When the world listened to Donald Trump on tape as he bragged about sexual assault, and then as a dozen women confirmed his assaults, echoing the disclosures (later modified under a legal agreement) of his first wife’s account of being physically and sexually assaulted, pundits fully expected women voters to reject him. We heard radio and television interviews, a catalogue of a life of insult towards women. Young women did reject him; women of color did reject him. Older white women did not. Why not?
They were voting for something that to them, was more important.
They have also normalized misogyny as the price of living in patriarchy.
They take for granted the relative safety they enjoy being white.

Normalization, Minimization and Internalization
“Hey, I’m not myopic; there are more important things in the world, like a good trade deal.”
“If he wants to grab me, go ahead! I like being grabbed!”
“Toughen up!”
“It is not as bad as getting tortured like the women in the night club in Paris!”

Older white women have accumulated decades of assaults, insults, slights, sexualization and aggressions by men. Many see themselves through the eyes of what is acceptable to a distorted abusive male lens. They stifle other women’s complaints by telling them to stop whining because really, our human rights have always been compromised on this front, so get over it, there are more important things than this. Trumps’ acts only echo what has been writ large across their entire lives. It’s disturbing, sure, but not enough to repudiate him.
Also, abusive men always compare their abuses favorably to others’ acts or their own possible acts. They minimize the impact of what they do by asserting:
“I only shoved you, I didn’t hit you”
“I only hit you I didn’t put you in the hospital.”
“I only put you in the hospital, I didn’t kill you.”
“I did not do what Jeremy did to Maria. Did you see her?”
Older white women who voted for Trump accept a version of this minimization. They explain, for example, that violent politicized Islamic extremists torture and rape Europeans, and have slaughtered Americans. They feel that Trump’s being a serial sexual predator who has emboldened abusive men does not present as immediate a danger to them as these extremists do.
Protections of Being White
“It’s not that bad; we’ll see where we are in a year or so.”
“We need to curb the illegal aliens.”
“Roe v. Wade isn’t changing. Gay Marriage isn’t changing. If he tried to change those, I’d be the first one to fight!”
“I do NOT share the values of those KKK people and I have nothing to do with those attacks. Just because other people who are sick and violent voted for my candidate doesn’t mean that I am like them. I am not responsible for what they do.”
Women of color, especially black women, are exposed to even more assaults, insults, slights, sexualizations and aggressions by men than white women are. Racism intensifies misogyny in a way that few white women can imagine. Why is it then, that women of color did not normalize, minimize and internalize the misogyny of Trump?
Over their lifetimes, many older white hetero cis women have found their wealth and well-being attached the wealth and well-being of a white hetero man. They bind their fortunes with his, according to what works for him. The few families left in America where one income is sufficient and a second partner and even children can rely on that income is found largely within white families where white males are earning higher incomes. This economic reliance can intensify the minimization and denial of misogyny. The degree to which women experience cumulative misogyny as more or less intense is the degree to which they are protected by their color and their relative access to resources that comes with their color.
If hetero white cis women don’t tie up their fortunes with white men, they still enjoy a layer of unearned access to wealth and well-being not systemically afforded to women of color. They can afford to distance themselves from the oppression of women of color, and many chose to during this election because they could hide in their whiteness from the impact of Trump’s courting racists.
Some of the white women Trump voters found their home in his birther racism. Many don’t even see the birther ploy as racist. In my conversations with them, they explain that Trump gave them permission to openly question if racism really exists in America, or even, if women of color are just reading the signals wrong and it isn’t really there at all. They do not see fear of immigrants of color, but not white European immigrants, as anything having to do with race. News sites that parade as journalism supported their hope that all the data was wrong, after all. Some have said to me that this idea of “institutional racism” is just made up; it is white “self-hate” and there would be no issue with, for example, policing in America, if people of color would just behave. For these white women Trump voters, they have found the platform to express the implicit racism they do not even understand as racism.

A Cause More Important Than Misogyny
“I did not like what Trump said or did, but Hillary would not protect the unborn children, so I voted for him.”
“She is an evil, lying murderer. She went after Bill’s mistresses. And Bill was a rapist. Pedophiles are the worst sexual predators, and she protected them, so she was a lot worse than Trump for women.”
“We need to bring manufacturing and good jobs back to this country”
“We should be living according to Biblical Law”
“Our dealings with Radical Islamic Terrorism are a mess. Clinton would bring us to war and Trump would prevent war. He recognizes the danger of radical Islam and she does not. That is where I find my voice in him. I don’t like the rest of it, but I’m not really worried that it will impact me.”

