By Tierney McAfee and Liz McNeil
Updated November 16, 2016 09:12 AM
Credit: Melanie Acevedo

President-elect Donald Trump‘s shocking victory has left many in the country reeling – and former PEOPLE writer Natasha Stoynoff admits she too was surprised by the election’s outcome.

Stoynoff, who came forward in October with her harrowing story about Trump grabbing and forcibly kissing her during an interview, tells PEOPLE she was “heartbroken” on Election Night when she realized Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had lost her fight.

“Mostly at what the results said about so many Americans and what they were thinking, feeling and believing,” she says.

Stoynoff, 51, made national headlines when she wrote a courageous essay describing how the now president-elect physically attacked her in December 2005 at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where she was covering his and wife Melania’s first wedding anniversary.

Stoynoff was one of 12 women who came forward to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct in the weeks leading up to the election. Though the allegations — all of which Trump has vehemently denied — ignited national outrage, they ultimately did not hinder his path to the White House.

RELATED VIDEO: Exclusive: Natasha Stoynoff on Donald Trump’s Very Personal Attacks: ‘It’s An Attempt to Silence Women’

On Election Night, Stoynoff watched the results in her native Canada at the home of author John Irving, a longtime friend, and his family.

For the last several weeks, Stoynoff says, Irving has been “a steady and assuring voice during a very turbulent time, and I’m grateful for that.”

Like Stoynoff, Irving is now struggling to make sense of Trump’s stunning win. In an essay for Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper, Irving writes that in electing Trump, America has chosen to go down a path that is “isolationist, misogynist, and xenophobic.” “Trump will take the country backward, even farther backward than the Reagan years,” he laments. “Women’s rights and LGBT rights will be overturned, or they will regress.”

For her part, Stoynoff says she’s “sad but staying hopeful. I have faith in myself to move forward — and in my fellow Americans to band together and aggressively ensure that our laws protecting diversity and human rights not only stay intact but flourish.”

And she has no regrets about coming forward. “The hundreds of emails and social media notes and phone calls of support tell me that most Americans want a president who is an honest human being with integrity,” she adds. “And that gives me great optimism for the future of our country.”

As for her own future, Stoynoff, who has several book projects in the works, says, “I want to continue writing stories about brave women who find their voices and fight injustice.”