What Is Keeping You Up at Night Post-election?

Last week I was doing that let’s-see-what-happens thing combined with reading more from people of color on how white people can be better allies. I’ve also been checking in at Breitbart and Fox News. Getting all your news from one side seems like making up your echo chamber bed with flannel sheets and a down comforter—you know you’ll never get out of there.

Long-story short: I’m trying to listen. It’s something I can get better at all around.

It’s overwhelming, listening. I often feel challenged about who I am and how I respond to things. It’s exhausting unpacking the privilege, the whiteness, and the womanhood that I bring to every situation. I’m not wishing I weren’t these things, I’m just saying that it’s a lot to examine yourself constantly. And I understand why we hide behind the ease of absolutes. Things get messy when everything is grey and nothing is black-and-white.

Then I read last week in Sojourners, a progressive Christian movement I follow, that Jerry Falwell, Jr. had been offered the position of secretary of education, but passed, and will now advise on education policy instead. The position now belongs to Betsey DeVos (pending confirmation). Jerry Falwell, Jr. runs Liberty University, which is a conservative Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. I went to college in Lynchburg, at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

My senior year of college there was a movement in Lynchburg by Jerry Falwell’s think-tank to try to get a high-school advanced placement biology textbook banned because it contained a sketch of the female genitalia. Having such an anatomically correct female sketch was the equivalent of “giving a high-school boy a loaded gun.”

I was waiting for that moment when I would be left with no excuses.

I’ve been calling and emailing and signing things for weeks, but somewhere I was hoping that I could listen myself into hands-off economic policies and job creation that didn’t aim to destroy everything I believe in for education, social well-being, sex, and race. Privileged white ladies and progressive Christians—my people: It’s not happening. Someone who believes that high-school boys can’t handle anatomy sketches was offered the chance to run our country’s schools. Fill-in-the-blank-crazy-statement about other cabinet members. It’s time to not be half-assed about my resistance.

The demon on my left shoulder is saying, “Ugh. There’s a lot of family- and work-related sh*t to get done, and remember how you already send emails and sign petitions? It’s enough.”

The angel on my right is rolling her eyes, “The reason gun control never passes is because NRA members show up to everything, and progressives don’t. Lull yourself into more electronic signatures, but you already know your issue, so get to work.”

It’s time to get going.

I’ll keep signing and calling, but my issue is reproductive justice. I’m saying it here so you can keep me accountable.

Single-issue voters who decided Trump was the right choice because of the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade make my heart and mind race to the point that my body hums with anxiety and won’t let me sleep. As a Christian, I’m angry about the millions of hours that are spent legislating for abortion-restriction laws, and against social programs. I’ve been told to love God above all and love my neighbor as myself, and that combination of for/against doesn’t jive with me.

It’s time to put some action where my heart is. I hope you’ll follow my journey and that I can follow yours. What is your issue? Feel free to write two words or share an action link.

 

Five Books from the Feminist Christian’s Bookshelf

Books. MomsicleBlog

Lately, as the Internet lashed out at me with side-eyed judgment from all angles — I’m not liberal enough, I’m not listening enough, I’m not politically active enough — I’ve found shelter again in the tome. I have a pile of books on my nightstand. (The wheel of fortune may stop on any mood at the end of the bedtime dance.)

  1. The Book of Common Prayer. I received this beautiful burgundy copy at my confirmation in New York City in 2006. I love this passage from the 1789 preface: “It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire.” Lately I’ve been excited to be in deeper relationship with God through reading a bit each night.
  2. The Abortionist: A Woman Against the Law, by Rickie Solinger. I’m interested in the stories, and not the judgment, behind abortion. Ruth Barnett was a Portlander who performed hundreds of thousands of abortions in a well-run clinic in Oregon before abortion became legal, and the author examines abortion law and attitudes through Barnett’s case study. “Our history shows us that neither criminal statutes nor censorious public attitudes were ever sufficient to stop women determined to decide for themselves whether and when to become a mother.
  3. All About Love: New Visions, by bell hooks. I was reminded of my desire to read bell hooks while in the children’s section with my son, alongside her Happy to Be Nappy. We left with Grump, Groan, Growl for him and All About Love for me. “Living life in touch with divine spirit lets us see the light of love in all living beings. That light is a resurrecting life force.” Amen.
  4. Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma, by Nancy Samalin. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a yeller, but what’s a girl to do? “By their nature, children bring to the family environment disorder, aggravation, ambiguity, and turmoil. They also bring warmth, humor, boundless energy, and creativity. Loving parents wonder how they can encourage the latter while enduring the former.” Yes. And there are funny stories.
  5. Radical Acceptance: Embracing your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, by Tara Brach, Ph. D. An excellent companion to Love and Anger (why not approach anger from a hundred different angles?). And this books starts with words from the poet Rumi, that I shall etch on my heart:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