Religious Norms
Older white conservative Christian women found themselves in support of a rapist in Chief by choosing what they felt was a moral higher good: the protection of the unborn or the return to the idea of marriage as one between one hetero cis man and one hetero cis woman. For those who recognized that Trump did not do much of what Jesus would do, Clinton was a culturally untenable choice for they who had been raised on loving all thy neighbors, except her.
Others found their solace in Pence. If he could dismiss the facts of what Trump did and said, and maintain a centered practice in God and their faith, then they could, too. They could focus on the Supreme Court nominees which would be their just reward for overlooking Trump’s “faults” a.k.a. sexually predatory behavior, racist commentary, encouragement of violence and overt, continuous lying.
In conservative religious communities across traditions, women’s dignity and wellbeing is found in relationship to their roles as wives and mothers and within the faith. The faith and the males of the family purportedly keep them safe from the misogyny outside of the faith community. In this way, they could claim protection from Trump’s misogyny, and vote for common ground with him. Within the faith, all pains, punishments and shames heaped upon women are most often explained as deserved in some way. There is no clearly supported path for white conservative Christian women to stand up first and foremost for the dignity and safety of all women, including those outside the faith, when this is pitted against the rights of the unborn and the return to a conservative Christian definition of marriage.

Older white cis women described a lack of protection for women and the LGBTQ community from the violent acts of radical and politicized Islam as their primary motivator to overlook the courting of overt racism and the revelation of clear misogynistic acts by Trump. This fear is so encompassing that they have minimized his abusive values and his lack of preparation for the role he has assumed, in hopes that he will be able to protect them against attack. This can’t be underestimated as a motivator for the vote for Trump by older white women.

The most protected hetero white cis women are willing to overlook his ongoing contempt for women by shifting value to what they consider to be the more encompassing “global’ interests of trade. It is here that hyper capitalistic values, might most closely ally with the abusive values and privilege that Trump upholds. Hyper capitalism narrows the scope of its self-assessment to what benefits itself as capital producing, without calculating the impact to environment, the exploitation of people and resources, access to its products, or concerns for equity and safety. These are deemed outside its scope, secondary, just as Trump’s sexual assaultive behavior and racist remarks are secondary concerns to those who feel protected by trade concerns because of their privileged access to its products, namely, money.

We can, in a democracy, debate the role of trade, protections from terrorism, and the respect for religious norms within a free country as we jointly reject racism and misogyny.

But most older white women did not.

JAC Patrissi

Like many others, I have spent my career finding creative responses to oppression and the trauma left in its wake. Though I have worked with survivors of all kinds of violence and, neglect, and poverties, I have specialized in working alongside women and children who have survived domestic violence and sexual assault, and with men who use power and control tactics against them.

This election season has revealed that President Elect Trump has employed a set of Abusive Values throughout his business and professional dealings, in his personal life and in the campaign. Though Trump displays elements of untreated mental health issues that render him both destructive and self-destructive, mental health concepts are insufficient to understand and help anticipate his actions. It is more helpful to examine the values that govern the thinking of all abusive people.

There is a reason that domestic violence is a red flag for terrorists. The perpetrators of all acts of violence share these values. Sometimes they are overlaid or undergirded with religious beliefs, or racism or misogyny or heterosexism.

Most simply put, if a person believes these things, they are abusive:

“If I am uncomfortable, I can use intimidation, threat of violence or humiliation and retaliation to get what I want.”
Here are some Abusive Values to look out for:
• Believing that it is your job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
• Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out something about you that threatens my self-concept.
• Believing that it is your job to celebrate me, my s growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed
• Believing that I get to express disgust if you point out significant things that I forget or do not know
• Believing that I have the right to establish reality to my liking.
• Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
• Believing that I am inherently superior, or that men are superior as a gender, or other identities are superior.

These Abusive Values, how they operate and what curbs them, is the purview of those of us in the advocacy field who work with sexual assault and intimate partner violence. They are also easily recognized by people marginalized and oppressed on many fronts, across many identities such as race, gender identity, and physical ability.

