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.

The Little Surrealist and His Poet Mentor Collaborate

Emojis are Boy Woww’s jam. And Red Hots, and the imaginary friends crew.

He plays soccer for the snacks. He calls headphones, “the listeners.” He’s the half-sized Most Interesting Man in the World.

He wants to send an explosion of visual detritus to your phone. Recently he emoji-bombed my friend Jenny, who is a talented poet and Boy Woww’s life coach.

Emoji symphony. MomsicleBlog


“These are ALL THE EMOJIS,” she replied. To which Boy Woww responded:

Love hang loose camel. MomsicleBlog

Jenny dug it. She was “headed to work” (which to me meant that she was either going to write poetry, exercise wolf-dogs, ride through the San Diego hills on her retired thoroughbred, or teach future poets–Jenny always has a cloud of romantic mystery about her), and would translate his emojis into a poem later and send it back.

Boy Woww let out a short burst of five-year-old maniacal laughter.

Maniacal laughter. MomsicleBlog

“That’s cwayzy,” he said. Takes one to know one.

Here it is.

Emoji Poem

a collaboration between Jenny Minniti-Shippey (poet) and Boy Woww (muse)

Emoji symphony. MomsicleBlog

Balloons! Party! Balloons make a party and the party is better with balloons!

Send a love letter and an alarm to mailboxes in switzerland and northern ireland maybe and maybe that’s the union jack

o flags! flags! flags! flags!

We’re laughing at the upside down letter and the foreign currency is running out of time.

MONEY shout it MONEY is out of time-

not diamonds or batteries or foreign peaches, pots, tomatoes or lemons.

Acorns make a tsunami among the tomatoes.

Line them up: acorns acorns pots lemons lemons pots pots, it’s like it’s raining tomatoes.

My umbrella is more purple than your eggplant.

All the phases of the moon are faces of the moon in autumn.

Even the sun is a star, not a seashell, but a comet.

Here’s a sunflower for the dark moon and all the creatures of earth:

dragons first of course, and also sheep, a cat, a very proud poodle-

make that five proud poodles and two jersey cows,

and throw in your camels and a white rat and a soft bunny rabbit for good measure.

A cactus graduates and becomes

a businessman with pink lipstick, a mustache, and a wise black grandmother.

We’re strong now, we hang loose, we tongue out, we say stop! stop!

Count our flags again and line up the animals: camel, cat, camel hang loose, somebody cat stop, the cactus grins, cactus.


love hang loose camel


Jenny’s non-emoji poetry can be found in book form here.

Chocolate Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

I guess maybe we should call it a shake, but let’s not get into a lexicon debate about the chocolate pumpkin smoothie. I’ve been playing around with the fall pumpkin smoothie (original recipe here), and this is my new favorite version. Amounts are not precise, but the ingredients are right, so have at it and get back to me.

Chocolate Pumpkin Smoothie


Blend up in your favorite blending device…

  • 1 13-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut milk (or almond milk or milk milk or water)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4–5 dates
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 3–4 tablespoons chocolate protein powder (This is the first time I’ve ever used protein powder. It’s a hail-Mary to get my breakfasts rebooted. My naturopath suggested PurePaleo Protein Chocolate by Designs for Health, so I’m going with that.)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I put my smoothie in a big glass jar and pour servings out for a few days. After I have it in the fridge for a day, I like to add some more hazelnut milk to thin it out. I find this especially delicious if the kids are down and it’s time to veg out on the couch with my husband and I need a treat. It feels kind of like a chocolate malt, with a Mexican chocolate-style kick.


Fall Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

Pumpkins! Smoothie! MomsicleBlog

I’m done with green smoothies. It’s fall. Leaves, crisp air, scarves, you know the drill. Morning routines are going well as a fam, except for my breakfast. I have a weird diet designed to keep me from getting recurring bronchitis (no dairy except butter, no gluten, no eggs, low sugar, no alcohol). Breakfast is hard. I need something incredibly easy and delicious (I make my smoothies ahead of time and put them in mason jars in the fridge) and I’m tired of kale and mango and bananas (if you’re not tired of that stuff, you can find a recipe here).

I was complaining to my naturopath, and she recommended making a pumpkin smoothie. We brainstormed. She says that there are three things your body needs to feel full: protein, fat, and fiber. Given that I like to eat whole foods and don’t want a bunch of powders and sugars, plus I need it to be sweet enough to make me crave more, here’s what I came up with. (To see the chocolate-pumpkin version, click here.)

