For the first time, the national conversation appeared to tilt toward sympathy for victims of assault, and not the perpetrators.
But not even this—neither the courage and bravery of these women, nor the power of their voices, compelled me to tell my own story. Two-and-a-half years had passed since the assault, and I had resolved to live with it. I’d learned to accept the fact that every now and then, I might have to deal with lecherous and aggressive behavior from powerful men as part of my work climate. I told myself that dealing with sexual misconduct was simply a condition of being female.
Then the Trump tape leaked and the topic of sexual assault once again exploded into the public square. This time it had nothing to do with a woman’s accusation; this was a United States presidential candidate confessing aloud that he “can do anything” he wants to a woman—grab her body anywhere or kiss her unsolicited—precisely because he’s famous.
The news prompted a moment for self-examination and reckoning. As Trump’s campaign began to implode, he quickly said he regretted his comments. But asked about those same remarks the following day at the second presidential debate, he dismissed his transgression as “locker-room talk,” an offensive, repulsive euphemism. Any man who truly respects women and their bodies knows that there’s no such thing as “locker-room talk”; Trump’s excuse was an affirmation of his own deeply ingrained misogyny.
Ironically, in that moment, Donald Trump gave me a gift: I was moved by his dismissive words to share my story publicly out of solidarity with his victims. A bully should never have the last word.
Yet when I wrote my story for the Jewish Journal last month, I chose not to name the perpetrator of my assault. My intention was to concentrate on the issue of sexual assault and how widespread it is, rather than focus on any one man. But, indeed, my sense that the culture has changed was correct, and the response to my article was so overwhelming the perpetrator of my assault outed himself. The opposite of Donald Trump, he quickly issued a public apology for a “misunderstanding,” and when I rejected his apology as inadequate, he issued another, more honest admission of guilt.
“In the last few days I have understood that I have been afflicted by blindness,” he wrote in a statement to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “For years I did not understand what people meant when they spoke of privileged men who do not see the damage that they cause to others. Now, I am beginning to understand.”
That this man had the decency to accept responsibility for what he did makes it easier for me to forgive him. He could have easily borrowed a page from the Trump playbook and called me a liar, or disputed my report, or insulted my looks. Instead, he ultimately told the truth.