They read as a playbook for Trump’s life and campaign. Yet they also read as a playbook for a great number of Americans. We see the acceptance of Abusive Values by the white male leadership of the Republican Party who have openly called for a rejection of “feminization” of discourse has been echoed by its base, now intertwining these values with a deeper race hatred, misogyny and heterosexism.
When people now talk of Trump’s actions as “campaign rhetoric,” I am reminded how survivors who are negotiating their safety with abusive partners go through the process of learning the limitations of their influence on an abusive person. It takes time to recognize the Abusive Values that endure underneath the actions some call rhetorical.
We can compassionately anticipate what is ahead, and offer guidelines gleaned from decades of helping people manage and escape oppression.

Recognize and Assess The Size of Our Unmet Legitimate Needs

People who are in abusive relationships are there in large part because they found something promising in the relationship. They were told they were going to get their legitimate needs met. They may get a few met, at a high cost. Over time, the size of the needs will increase.
This is true for large numbers of people who voted for Trump to get jobs, better incomes, security from threat, redress for their many woes. The slightly more than half of the voting public who did not vote for him also have these unmet needs. Keep your eyes on the size of this unmet need, as it will help you articulate what you are fighting for in a way that will help you garner larger support. You can join with others fighting for the legitimate unmet needs of the people.

Do Not Normalize the Abuse

Most abusers spend a great deal of time minimizing, denying and blame shifting the cause of the abuse. The survivors with them begin to focus on the positive aspects of the abuser. They look for cues of normalcy and focus on the strengths. This is a survival mechanism. However, it will not help you anticipate what will come. The way to freedom is to break from the isolation of perspective the abuser enforces. Write down the abuses when it is safe. Repeat them. Have others repeat them. Use descriptive terms; do not soften the images.
When it comes to Trump, you can hear his happy supporters now attempting to clean up and normalize his actions. They are saying that he never said he grabs women by the pussy. That must have been manufactured. It did not happen. When his racist or assaultive actions are admitted, they are admitted only as “rhetoric.” The racist call-outs and the life of assaults against women are not rhetorical. They are actions based on values and privileges that underpin rhetoric. Stay clear with these distinctions.

Do Not Share In Responsibility for the Abusive Values

Most thinking about negotiation of conflict is based on the assumption that there are two parties in roughly equal interaction. In Systems Theory, we could look at each party taking an equally important role in any tension. This is not an accurate framework for people or leaders operating under Abusive Values. I tell people in interpersonal relationship with someone with Abusive Values that you could be the Dalai Lama and the other party will still attack. Just ask the Dalai Lama about that. We must break out of the Prison of Goodness, that is, trying always to be “more good” in order to change the outcome.
In terms of responding to this election, we did not have truly civil differences in opinion as to how a country should meet the shared needs of its citizenry. Instead, Trump used threats of violence, assertions that he would limit the media, sue and jail his opponents and deport millions, following the Abusive Values throughout.

The degree to which we are threatened by his use of these Abusive Values is the degree to which we are not protected by privilege. We are to share the risk with others who are threatened in ways we are not, but never the responsibility for the risk itself. This is the responsibility of the Abuser in Chief and any abusive followers emboldened by him.
Assert Reality by Re-establishing Patterns of Fact
Most survivors spend their energy reestablishing basic patterns of fact to preserve their sanity. Help with this, for the good of everyone. Trumps own attorneys spoke of never meeting with him alone, in order to establish a record of agreements in light of the fact that he will easily deny them.

Conciliatory Behavior Only Consolidates Control

There are a set of negotiation skills, nonviolent communicate skills and mediation and arbitration skills that work effectively when you are not dealing with Abusive Values. When you are dealing with Abusive Values, your giving to get, your negotiation, consolidates the control of the person who is willing to destroy you or incite violence and contempt against you to get what they want. You must re-establish the minimum standard: Equality and Safety for all. Period.

What Changes People Living By Abusive Values?

First, we articulate the values of Safety, Respect and Equality. Often these are articulated by a religious faith, or a declaration of rights.
If the community and institutions surrounding the person insists on consequences to violations of those values of safety, respect and equality, this sometimes helps.
Mostly, when the person surviving the abuse gets their needs met outside of the abusive person, gathers with others who are safe, the abuse can be challenged from a safer distance. This is always dangerous. We measure when to challenge, and how.
This has always been the path. We have survived thus far, and we are legion.

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JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart

JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.