#HillaryGropedMe distracts from the real issue of sexual assault
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A couple months ago, I was riding the Metro Los Angeles rail system home at night. A young man sat in the seat across the aisle from me. 

Even though I had earbuds plugged into my ears and was exuding my very practiced and competent “bitch face,” he started waving at me to get my attention. He wanted to sit next to me and find out if I was single. He wanted to ask me personal questions and determine, rather aggressively, if I might be interested in a fling. 

There alone at 11 p.m., I was about to perform an improvised routine of mental gymnastics. I’d placate this young person, and while in the end I was shaken, no one would be hurt. He’d get distracted by a conversation and exit the train before I reached my stop.

I have done variations of this routine, which feels like a hostage negotiation, my entire adolescent and adult life. And while it may seem like a strange segue into the state of contemporary American politics, this very type of thing has been drawn front and center into the ceaseless glare of the 24-hour news cycle by allegations that candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE groped nearly a dozen women. The fact that someone who has submitted to the American people a request to be their commander-in-chief with these types of allegations pending might be a serious concern, but because this is the age of the Internet and we deal in hashtags with all grave matters, some have found the time to diligently set #HillaryGropedMe a-trending on Twitter. Apparently it’s a grossly unfunny distraction from the issue at hand.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five women will be raped at some point in her life. Assuming rape is the extreme case when it comes to sexual assaults, we can assume the number of women who have been or will be harassed, threatened, touched, hassled, handled, intimidated, etc, is far higher than that. It’s safe to say that a very large percentage of American women must deal with some type of unwanted contact that is sexual in nature in varying degrees of severity with regularity.

I don’t claim to be a professional when it comes to unraveling the nation’s psychological knots of symbolism, redirection, fear and loathing, but of all the accusations levied against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRonan Farrow exposes how the media protect the powerful Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' Comey says he has a 'fantasy' about deleting his Twitter account after end of Trump term MORE through the years, being too handsy isn’t one of them. The hashtag seems to have originated with a YouTube video created by a blogger called Prissy Holly, whose byline can be found on shady websites that traffic in incendiary click bait fiction, like MadWorldNews. In the video, she claims that a pant-suit clad, yellow-toothed Hillary stormed in on her in an airplane bathroom and began groping her with “old lady talons.” The account is, of course, light on specifics, which hinders any efforts to fact check it. Instead of seeking accountability for what would be an assault, Holly asks people to get the hashtag trending.

When Trump’s accuser, Jessica Leeds, went public with her story, some asked why she didn’t report it at the time. Her close friend told CNN’s Don Lemon that women didn’t report incidents like that 35 years ago because while it was the norm, the repercussions for reporting them would be unduly heavy. Nowadays, society at large holds that women should immediately report these things. But what if society keeps telling us, in more sinister and less direct ways, that the cost of doing so is still at least as high, and often higher, than remaining silent? All women know we have to balance whether or not it’s less risky to suffer in silence. That algebra is done constantly, if even subconsciously. Politics aside, if you’re female, you deal with this.

The question is whether we continue to play the games that perpetuate a status quo in which half the population plays Russian Roulette every time they step out their door. 

The question, sadly, is being answered on Twitter as I write.

Palma is an author at Snopes and a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has covered everything from city hall to crime to national politics. She started as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group and wrote for a variety of publications including the LAist, the OC Weekly, LA School Report, Truthout and The Raw Story. Follow her on Twitter @BPalmaMarkus


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