There is some­thing fa­mil­iar in tales of Trump’s al­leged grop­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Ruth Mar­cus Colum­nist

The arm went around my shoul­der. Then the hand be­gan to creep, far­ther and far­ther, down the neck­line of my dress. I was 20, at a fancy din­ner for my col­lege news­pa­per. The hand be­longed to a grown-up -- make that sup­pos­edly grown-up -- editor. An editor from whom I wanted a sum­mer job.

I would like to tell you that I re­moved said hand and told its owner in no un­cer­tain terms what he could do with it or, more to the point, couldn’t. But I can’t. My re­sponse, as I re­call, in­volved some com­bi­na­tion of re­signed sub­mis­sion to this un­in­vited paw­ing and strate­gic wrig­gling out of reach.

Reader, I got the job. I went on to en­joy a cor­dial pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with this man. Nei­ther one of us men­tioned the in­ci­dent. Al­co­hol was in­volved, and I sup­pose I chalked his mis­be­hav­ior up to that. Mak­ing a fuss seemed un­war­ranted and, even more, self­de­feat­ing.

The episode wasn’t trau­matic, not even close. In­deed, by the stan­dards of the tens of thou­sands of tweets shared in re­cent days un­der the hash­tag #no­tokay, it was mild.

Now, 38 years later, it feels more hu­mil­i­at­ing than it did back then. I am em­bar­rassed by the meek com­plic­ity of my younger self, shamed to the point of be­ing wary of re­veal­ing it to my daugh­ters, now col­lege stu­dents them­selves. I like to be­lieve they would not sit still, lit­er­ally, for such treat­ment.

This is a story I rarely share, be­cause I feel it makes me look as bad as my groper. Be­fore this col­umn, I have told it pre­cisely once in pub­lic, when I was in­vited back to the col­lege news­pa­per’s ban­quet as a guest speaker. But the mo­ment stuck, as these mo­ments do for the many women who have en­dured them and then tucked the mem­ory away.

And so, when men won­dered how Anita Hill could have not only tol­er­ated ha­rass­ment from Clarence Thomas but fol­lowed him to an­other job, be­liev­ing, naively, that his be­hav­ior had im­proved, her con­duct didn’t strike me, and many other women, as all that sur­pris­ing. We make ac­com­mo­da­tions; we tell our­selves sto­ries. It’s get­ting bet­ter. We need the pay­check.

Now comes our lat­est na­tional con­scious­ness-rais­ing con­ver­sa­tion, in the form of Don­ald Trump, and claims by nu­mer­ous women -- the tally climbs daily -- that he groped them with­out con­sent. What is de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar in these ac­counts is that their re­sponse, like mine, was not to con­front but, at best, to ig­nore and avoid -- and, at worst, to blame them­selves for the predica­ment and their com­plic­ity.

Don’t let it stop you from get­ting your work done. Thus, Peo­ple mag­a­zine writer Natasha Stoynoff’s ac­count of Trump push­ing her against a wall and forc­ing his tongue down her throat when Stoynoff was at Mar-a-Lago in 2005 to re­port a first-an­niver­sary story about Trump and new wife Me­la­nia.

Don’t turn it into a big deal. These things hap­pen. Busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive Jes­sica Leeds, told The New York Times that Trump, oc­to­pus-like, touched her breasts and reached up her skirt on an air­plane flight three decades ago. Leeds’ re­ac­tion was not to sum­mon the flight at­ten­dant; it was to re­turn, obe­di­ently, to her orig­i­nal seat in coach.

Women “ac­cepted it for years,” Leeds said. “We were taught it was our fault.”

If there is any sil­ver lin­ing to this dread­ful elec­tion, it is to ex­pose the per­sis­tence of such dis­torted think­ing. To teach boys and men that such be­hav­ior is unac­cept­able, no mat­ter how pow­er­ful their po­si­tion. And, most of all, to em­bolden girls and women to speak up, not sub­mit, when they feel that hand, inch­ing to­ward its tar­get.

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