I’ll meet you there.

I Liked Trump’s Victory Speech. Then I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed in the Morning.

Triumphant.(Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Triumphant. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Did you listen to Trump’s victory speech? I did. And it calmed me down.

It came after three rounds of crying. There was the quick, visceral cry after Iowa got called. Iowa wasn’t a swing state, but the momentum really changed for me then. “Say something uplifting,” I texted my friend Conor, a witty and thoughtful policy wonk (find him on Twitter here). He sent me a wonderful quote from Reinhold Niebuhr (here).

Then there was the profound cry when Pennsylvania went red. Tell me you didn’t cry? I was texting last night with a good friend in Pennsylvania who asked how she was supposed to take her son to school in the morning—he’s brown; there was a “Trump that Bitch” sign in front of the school.

Then there was the cry at the end of the night, before the speech. That was the cry of despair. I was thinking about the sexism that I’ve faced and that friends and colleagues have faced, and the painfully obvious double standard used to measure each campaign. My friend texted me that a woman friend had recently told her that it’s possible a woman might not have the temperament to be president. What?!? I also read the statistics that 78% of white, evangelical Christians voted for Trump.

Deep, body-aching despair.

I always think about the sermon a young seminarian gave at my husband’s church in New York City. The seminarian had been at an interfaith gathering and a rabbi had told him that for God, despair is the ultimate hubris–because with God, nothing is impossible. We may not see the way out, but we don’t know everything.

I think of that often, usually when I’ve clawed my way out of the pit, and am trying to move away from the edge.

I felt I had to stay up for Trump’s speech.

I have a tendency to be practical, centrist, compromising. Also, there was an imminent threat to my sanity—the next day I was having lunch with a certain relative who does not like to appear anywhere online and who may or may not have voted for Trump.

But mostly, I don’t want to burrow down into hatred, digging away the dirt of rationality and throwing clumps of mud at the other side as I listen only to my people. That kind of hatred destroys me from the inside out, and blinds me to my own weaknesses.

If I was sinking like a ship into my couch, people somewhere were feeling a sense of elation and relief. There’s humanity in those emotions, and I wanted to see for myself.

I had an inkling I’d left a crack in my calcified heart to see the other side with something other than horror—I’d read a profile of Kellyanne Conway in The New Yorker. I don’t agree with most of her ideals, but I could also see myself in her—she’s a mother of four young kids, she is passionate about her career, she came out against Trump’s original comments on abortion (the they “should be punished” ones). I like Ivanka Trump’s website. Its tagline is “We are women who work,” and she has profiles of interesting women, including a stay-at-home mom. I listened to Donald Trump Jr.’s interview on election day, and there was such a proud, loving tone. Family—it makes us loyal even in the face of sometime-lunacy. I understand that.

So I stayed up. The speech was good. It was kind. It was unifying. It was coherent. It was impassioned. If you haven’t heard the speech, no pressure, but it’s here. Here are the highlights:

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; [we] have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people. . . I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

I know you’re probably rolling your eyes. I get it. The speech is best if you can watch it. It’s even better if Trump’s way of speaking reminds you of your grandpa, of whom you have very fond memories. (That actually helps a lot.)

I felt good after the speech. I wanted our politicians to deescalate the vitriol, to model what it means to be part of civil society. I could go to bed.

