"Grab her [p—sy]." —Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump
First, my grandmother's spirit lives through me, and I literally clutch my pearls in absolute shock and disgust.
Second, this race is no longer about a partisan fight for me. This is a fight for humanity, decency and respect. It is a fight for the 27-year-old me who was raped. I don't want her to continue growing in a country in which the leader believes it’s OK to sexually advance on women without consent; in a country whose leader would allow another man to refer to his own daughter as a piece of ass. How could she respect such a place? How could she feel safe in such a place?
Ask my mother, and she'll confirm that I have a bad memory. But I vividly remember a situation in which my sexuality was grabbed from me. Nine years after the fact, I still have post-traumatic stress disorder episodes when triggered. Upon hearing Trump talk about grabbing a woman's p—sy, I started to think of violations … which led me to my violation, triggering a mild PTSD episode.
Donald Trump, you are a PTSD trigger for me, a victim of rape. And I have a deep belief that I'm not the only one. So while 2005 seems "so long ago," it's not a stretch for me to believe that upon the 11th year after my rape, I will still have vivid flashbacks that are paralyzing at times.
These experiences are extremely personal, but if you know me, you see how I've healed even stronger. And my faith also leads me to believe that God uses people to tell stories of triumph.
I'd like to attempt to walk you through a fraction of what happened to my spirit when my sexuality was grabbed from me, and what motivates me to work hard to get Hillary Clinton elected president.
I was spending time with a man I had once considered marrying. However, after attending a friend's wedding and hearing her exchange vows, I realized that I would never feel that way about him. After much consideration, I told him that I wanted to break up. He had a different perspective of how things should progress. He began touching me, and I started saying no.
My "No" turned into a full-out sob. He was forcing himself on me while I cried profusely. Sexuality is required for survival, and my survival was being threatened, and the natural response is either fight or flight. In that moment, when my sexuality was grabbed, I opted for flight. Physically, I lay there limp; mentally, I escaped and transitioned into thoughts of survival. I mapped out a plan to lay there and get him to leave on his own accord, because the last time I made a suggestion about his leaving, he raped me.
Also, a different panic set in. What if this resulted in a pregnancy? This wasn't a blessing; nor was love remotely involved. Getting Plan B emergency contraception became a priority. I didn't have a choice as to what happened to me, but I did have a choice about my future.
My spirit was broken. I slept my nonworking hours away. When friends would engage, I'd make up stories about not feeling well.
I went to my doctor for a checkup a couple of months after it happened, and she noticed that I had lost 17 pounds since the last time I was there, checking in at a frail 112 pounds. (When you question the will to live, things necessary for survival, such as eating, aren't a priority.) My doctor asked if everything was OK. I looked at her for a long moment and whispered, "No." I shared what happened, and she said that I exhibited the characteristics of a person dealing with depression. Indeed, I was depressed.
There was an instance at work in which a co-worker who had physical features similar to those of my violator asked me a simple work-related question. I looked at him and fear came over me. My brain told me that this was a harmless co-worker, but PTSD symptoms triggered a flashback. I had to leave work to regain my composure.
The story God has written for me has shaped many of the values that have never led me to vote for a Republican to lead our country. I have respected some of the past Republican presidential candidates, but their policies didn't resonate with my values.
Further, my story provides insight as to why I believe in the Democratic platform and unequivocally support Hillary Clinton as our country's leader. While so many of the policies on her website resonate with me, a few policies and positions are deeply personal to me:
Paid sick leave: In my process of healing, there were days when I couldn't function at work. I was blessed to have an employer that had accommodating sick-leave policies; however, I know there are women who may be dealing with PTSD trauma who must stay at work to make ends meet. Only Hillary Clinton has a plan to address paid sick leave.
Women's choice: As noted, my sexuality was grabbed from me and I needed the choice to determine my future. Knowing that pregnancy is a potential outcome of rape, and I was not emotionally or mentally prepared to be a mother, I valued my choice more than ever. I want a president who will trust women to make deeply personal decisions about their future. I want a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who understand that women have the right to make deeply personal decisions with health care providers about their future. Only Hillary Clinton will protect women in this regard.
Depression: I went through a bout of depression. I want a president who recognizes that mental health needs newfound attention. A president who recognizes that we as a country need to make investments in mental-health care. While I chose to sleep and not eat, others deal with depression through other deeply personal means, such as drug addiction and the most devastating outcome: suicide. Only Hillary Clinton has a plan to address mental health as well as addiction and substance abuse.
I want not a moment of sympathy. I've gone on to accomplish more than I could have imagined and have received awards for my hard work and service. My story is one of triumph.
However, I still struggle through this situation, and in my short time on this earth, serving as a conduit of God's love, I'm motivated to work hard so that others might have a better day.
Or perhaps I continue protecting the 27-year-old me who wants to live in a country led by leaders who believe in the value of women's consent.
Adrienne A. White is the vice president of finance for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. She comes to the center from the Coca-Cola Co., where she had eight years of corporate finance experience. She started her career in Ernst & Young LLP’s external-audit services.