One of my favorite books growing up was a novel called Squashed, by Joan Bauer. It follows 16-year-old Ellie, who lives in Iowa and grows giant pumpkins. In fact, she cares about giant pumpkins more than most things, and grows one every year for her town's annual harvest festival weigh-in. Ellie is identified as overweight — she's mortified when her father suggests that she likes pumpkins because they, too, are "big and round" — but she gets to have a love life, winning the heart of the cutest boy in town because she's determined and funny and down to earth.
Ellie's rival in the pumpkin weigh-in is Cyril Poole, a sour, vindictive neighbor who has won the contest year after year. Cyril is not only an openly rude and mean-spirited rival; he also plays dirty, hiring local miscreants to try to steal Ellie's pumpkin in the middle of the night. When it comes time for the weigh-in, he's still spitting nasty insults as he loads in his pumpkin, but he also seems to be lashing out defensively. It's revealed that his pumpkin has a dark stain of rot across a huge section of its girth. As it's hoisted onto the scale, it begins creaking and groaning; suddenly, its orange shell splits open and a torrent of thick, rancid pulp begins pouring out.
I don't mean to make light of anything that the Republican presidential candidate has done or threatened, nor to trivialize the experience of his victims or of any survivors of sexual assault. Reading the accounts of these women over the past few days has been sickening, and a reminder of my own privilege and pure luck.
But as more and more people share their own accounts of rape, assault, and abuse — largely thanks to the work of women like Goldie Taylor and Kelly Oxford, who have invited these personal stories on Twitter and elsewhere — the image that keeps coming to mind is of a soft and wobbling pumpkin bursting open with a waterfall of rotten glop. The disease can no longer be contained. As with Cyril Poole, it's not as if seeing the dark stain across the pumpkin was the first time we knew something was wrong. But it could tip the scale in a way that means something, perhaps even after the election is over.
And if nothing else, imagining a giant pumpkin imploding and spewing out its musty guts is a calming visualization, at this point in the campaign season. I encourage you to try it.