I don’t know Trump personally, but I do know firsthand the damage caused by a controlling, misogynistic, manipulative, racist gaslighter.
Content note: abuse
By now, most Americans are aware of the unnerving reality that Donald Trump may be the next President of the United States. Trump is known for his unbridled bluster, and his discriminatory statements against Muslims, women, people or color, Mexicans, and other minorities. The first few Trump speeches I heard had me utterly dismayed, sickened with a familiar anxiety and fight-or-flight response that plagued me throughout my childhood. It did not take me long to pinpoint why Trump made me so uncomfortable and upset: There are disturbing parallels between Trump and my father, a man who physically, sexually, and verbally abused me my entire life.
As a child, I was conditioned to put my father and his feelings on a pedestal, often at the cost of my own emotional well-being. Similar to Trump, any disagreements I had with my father were met with unjust anger, ridicule, and verbal abuse. He often reminded me that he was a powerful, successful lawyer in attempts to control, silence, and belittle me.
My father used Trump’s most popular tactic against those who dare stood up to him; he shamed, shouted, and physically abused me and the rest of my family into submission and forced compliance. Though Trump has never gotten physical with an opponent, he has suggested his followers use their second amendment rights against Hillary Clinton, mocked a reporter with disabilities, and has shamed/bullied/abused numerous people in interviews and Twitter tantrums.
Narcissists like my abuser and Trump are instilled with fragile egos, and when threatened, become volatile and violent. How could we trust a man who has shown us massive intolerance toward anyone who does not support him, regular use of abusive tactics, and an intense need to protect his pride and status before the American public?
Additionally, both Trump and my abuser emphasize the importance of physical appearance and equate it to a woman’s worth. I grew up listening to my father talk about women inappropriately; from commenting on women’s breasts or body size in public or in movies, to constantly criticizing my mother’s weight. After I hit puberty, I became the focus of my father’s harsh criticism and insults, which destroyed my body image.
Not unlike Alicia Machado and possibly other women Trump has criticized, I developed an eating disorder at the age of 10 and was bullied into unhealthy diets in futile attempts to win my father’s approval. He spouted almost identical insults at Trump, calling me “piggy” and “fatty” as a teen, even telling me at 11 years old to “wear a whale suit” on a family vacation.
Men like my abuser and Trump possess such dangerous senses of entitlement, they believe it is appropriate to speak about women in such disrespectful, objectifying, and degrading ways. Their actions and words contribute to the epidemic of eating disorders and mental illnesses among women in the United States, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and rape culture. Trump is unable to address and solve these harrowing issues because he is part of the problem.
Trump’s campaign has unabashedly promoted not only sexism, but also racism since the beginning of this election cycle, comparable to the racism taught in my father’s household. I remember as a young girl how his hateful rhetoric extended from women to minorities, especially my Indian neighbors. He always commented on the “dog shit” they were cooking next door (delicious curry) and how they intended to “probably blow up our house one day.” I can recall a poignant memory of coming home after visiting their eldest daughter, excited to show off the beautiful henna tattoos she painted down my hands. My father’s face immediately turned red and he started shouting about how my neighbors were terrorists and probably wrote their “terrorist plans in Arabic” on me; he scrubbed my palms until my skin was sore and red. Trump has time and time again suggested all Muslims are terrorists, and made it a policy promise to ban Muslims from entering the country. His campaign makes it acceptable for people like my father and racists to openly display their bigotry and act on it.
I don’t know Trump personally, but I do know firsthand the damage caused by a controlling, misogynistic, manipulative, racist gaslighter. I watch with sadness Trump’s daily displays of the textbook traits for a narcissist and serial abuser, like my father: self-importance to the point of self-obsession, abusive rage toward anyone with dissenting opinions, and lack of a skill most people develop by the age of 3, the ability to apologize. I am still healing from the abuse I experienced as a child, and I am terrified at the thought of how long it could take the entire country to heal after a Trump presidency.
Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro is a writer, entrepreneur, and activist. She lives in Utah and is currently working on her first novel.