Experiencing, trying to avoid and constantly hearing about sexual assault are exhausting for women


Donald Trump’s candidacy isn’t funny anymore. We can’t look at the news without hearing about Trump barging into dressing rooms where women are naked, groping women and even objectifying a 10-year-old girl. It’s exhausting to face an onslaught of disgusting and demoralizing stories, and to see the responses rooted in rape culture that show why Donald Trump wasn’t shut down a long time ago.

It’s a reminder of the way the threat of sexual harassment and violence is always looming. As several social media campaigns in response to Trump have demonstrated, we all have stories about unwanted advances and comments. But as Fiona Vera-Gray points out, we don’t often realize the amount of time and energy we are expending day to day just to avoid the possibility of sexual aggression:

My recent research looked at how women navigate interruptions, intrusions, and harassment from unknown men in public. What was most surprising was how all 50 of the women I interviewed significantly underestimated the amount of work they were putting in to avoid intrusions by men in the street, and the impact this had on them.

They recognised that they were making certain decisions about routes home, or where to sit on public transport. They spoke about using sunglasses or headphones in order to create a shield – a way to give the impression that they didn’t hear that man making a sexual comment, or didn’t see that other man touching himself as he walked behind them.

Many categorised their clothes in relation to safety. Scarves were seen as safe – handy for covering your chest. The colour red was, for some, seen as unsafe – too bright, too obvious, too visible. Some even adopted particular facial expressions, trying to balance “looking tough” against the desire to not be told to “cheer up” by a man they’d never met before.

The women I spoke to knew they were doing some of these things but other behaviours were less conscious. They hadn’t really reflected on how much energy went into avoiding unwanted contact below the surface and how their freedom was affected.

It’s not only exhausting for us to deal with actual harassment and facing a deluge of stories about it in the news. We alter our lives in conscious and subconscious ways to protect ourselves from a threat we shouldn’t have to face.

The remaining weeks leading up to the election offer no respite from hearing about Trump’s horrific behavior and the bumbling attempts by his surrogates to defend it. Take care of yourselves. Turn off the news. Look at some baby animals. Watch Key & Peele brainstorm Gremlins 2. Take a walk.

Most important, vote, and get your friends to vote, so there is no mistaking our message in rebuking Trump and the rape culture he rode in on.

Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

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