But I couldn’t get out of it.

I woke up crying. I got up and went back to bed crying. My friends who are people of color, who are part of the LGBTQ community, who work with refugees or at women’s health clinics—everyone was expressing a sense of vulnerability and fear that they hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I’m trying to listen a lot more.

Then I listened to Hillary’s speech in the parking lot of the local rec center, and I cried more. At this part…

And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks -– sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.

To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will -– hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

…I did ugly crying.

Then I got this beautiful, future-glass-ceiling-shattering little girl out of the car, and went in to meditation class.

"And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world." -Hillary Clinton

“And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” -Hillary Clinton

Most people in meditation class are twenty, thirty years older than me. We talked about “taking the hits”–allowing yourself to feel the deep sadness, and not pushing it away with anger.

A friend of mine, Melissa, who graduated with me from college, wrote this. She kindly said I could share. It beautifully captures where I’m at.

“Earlier this week, I took part in a discussion on “lament” and the lost art of mourning and how we’ve learned to harden our hearts and forgotten the importance of deep-felt grief. Wailing, clothes-tearing lament.

This morning, as I enjoy the warm snuggles and love of my family, I don’t mourn for our family. Our white, upper-middle-class, well-employed family will be fine. In fact, if any of those huge, great plans come to be, we’ll probably thrive as we traditionally have. Our privileged children will continue to enjoy access to all the best schools money can buy, all the benefits of well-educated parents, and a strong social-emotional family foundation that will save them from much trouble.

My daughter will grow up, hammer in hand, ready and able to shatter glass. I don’t mourn for our family. But I do mourn for the thousands who will lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, especially those with pre-existing conditions who will experience financial decimation or poor healthcare without guaranteed insurance; I mourn for the women who will find it harder to access healthcare if the government increases its power over their reproductive choices; I mourn for all the girls, the children of color, those with disabilities, and for my LGBTQ friends who received a clear message today that their country tolerates their bullying and values them as less than equal citizens; I mourn for the thousands of refugees who will never experience the freedom and greatness of America if we reverse our long-held tradition of welcoming the tired and weary; I mourn for the dreamers who grew up here and believed they could be part of America’s future and now may lose their pathway to citizenship; I mourn for women, who obviously still have to fight the fight to be heard and valued; and I mourn, with deep sadness and probably most of all, for the people of faith who traded in their calling to be an image-bearer of Christ for personal prosperity and bigotry, placing their needs over the needs of the poor and disenfranchised and forgetting our call to share love.

I’m not worried about our family but I am clothes-tearing, wailingly sad for America.”

I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to give the Trump presidency a chance. I’m ready to raise the voice of progressive Christianity, whose silence has allowed the dialogue of the church to become bigoted and myopic. I’m ready to keep doing the work I do on behalf of the poor and refugees. In the meantime, I’m definitely going to cry some more.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Church, Hillary, and One Important Thing I Have in Common with Many Trump Supporters

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

I’ve been very grumpy the past week. Quick to snap, late to calm.

One morning, walking K-Pants to school, I charged at a minivan as it passed the school bus on the left, and then I told off an old lady who was mad about a new sidewalks project. “They’re taking people’s yards,” she snapped at me. “I have to push my stroller in the middle of the street!” I snapped back, callous about her loss of yard, then moving on to make plans in my mind for how I would clip her ankles with the stroller next time.

I’ve never had a problem coming up with a quick comeback or biting remark. My nickname my senior year of high school was “Poison Dart Shoop.” Hood River Valley High School advanced placement English classmates may remember the reason.

I’ve worked hard over the years to let empathy lead and sarcasm follow. Results are mixed. But I was generally going in a good direction… until last week I put my little life raft into the river of collective anxiety, and was surprised when I found myself picking fights all over the place.

I was feeling dark and hopeless.

But then I thought about the fact that in an incredibly polarizing election cycle in which so many people are talking about the lesser of two evils, there’s a bright spot for me: I really like my candidate.