Fall Pumpkin Smoothie

Fall Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe. MomsicleBlog

Blend up in yo blendah…

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin (I use Trader Joe’s organic)
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (I use canned because the only ingredients are coconut and water)
  • 1 cup hazelnut milk (I use Pacific Natural Foods brand, and I prefer their hazelnut milk to almond milk because it’s more like whole milk than skim milk in texture)
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (I use creamy, unsalted, all-natural)
  • 3–5 dates
  • 2 teaspoons honey (change to agave to make this vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ice cubes and/or water to taste, for consistency

Add-ons I want to try:

  • Oats or flax meal for fiber
  • A high-quality protein powder
  • Maple syrup instead of honey for more fall zing
  • Cayenne pepper for kick and anti-inflammation
  • More cinnamon

My smoothie tasted lovely alone or over granola and flax meal.

More ideas: My friend Cyndi, a friend, mentor, and beta-tester said this: “I’ve been using your original pumpkin smoothie recipe with almond butter instead of peanut, maple syrup…and no dates (not on my approved list). Then I blended and froze in an ice cube tray. That way in the morning, I put a banana, a cup of lactose-free milk, a scoop of vanilla protein powder and 2-3 smoothie ice cubes in the blender and it’s DELISH!”

I’ll be trying other smoothie ingredient combos to play around with spice, protein, and fiber levels. So leave your ideas and trial-and-error stories for me! (I went to chocolate-pumpkin next, it’s kinda my new favorite thing. It’s here.)

Also, did you notice those squash in the picture on the weathered wooden table? We grew the squash in our permaculture garden. And now that I think about it, I actually made that table. I think I’m going to dress Momsicle up as a homeschool-Christian-prairie blog for Halloween. (Laughing hysterically.)

Let me know how the smoothie goes.

In the End, It Was Not the Summer of Postpartum Depression

I just finished cleaning the car from summer, taking out beach toys and swimsuits, dozens of granola bar wrappers and an air-dried Jack In The Box cheeseburger remnant. Now I’m prepping for muddy fields. I’m checking our umbrella count and fleece supplies. I’m washing the sand and caked-on peanut butter from picnic blankets.

One week ago we were here.

Oregon Coast Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I took this piece of sea glass from the ocean’s dance.

Sea glass on sand. MomsicleBlog

I’ve been rubbing it softly between my fingers, and it takes me right back to the cool air of the coast blowing in off the infinite sea.

I had been worried about summer. Summer could have been a fire lookout far out in the forest in need of repairs—timber beams creaking, a stair on every case rotted, nails coming loose from the freeze and thaw cycle of postpartum depression.

Instead we enacted my get-into-nature plan. We bolstered the lookout with steel and replaced the old nails and the softened steps. We had a nanny with us four days a week; we kept the car ready for the beach at a moment’s notice; we didn’t coordinate much, we just went.

And I made sure I was never alone at the top of the tower.

We headed out from base camp and toward water wherever we could find it within a two-hour radius.

In the Water Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

We didn’t do a single camp.

Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I look at our checklist and feel proud.

Summer 2016 Checklist. MomsicleBlog

We captured summer and held it in our arms and rode on its back through the sand of what seemed like a thousand beaches.

Oregon Coast Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I want to draw our treasure map again and mark all its special spots. I want to go out with passion and purpose.

But it’s time to focus on fall and school and soccer. Autumn feels crisp and dead to me: Its smell makes me nauseous.

I have to change the way my senses respond—to look for how routine can ground and nourish us. Somewhere in me fall’s small ember burns. I have hope for early bedtimes and good books and hot baths and getting my body stretched out and my muscles strong. I have soccer practices to help run, I have freelance work that’s exciting and scary.

Summer wasn’t drowned by postpartum depression. It’s time to find oxygen to blow into fall.

Please Tell Us About Yourself

I recently applied for a grant. I never done that as an individual, and I have no idea whether I have a chance. A few years ago, I would have been more nervous, but these days I figure, What have I got to lose? Writing the application gave me the chance to bottle up a snapshot of right now.

The application started, “Please tell us about yourself….”  

From off my nightstand I pick up Rogue River Journal by John Daniel. I’m wearing a red cotton hat that, I say, wards off colds, and my mouth guard and some dental floss are nearby. I’m still steaming from a hot bath, and I’m frustrated that tonight—like most other nights—it’s an hour past when I wanted to be grasping at the hopeful threads of sleep. I’m beseeching John Daniel—a writer who takes my spasmodic pre-bed brain waves and presses them out with a steady, self-effacing hand—to soothe me and keep the maddening, mundane logistical dreams, that make me feel like I’ve lived all night, at bay.

