Amber Tamblyn's story of her sexual assault is all the more powerful after Sunday's debate


On Sunday, actress Amber Tamblyn posed the personal and powerful story of her own experience with sexual assault on her Instagram — as a response to the leaked audio, from 2005, of Republican nominee Donald Trump bragging about "grabbing" women "by the pussy," without consent. 

Tamblyn's story, which was already gut-wrenching to read, is all the more powerful on Monday, after Trump refused to acknowledge during Sunday night's presidential debate that his comments in the 2005 recording described sexual assault.

"I need to tell you a story. With the love and support of my husband, I've decided to share it publicly," Tamblyn wrote in her Instagram post on Sunday. She described ending a relationship with an abusive man "a very long time ago," and her experience when he found her and assaulted her, in public, after their breakup.

I will tell you that my ex did show up, and came up to me in the crowd. He's a big guy, taller than me. The minute he saw me, he picked me up with one hand by my hair and with his other hand, he grabbed me under my skirt by my vagina — my pussy? — and lifted me up off the floor, literally, and carried me, like something he owned, like a piece of trash, out of the club. His fingers were practically inside of me, his other hand wrapped tightly around my hair. I screamed and kicked and cried. He carried me this way, suspended by his hands, all the way across the room, pushing past people until he got to the front door. My friends ran after him, trying to stop him.

Tamblyn escaped the attack, she explained in the post, when her attacker's brothers intervened. But, she says, the assault left her both physically and emotionally harmed. 

"That part of my body, which the current Presidential Nominee of the United States Donald Trump recently described as something he'd like to grab a woman by, was bruised from my ex-boyfriend's violence for at least the next week," Tamblyn wrote. "To this day I remember that moment. I remember the shame. I am afraid my mom will read this post. I'm even more afraid that my father could ever know this story. That it would break his heart. I couldn't take that. But you understand, don't you? I needed to tell a story. Enjoy the debates tonight."

Tamblyn's own experience makes clear how acts of sexual violence — specifically, the very act that Donald Trump was heard boasting about — can be used to humiliate, hurt and frighten. Grabbing someone by their genitals without their consent isn't playful, it's not "locker-room banter" — it's assault. 

But Trump's explanation, when asked about his own words during Sunday's debate, made clear that he still doesn't understand that what he described to Billy Bush in 2005 is sexual assault.

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"You described kissing women without their consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault," debate co-moderator Anderson Cooper told Trump on Sunday night, speaking about the leaked audio. "You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?"

"No, I didn't say that at all," Trump said. "I don't think you understood what was said. This was locker-room talk. I'm not proud of it."

Trump's response was clear — no, he doesn't understand that forcing himself on someone without their consent is assault — and who knows how many stories like Tamblyn's it would take for him to understand the consequences of his actions. It makes Tamblyn's story all the more upsetting to know that anyone, let alone a candidate for president of the United States, could read her words and dismiss her attack as anything less than sexual assault.