I remember Hillary Clinton as first lady working to expand healthcare for children. When I lived in New York City, as part of my job, I spoke with an Iraq–Afghanistan veteran with intense post-traumatic stress syndrome who told me that Hillary Clinton’s office was the only elected official’s office who took his concerns seriously and got back with valuable responses.

Then there’s the fact that I’m pragmatic. I like experience. I value compromise. I’m pulled toward platforms that are more centrist.

I’m also a Christian who measures candidates against what many consider to be the greatest commandment: Jesus’ challenge to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves. Not just our same-race, like-minded neighbors. Any neighbors.

Yesterday, our church officially became a parish after years of dedicated work. As part of the ceremony, we renewed our baptismal vows, which included these two important questions, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

These principles guide me.

I’m not voting for Clinton because she’s a woman, but it does make me really happy—giddy, frankly. I’m a fellow woman’s college grad. I believe in equity. As my best friend said to me, “If Hillary were on her third marriage, to a man much younger than herself, and had sexual assault allegations clouding her, there’s no way her campaign would have even gotten off the ground.” Truth. The standards are not the same, but she’s persevered.

So I have this in common with many die-hard Trump supporters: I really love my candidate and what she represents.

As a bonus, I don’t hate people who are voting for Trump. I hope they don’t hate me. Either way, the work doesn’t end tomorrow, but at least the election does.

All That Good Stuff Going On #WAHM #freelancelife

In the spring, as the days were getting longer, I wrote about re-orienting from being a stay-at-home-mom to a work-at-home writer and editor (here). It’s fall, and the darkness is slowly taking over the light, but I’m feeling good.

I love my work. I’m trying to figure out a way to do more of it.

WAHM HQ. MomsicleBlog

WAHM HQ

In April, I grabbed a nook from our play room, repurposed some furniture from other corners of the house, added a little heater and some second-hand finds—an estate-sale swivel chair, a blue, velvet rocker, and a seventies lamp base with a chrome shade—and made myself a lovely home office.

Having a place that’s mine to re-launch my career felt important. I splurged on a rug. I’m about to put up the finishing touches with paintings from my friend and artist Anya Roberts-Tony. Anya, when you come home and paintings are missing, I say THANKS.

Swivel-Chair Fall Dossier

Here‘s the website I wrote for Lonely Lane Farms. I love Mike and Patty Kloft. They run a sustainable, high-integrity, third-generation meat farm in Mount Angel, Oregon. We wanted visitors to feel like they were sitting down with the farmers as they learned about the farm, and in collaboration with web designer Jess Ropp, I feel like we got it. It’s rare for a family farm to cut and pack their own meat, and our next project together will be specifically for Century Oak Packing, the family’s processing operation.

You’ll find Dr. Emma Andre’s new venture, Vital Mamas, here. Emma is a naturopathic doctor, and this year she launched, and is building out, an online consultancy for working moms suffering from adrenal fatigue. You might think of adrenal fatigue as hormonal mayhem. It’s often characterized by symptoms that may include anxiety, chronic fatigue, digestive issues, insomnia, low libido, or weight gain. We’ve been collaborating on writing and editing for the site. I love Emma’s focus on challenging working moms to prioritize themselves, listen deeply to their bodies, and regain their power. I can totally get behind that.

End Child Poverty in California’s splash page is here. I run their social media accounts, write email blasts, and am involved in envisioning a larger storytelling project that will get off the ground in 2017. I love that End Child Poverty in California is focused on breaking the cycle of childhood poverty through a research-based approach that addresses both the moral and economic upsides of fighting poverty. I also love that the organization was created by nuns. You can find their Twitter and Facebook feeds here and here.

I’m also working with Sesame Workshop on a math curriculum for babies and toddlers. The thing I like about this project is that it’s not about teaching babies and toddlers math facts, but about enhancing the cognitive skills that lead to preschool math readiness. Low-income students often lag behind in math readiness, and preschool math readiness has been tied to math success through early high school. This curriculum is kind of a brain-bender. Me likey. Draft phases are almost done.

And then there are the articles. My goal for 2017 is to publish more of my own writing in online article, essay, and opinion-piece form. I’m pitching on topics like postpartum psychosis and pro-choice advocacy in the Christian church–the non-controversial stuff. Let’s see what happens. Giddyup.

