me from the head of the bed and threw me to the floor. As they began wrapping me in a blanket, I was still fighting, while lying on my stomach. One of the guys grabbed a hair brush from my dresser, pulled down my boxer shorts, and shoved the handle inside me.

I bit the hand of the guy who was covering my mouth and screamed. My scream seemed to shake them up. One of them said, “What the heck are you doing?!?” (or something to that effect) to the guy with the hairbrush. He had no answer, and they finally let me up, leaving the room quickly, right as the Dorm Supervisor and an RA got to the door. I still don’t know why the Dorm Supervisor or the RA didn’t stop the guys, but they didn’t.

The Dorm Supervisor asked if everything was alright, even though it clearly wasn’t, as my mattress had gotten dragged from the top bunk during the Shanghai, and I was slumped against the closet, breathing heavily and trying not to cry. I didn’t reply, and as I sat with my back against the closet door, a small pool of blood beneath me on the sheet the guys had laid me on, the dorm supervisor and the RA looked around for a second or two, as if to make sure no property was damaged, and then they left.

And my life changed forever.

From that moment on, I was never able to fully open up in relationships. There was always a part of me that I held back, never sharing with anyone. Even my roommate, who was there that night, didn’t realize what had actually happened. I’d told him to let me deal with them, and to stay out of their way so he wouldn’t get Shanghaied too. The only ones who knew what happened to me that night were the ones holding me down, and the guy who did it to me. What happened that night, combined with having been molested by a friend’s older brother when I was little, formed a fearful milieu of pain and despair. Until now, I’ve told only two people exactly what happened.

What motivated me to share my story is how those who have come out of the shadows to share their own stories of sexual assault have been treated. And now we are seeing the same sort of attitudes and behaviors being visited upon those who have told their stories about what recently-approved Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh did to them sexually. They have been doubted and attacked for “waiting X number of years” to tell. Some people claim they’re coming forward about what happened to them because they “want to be famous”—even as these women receive death threats, and are harassed both in real life and on social media. Believe me, when I say this, it is never easy for someone to admit that these kinds of things have happened to them. People wait to tell their story for many reasons–and some never tell. And people who finally tell their stories don’t do so to get “famous.”

This is not a “fame” anyone aspires to gain.

For me, I waited many years to tell my story. Some of this relates to residual guilt from things I believed to be true about sex and sexuality for the first 20 years of my life. Some of it is because I was afraid of being perceived as weak. And some (maybe most) is because I was worried no one would believe me.

But here’s the thing: if one of those who assaulted me had run for president, or been nominated to the Supreme Court, I hope I’d have been brave enough to come forward, as the women Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted have done. And if you ever wonder why people often don’t come forward, look no further than how those women have been treated, not just by Trump and his most devout supporters, but also by the “conservative” media, like Fox News (particularly, but not only Sean Hannity), Rush Limbaugh, The Federalist staff in general, the National Review, and so many others. And most of all, I can’t even fathom the pain I would feel if the men who assaulted me had just been given the presidency or a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

As the last few years have unfolded, the memory of being sexually assaulted has filled my soul. Some friends and family have wondered why I have been so emotionally invested in “politics.” Now, hopefully, they know. And whether Trump proposes policies I like or dislike, I will never support him. I hope that he is impeached soon, not just to save our country from a lunatic (which he is), but also to remove from power a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Lastly, I have decided not to name those who violated me. None are famous, though several of those who participated in the “Shanghai” are now pastors. I am not looking to ruin anyone’s life. I only want to share how mine was changed forever that night. I can not imagine how I would feel if the ones who violated me were rich and powerful—and now President of the United States or an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. But I’ve shared my story now. I don’t know how many will believe it, but it’s true. I know it’s true, as do the ones who were there when it happened. If sharing my story allows even one more person to know they are not alone—to come out of the shadows of fear and despair—it will have been worth it.