When I was 16, I ran everywhere—usually wearing a tee shirt, running shorts and white leather Nikes with a red swoosh.
One day, I ran to get my hair cut at a salon in Ocean Beach, about two miles from my home. I was the only customer in the place when I arrived, and the owner, a man in his forties, took me to a room in the back to wash my hair. While my head was hanging back, my hair wet, he put one hand on my neck to pin me down and his other hand down my shorts; I reflexively kicked my legs and thrashed my arms, and was able to free myself. I ran out of the salon and all the way home—in record time—with wet, soapy hair.
When I got home, my mom knew something had happened. Without my having to say a word, and she called the police. They arrived and asked me a series of questions, including: why did I wear such short shorts to get my hair cut?
The man who assaulted me had priors, and was a registered sex offender, but even with that and my testimony before a judge, his punishment amounted to community service and parole—a slap on the wrist if ever there was one. Two years later, when I was raped at knifepoint, I decided not to call the police or press charges. I didn’t believe the system would believe me, and, even if it did, I didn’t think my testimony wouldn’t amount to much. To this day, I feel guilty about that decision, and wonder how many more women my rapist went on to assault.
Which brings me to Donald Trump and our democracy.
Last weekend, House impeachment managers submitted a 111-page trial memorandum and statement of facts to the Senate. In addition to two impeachment charges related to leveraging aid to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into Joe Biden, they also asserted that President Trump’s conduct is the “framers’ [of the U.S. Constitution] worst nightmare.”
If Trump is acquitted, it will strike a mortal blow to the bedrock of the Constitution, which is the separation of powers with an intricate system of checks and balances. If Trump is acquitted, the next time he or another president obstructs justice by not allowing testimony before Congress or withholding subpoenaed documents, Congress is likely to do nothing—because they already know the outcome.
Just as I already knew the outcome after I was raped, and therefore chose to remain silent.
This isn’t about Trump as much as it is about the precedent we want to set for future presidents. If we look away, we are all complicit in what comes next.