The Two Mistakes Hillary Clinton Made on Women’s Rights in Wednesday’s Debate

Hillary Clinton at the final presidential debate on October 19, 2016. Getty Images.

Hillary Clinton at the final presidential debate on October 19, 2016. Getty Images.

I watched the debate.

I hope that on Saturday when Kate McKinnon comes out as Hillary, in that awesome ivory pantsuit, her first line is, “Look, Bill, my wedding dress still fits!” SNL, are you listening?

I hadn’t had the opportunity until last night to watch a woman on a national stage thoughtfully take on sexual assault and reproductive rights. It felt good. Like one of us was talking about our stuff. And she does her research. Maybe it’s what’s inspired me to send out more pitches and lose the imposter syndrome I’ve been carrying around as a writer for the last few years.

But even in the context of not shying away from sexual assault and reproductive rights, I thought Hillary missed two critical opportunities for pushing the dialogue forward on women’s rights. Let’s be clear: It’s rare that we hear a woman of such stature speak for us, but we need to build the foundation for a change of course in dialogue about sexual assault and reproductive rights, and that’s where things fell short.

Clinton’s two misses on women’s rights:

1. The sexual assault conversation was an opportunity for Clinton to put assault in a larger cultural context, and cite the statistics that only 2-10% of sexual assault reports are false, and that only 63% of assaults are even reported. Instead “fame-seeking” remained on the table as a plausible reason Trump’s accusers came forward. That can’t stand. Under- and unreported assaults are often due to fear of retaliation and victim-shaming. In addition, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s review of the research tells us that “when an assault is reported, survivors may feel that their victimization has been redefined and even distorted by those who investigate, process, and categorize cases.”

The alleged assaults got redefined and distorted over the past week, and the victims were widely shamed: It’s not often that we see such a quick, public feedback loop proving stereotypes and research findings on why victims don’t come forward. This was a missed opportunity to push the dialogue away from victim shaming and toward the facts.

2. Abortion. Clinton clearly stated her support of Roe v. Wade and defended against Trump’s false allegations that late-term abortion is considered an acceptable way to abort an unwanted fetus “days before delivery.” She humanized the discussion on reproductive rights in a way that many of us haven’t seen in the public sphere, especially falling on the heels of the Planned Parenthood violence and “exposés” of last year. But Clinton lacked the nuance that could have swayed on-the-fence moral voters to her side.

The landscape of the pro-life and pro-choice movements is changing. The future of the pro-life movement, for example, is going to be tied more to social justice and human rights issues than to fundamentalist Christianity. Clinton should have made the link to how her plans would support mothers who decide not to get abortions. An Atlantic article last year noted that single, working-class mothers face serious obstacles: “dealing with childcare, transportation, and health insurance, all for paltry wages,” and then, “many mothers who do find work are only one crisis away from losing that job.” Changes, such as universal pre-K, paid leave, access to high-quality, affordable child-care, and good-paying jobs, are critical to lift mothers out of poverty and guard against childhood traumas. 

Supporting single parents and working class families is the flip-side of the reproductive rights debate, and in the future won’t be separated from it. Last night’s debate erred on the side of an abortion-rights dialogue from the 1990s, and although it felt like a drink of cool water to hear a woman so clearly and compassionately defend a woman’s right to choose, an opportunity to paint the rest of the social justice picture was lost.

Why I’m Grateful to Donald Trump About Sexual Assault

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally for Republican Presidential Donald Trump in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

When I was in my twenties, I was on a flight home to Phoenix from Portland. I was in the middle seat, next to a guy about my age. Then a man in his 40s or 50s got on board and took the aisle. He smelled like alcohol when he got on the plane. The flight attendants refused to serve him more drinks after his first couple. It was a two-and-a-half hour flight, and throughout the flight he had his hands on me, tried to sleep on me, and called me sweetie

I didn’t know what to do. The logistics seemed overwhelming. How would I tell the flight attendants? I would have to get out of my seat and walk over him, to start. Then they would have to find me a new seat, and it was a full flight. And what about my stuff—how would I get it back from under the seat in front of me? And how would I talk about this to my new seatmates? The logistics of getting out of the situation left me paralyzed….