Suddenly, my baby wakes up. From across the hall and one room over I hear her howling. Hers are the screams that were once sharpened on steel, and are now jagged and rusted on the edges as they rip my skin. She is one. Her nights are pierced by terrors regularly. I don’t know if they are nightmares or fitfulness, or if we’ll look back and simply say, “She’s always been a light sleeper.” But they are terrors to me. She throws a rock through night’s glass window. And as the shards hit the ground and break into smaller pieces, her cries remind me of how she took our timeline, dragged it back, and forced us to face her.

I am a writer.

It took a surprise third baby to etch it on my chest in calligraphic all-caps. In 2014, we had two full-contact boys—five and three at the time—who were beginning to show us their rational brains on a regular basis. “Let’s plan a road trip along the coast and up to Canada for next summer. Imagine the things we can do,” my husband and I said to each other. We were driving home from celebrating our anniversary—as a family—in Astoria, Oregon, a fishing town overshadowed by the churn of the miles-wide mouth of the Columbia River, the expanse of the Pacific, and the breathless industrial beauty of cargo ships in port.

A month later, in spite of an intrauterine contraceptive device with over 99% effectiveness, I was pregnant. Then we were told the pregnancy wasn’t viable and we needed to terminate. But this baby persevered. Her destiny is written in the stars, and she is here—a celestial guest, a reorganizer of plans. Instead of the road trip that was to culminate in Vancouver B.C. for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, where I would pitch and write articles about gender equity in women’s sports, we found ourselves in the throes of feedings and interrupted sleep. I could leave the house for three hours at most: she never took a bottle.

During the years before children, the years of thinking how something should go and then having it go that way, I pursued other things and shoehorned my writing into the handful of lives any millennial has had by age 35—an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Teach for America position and a Masters in Education in Arizona, a year as founding academic dean of a charter school in Brooklyn, and a tenure as project manager for military families’ initiatives at Sesame Workshop in New York City.

When my oldest son—now seven—was one, my writing started to claw its way to the front of my show, shoving sleep and sanity and full-time work out of its way. I’m a storyteller, and I wrote stories and sent them to my friends, who encouraged me to share. My blog Momsicle: Something to Suck On is now six years old. It’s not crafts, or multilevel marketing, or a digital memory book for my family, or a place to promote Oreos and Disney. I don’t accept sponsorships. I feature amazing women doing amazing things—often non-parents. I dig deep into postpartum depression and the cruelties of raising a really intense child. Instead of featuring a first-birthday cake-smash, I highlighted a series of tragic and tender black-and-white photos in a post called “A Postpartum Depression Love Letter to My Feisty, Old-Soul Daughter on Her First Birthday.” Momsicle has a devoted tribe—parents and non-parents and parents of friends for whom children or life have not gone the way they’d planned. I write about death, depression, Christianity, and raising a boy who loves pink, a boy who lives in an imaginary world, and a girl who took our family like chess pieces and rearranged it all.

I’m interested in authenticity—the real things and raw things. And from this core have blossomed opportunities to write about other passions for bigger audiences: the third iteration of women’s professional soccer and its most passionate city, the gender inequity of ESPN, the radical love demanded by true Christianity, and an ongoing journey to replace the commercialism of Christmas with the gifts of time and tradition.

This god-baby took away my launching point, but she clarified for me that I can’t let my creative life lay fallow in sacrifice to story time and play dates. I have to write.

My friend Lauren (who is writing her memoir) sent me the grant application–it’s for writers and artists who have children, offered by a very cool organization called the Sustainable Arts Foundation. They grant awards twice a year.

“The name of our foundation is sometimes puzzling to folks. We’ve gotten our fair share of inquiries about art projects involving recycled materials. But the ‘sustainable’ in our title has to do with the importance of family and the passing of beliefs and ideals to one’s children. We created this foundation because we think it’s important for children to grow up with artists and writers as parents, to think that being creative is both a normal and necessary thing.”

They’re particularly looking for applicants of color.

“This holds doubly true among artists and writers of color. They have fewer role models, fewer works in the community and in museums, and fewer published books. Our hope is to promote extremely talented artists and writers of color so that they may serve as sustainable leaders both in their communities, but also — and just as importantly — in their own families.”

You should apply in 2017.

Summer Vacation, OR Let Me Give You the Impression I Don’t Yell at My Kids

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

I want these pictures of our family vacation in one place. My place. Where I can go and look when I need sun on my face.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

And sweet summer in my soul.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

We flew to North Carolina and rented a minivan and then pointed it toward our people.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

Family people, and blogging people.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

Soul sister people.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

And we swam everywhere we could, which was nice because we used to be afraid of the water.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

Not anymore.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

We still have our bags of saltwater taffy and butterscotch.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

We still have sand caked into our cellphone cases.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

Miraculously, we’re still pretty relaxed.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog

I’m putting together this post to help take that feeling with me.

Southern Beauty Southern Humidity 2016. MomsicleBlog