My ninth year in school was the beginning of a three year experience with sexual harassment; something I would not come to realize until many years later. It was a boy I knew well, who was in most of my classes, who was widely adored, and who, to this day, does not agree that what he did was wrong.

    Last week, a tape was released of Donald Trump discussing how he treats women, describing, among other things, how he “grabs them by the pussy.” When asked for an explanation, Donald casually defended himself by labeling it “locker room talk,” otherwise known as the sacred space of men where nothing is off limits, where words exist in a social vacuum. According to Donald, what is said there holds no weight in the “real world.”

    The problem with “locker room talk” is that it is not just locker room talk. Locker room talk is regular talk. Locker room talk is how I was spoken to at the naive age of fourteen, the kind of talk I, as well as many other young girls, grew up believing to be a normal way to speak to and about women.

    The notion that men, grown men in positions of power and social change, can flick away accusals of sexual harassment by dismissing it as locker room talk is the reason why we have so many young girls crying behind the screens of their phones, in the bathroom stalls of their schools, in their colleges, dorms, bedrooms.

    To have a person with this much influence show young men that it is normal, excusable to call women “hot pieces of ass,” to kiss them in elevators without consent, to walk into their private spaces without permission, is extremely dangerous. It is the reason I still experience crippling anxiety whenever my harasser’s name appears on my Facebook newsfeed, the reason I hide in corners when I see him in person. It is the reason I spent three years of my life feeling guilty for what he made me do, not understanding that it was not my fault. It is the reason sexual harassment is often not reported, the reason rape is often not reported, and why there is very little justice for those that do report. It is the reason it took me almost four years to understand that I was being sexually harassed.

    To elect Donald Trump as president is to excuse sexist behavior. It is to excuse rape, assault, harassment. It is to tell girls “yes, you may be uncomfortable at how you are treated; yes, you may feel objectified; yes, he may touch you where you don’t want to be touched, but don’t worry, this is normal.”

    It is, among many other things, to tell girls they do not have control over their bodies, their sexual desires.

    It is to tell my sexual harasser that he was right in what he did.

    It is to tell men they have all the power, and all the right to use it.