If women hadn’t started coming forward accusing Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual touching and assault, I would have probably remained largely uninterested in Election 2016.

Honestly, I’m in it for the Saturday Night Live parodies. I missed the first presidential debate, but decided I had to watch the second so that I would get all the references in the following week’s SNL sketch.

I vote Democrat. Sometimes I vote Republican. I have opinions. (If you know me, you know I have opinions.)

But I don’t have the energy or the blood-pressure capacity to remain all riled up for months at a time. I find the commentary on both the right and the left apocalyptic. Absolutes are thrown around like leaves in our current Northwest storm (can we call it a nor’wester?).

But then things got sexual, and women started coming forward with allegations. I became interested, less in terms of Donald Trump, per se, but in terms of our culture of silence around sexual assault and our eagerness to dismiss and blame victims. Donald Trump isn’t the only man-in-the-spotlight to become a living caricature of the victim/alleged-assailant dynamic, but he’s here now, and we have a lot to learn.

Only between two and ten percent of sexual assault allegations are false, according to aggregated research reported by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and about 63% of sexual assaults go unreported. (To see the data, click here.)

I heard the “locker room talk” explanation.

Then as allegations kept appearing, friends started coming forward on Facebook, sharing their own stories of sexual harassment and assault, challenging our current culture of complacency and skepticism.

My friend Jenn shared, “I had a grown man say ‘Nice tits’ to me as he was leaving a restaurant I was entering. Our culture groomed him to believe that I would find this complimentary.” Jenn is also the survivor of two sexual assaults. My friend Steph said that in addition to three sexual assaults, she’s been the victim of a stream of harassment over the years because of her breasts.

Jenn and Steph are strong, confident women. But in the face of harassment and assault, women are often left shocked and silent. Jenn says, “I remember not realizing I had been treated poorly until I thought about it later. Being objectified and sexualized is just too normal to catch immediately.”

Although we know the statistics that millions of women will be victims of sexual assault, we rarely come in contact with the humanizing, everyday stories. Hearing my friends speak up was like a breath of fresh air, changing sexual assault from rhetoric into lived experience. When it’s rhetoric, the power goes away. When it’s real, we can imagine our friends and sisters and daughters.

My friend Ruth gave me permission to share this story:

When I was in high school I was grabbed by a boy without my consent.

He was a friend I had known for years. We were hanging out, as we often did, and talking about seeing a movie. The only difference between that day and a dozen like it were that this day he had another friend there, a skeezy guy I had never met. From the moment I arrived, he made lewd comments about me, which my friend laughed at. It was dehumanizing and made me angry. When he suggested my friend “get himself out of the friend zone by force,” I left and excused myself to go to the bathroom. I had been there less than 30 minutes.

I intended to leave as soon as I came out. I was furious, both at that boy and at my friend for refusing to defend me. My friend called my name from a room to the side, and I turned, planning to angrily chew him out. Before I said a word, my friend, who was much larger than me, pushed me down and climbed on top of me. He first kissed, then groped me.

My anger turned to terror. I had never had a romantic relationship of any kind with this boy. I was pinned down, unable to move or speak. I believed he was about to rape me.

After a minute my friend stood up, grinning. He started to talk, but before he could say anything, I said, “I’m going home.” And left. I felt violated and sick. I blamed myself. What had I done to make him think that was okay?

He showed up at my parents’ house later to see if I still wanted to see the movie. I had had a few hours to recover at that point and calmly told him I never wanted to see or speak to him again. I never did, although over the years I heard from other friends about things he’d said about me: that he had slept with me, that I was a slut, that I was a lesbian. I actually found this gossip refreshing–it told me that I was living my life happily without giving him another thought, but he was dwelling on me.

I’ve never talked about what happened publicly. I’ve hardly talked about it privately.

