The day I was raped, it was not yet summer. I wore paint-splattered shorts and a loose t-shirt printed with lines of marching elephants. I was seventeen years old: A growing wisp of a girl, skinny and soft, and in love with a boy who locked his bedroom door and hurt me in ways that left me in pieces.
I threw my underwear in the trash and never rebuked my attacker. Some months later, when the post-trauma flood finally hit, I went down clinging to the women around me, desperate to be understood in the sense of female solidarity.
I was lucky to find avenues of unselfish support. I had girlfriends who validated my warring feelings of anger and guilt, disgust and shame, and who answered my hysterical phone calls in which I professed my need for closure with my rapist. I cried a little when an older lady told me, “You’re brave and you’re strong -- everything that women like me fought for.”
I’ll be twenty this year, and of course, I realize that 2016 is our first chance to elect a woman president. Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton had my vote from the moment she announced her candidacy. I vividly remembered seeing a photograph from when she was Secretary of State, in which she, the President, and a host of security personnel are staring intently at a screen, awaiting news from the SEAL team sent to kill bin Laden. I carried that image with me for years, fiercely proud of this formidable woman who was unashamed of her intelligence, who cared about women. Not too long ago, she tweeted: “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.”
Until this past week, I had never heard of a man named Thomas Alfred Taylor. He’s dead now, but in 1975, he was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl and beating her into a coma, rendering her unable to ever have children. Ms. Clinton, then a young Yale-educated lawyer, was appointed as his attorney. To be clear, I’m not vilifying Ms. Clinton for taking the job. I appreciate the importance of due process, no matter how unsavory the client.
However, lawyers are not supposed to lie. Ms. Clinton discredited Mr. Taylor’s 12-year-old victim with zealous energy, claiming that the girl liked to “seek out older men” and fantasize about rape. Decades later, the victim—who prefers to remain unnamed—insists that this was never the case. Moreover, at the time of the assault, she was a virgin. Yes, you read that right: Hillary Clinton slut-shamed a child rape victim and portrayed her as an “emotionally unstable” girl who was given to temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way.
Side note: This may be obvious, but I’d like to point out that any emotional outbursts from the victim were most likely due to, and this is just a guess, BEING BRUTALLY ASSAULTED.
This all occurred in spite of the victim’s bloodstained underwear, which was thrown out of evidence. In the end, Mr. Taylor was only charged with unlawful fondling of a child. He served less than a year in prison. In interviews recorded in the mid 1980s, Ms. Clinton defended her role in the trial, recounting that Mr. Taylor's ability to pass a polygraph test "forever destroyed [her] faith in polygraphs," and implying that she had suspected his guilt all along.
After I learned about this case, I felt physically ill. I was close to tears. I couldn’t believe that Hillary Clinton, the blue-blooded feminist role model, the CHAMPION OF AMERICAN WOMEN, had ever placed the burden of rape on the shoulders of a traumatized girl. It was as though I was seventeen again, driving home alone and dumbstruck, unable to comprehend that I’d just been abused.
And I’m furious because one in every five women bear these screaming bootprint bruises, but only three in every one hundred attackers will serve a single day in jail, and more than half of all rapes go unreported to police. We are still a long way from having the courage to give these women the respect and legitimacy they deserve.
The Taylor case makes me heavy with relief that I didn’t take my rapist to court, because I think it would have destroyed me to face a defense attorney who fought tooth and nail to falsely portray me as a liar and a whore. Isn’t that an awful message to send? The prospect of a rape trial is plenty daunting already, and there are fewer people who will acknowledge a victim’s suffering than will terrorize her with blame. To me, the context of Hillary Clinton’s “feminist” campaign sets a disturbing precedent for the treatment of women who are “damaged,” who have been humiliated and cast aside and denied recovery.
But this is the worst thing of all: After the trial, the 12-year-old victim of Thomas Alfred Taylor was totally shattered. She spent more than a decade in therapy and struggled to maintain stable relationships well into adulthood, having developed a paralyzing fear of men. She’s been imprisoned and addicted to drugs. To this day, at 54, she requires disability assistance. She’s confronted Hillary Clinton with the stinging words: “You call that being for women, what you did to me?”
She’s right. I’ll admit that I cry thinking we’ll probably never know how many victims are still on the silent other side of the veil, unable to push through.
The truth is, I give all due credit to Ms. Clinton for fighting sexism in politics and for standing up to the systemic devaluation of the accomplishments of successful women. But the brand of feminism going forward from this election should be a hand, familiar but still authentic, reaching through the years to those women who are rarely heard or defended—who live with mental illness, or disabilities, or the unforgiving scars of abuse.
Many of Hillary Clinton’s supporters tweet with the hashtag #ImWithHer, and I agree. Where I differ is the “her.”