Why didn’t Ruth come forward before? To corroborate why women stay silent, you can pop over to The Political Insider to see each Trump allegation debunked based on speculation, hearsay, parallels to song lyrics, and opinion. A quick search of comments in most any sexual assault allegation post on the Internet will find you plenty of “I would have punched him, so she was either a coward or she liked it,” and a slew of other insults levied at the alleged victim. It’s no wonder women stay silent.

Ruth says:

[A]fter one of our presidential candidates said the degrading things he said… I felt called to say something. I wonder how many women Trump has made feel as sick and shamed as I felt? …

But that’s not the real problem. You see, I’m 100% sure that what happened to me would never have happened if the skeezy friend hadn’t been there dehumanizing me and making the suggestions he made. Donald Trump just became that skeezy friend for every boy and man in America who heard that tape.

She’s right. What we hear and see from others is at the heart of what perpetrates our culture of silent objectification and victimization of women. Jenn had some thoughts on this; as a teacher, she sees her teenage students interact everyday. “I have watched the way the girls are spoken to and treated by their male peers…. Girls are socialized to believe that they must simply deal with boys’ lewd comments and behavior. Boys are socialized to think it’s funny to speak to and treat girls this way.” Our culture of “locker room talk” encourages women to be silent and accept sexist treatment, especially if it isn’t “that bad.” As Scott Baio said, women who were offended by Trump’s remarks should “grow up.”

Jessica Leeds, the woman who came out this week and accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in first class on a plane back in the 80s said something that resonated with me. She recalled that if Donald Trump hadn’t allegedly tried to put his hand up her skirt—if he’d only been kissing her and going after her breasts—then she might not have hit her breaking point and left for her previous seat in coach.

My situation on the flight from Portland to Phoenix just wasn’t that bad. It’s embarrassing to think that, but as a woman I didn’t have examples I could look to of other women being listened to and supported when something crossed the line.

When the flight was over, the man on the aisle left first. I grabbed a flight attendant and told her what happened. She was apologetic, and got my information. Before I got off the plane I looked back at the twentysomething guy by the window. “Why didn’t you do anything?” I asked him.

Thinking back on the situation over a decade later, I am struck most by that last interaction. Why didn’t you do anything?

I will tell my children this story, so that they have the courage to ask, “Are you okay? Is this guy bothering you? Can I help you?” It would have given me the opportunity to say, “Yes, and I don’t know what to do.”

It’s not up to the victim to be ironclad and outspoken. It’s up to us to stand up for her.

***

My friend Jenn, besides being a teacher, is a former volunteer for the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault hotline. She’s done crisis calls and gone to the hospital with women who have been assaulted. She says, “Anything I can do to help, I’m here.” If you want her contact information, she gave me permission to give it to readers. Leave a comment.

I encourage you, if you’re willing, to share your own stories here in the comments, via social media, or with friends. I’ll keep the comments closely moderated.

***

Finally, my friend Steph shared a moving account of one of her sexual assaults, written in the third person, which happened on a study-abroad in Denmark. I have Steph to thank for pointing me to the statistics and where to find reliable sexual assault information (she used to work for Clackamas Women’s Services). I’m going to end with this:

[A] 21 year old woman is standing near the entrance of a club/bar, waiting for her ever-positive friend to retrieve her coat. The last two months at the top of Denmark have been rough. Short days and long nights have made for not only a lack of light in the sky but also in her heart.

But tonight she feels beautiful for the first time in weeks. The sparkles around her eyes match the halter top she’s sporting and her hair is perfect.

Without warning, a young man walks up with two friends, reaches out, and gropes her left breast. Then stands back expectantly as if to say, “Don’t you want me?”

She doesn’t think. Just reacts. And before she knows it her palms are striking his chest to push him away from her.

Then her left hand is cutting, slicing, flying through the air–the backside of her palm meets the space invader’s face with a loud smack.

The Dane’s two friends begin to laugh as if any of this could be laced with mirth. The violated woman moves towards the worm again, but is held back by the gracious, beautiful friend who has reappeared with the jacket.

On the way home the woman fumes. And fumes. And knows she has had a piece of her dignity stolen forever.