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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shit Show 2016

To say that I woke up excited on election day is the understatement of the century.

All of the major news outlets were reporting an expected win from Hillary Clinton. This would be my first year voting and I couldn't imagine a better election to kick off my voting career. My kids were anxious. I had been answering political questions from them for the better part of the year. There was no way that our country would vote in someone as vile as Trump, right? As much hope as I had in the American people, I was still anxious.

After work, I rushed off to my designated voting site. I was in and out within 10 minutes. It was exhilarating, to say the least. I picked my kids up from their after school program and was met with excited cheers and mock voting stickers. "Mom! We got to vote today, too!", "I voted for Hillaly Clintin!"....yes, excitement was in the air. We headed home and the questions were endless. My daughter was quite disgruntled to learn that I wasn't letting her stay up all night to watch the results come in.

By the time I got home, my stomach was in knots. It was crunch time. Within a few hours, I should have a good idea of which direction this election was going. I tried my hardest to distract myself until I could get the kids to bed and settle in for what had the potential to be a completely devastating night. By the time I was finally able to sit down and watch the news, my long distance bestie was talking me through what she'd already seen. The guy that I was (am) seeing had already caught up on what he could in an effort to be excited with me for a win, and talk me down in the event of a loss (If you knew how utterly uninterested he is in politics, you'd understand the swoon-worthiness of this). Shortly after I sat down, my mom called. I had already texted her earlier in the day to express my concern. Imagine my surprise when she called and found out that I was anxiously waiting to hear if Hillary was our new president. I have no idea what she had to be on to think that I had actually voted for Trump. Does she know me?! That phone call didn't last long.

Meanwhile, you know how the rest of the night went.

The next morning, I dreaded going to work. My co-workers and I had all done a pretty good job of avoiding politics as a topic of conversation, but I was nervous that I'd walk into a full blown celebration by some of my co-workers, and I was not in a place to deal. Thankfully, my desk mate walked in and the look on her face said it all. I nervously approached the subject with, "Well, what do you think?". You can't imagine my sigh of relief to hear her say, "This is bullshit. We've just taken 12 steps back". We had sat next to each other for months and I had no idea where she stood, politically. But I was so, so grateful to know that someone else was understood how I was feeling. We talked off and on all day. We were both devastated.

Later in the day, an older gentleman that I work with (who also happens to be one of my facebook friends) stopped by my desk and with the straightest face ever, said to me, "Donald Trump is our new Commander-in-Chief and because of that, I can grab you by the pussy any damn time I want and my Commander-in-Chief won't do a damn thing about it...". I could feel my face turn red and hot. I couldn't wrap my mind around what I was hearing and I wasn't sure whether I was about to cry or punch him in the dick and lose my job. Right when I thought I couldn't hold the tears back any longer, he continued, "....and I just want to extend my deepest sympathy to you, to your daughter, and to women everywhere. I am so sorry". I'm not sure I've ever breathed a deeper sigh of relief. He had seen my Facebook status from earlier that morning and knew how upset I was for all of us. Once he walked away, I had to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom.

After work, my girlfriend and I had a few beers at a local pizza place. While she was on the verge of tears over her new husband not understanding how upset she was or why, a drunk guy over to our left was obviously eavesdropping and giggling about our conversation. He abruptly stopped when I finally stopped our conversation and focused on him after 20 minutes of his bullshit.

A few days later, as I was scrolling on Facebook, I saw one of my friends post a meme that said "Can we start grabbing women by the pussies yet? Or do we have to wait until he takes office?". Now, usually, I'm really good at just ignoring things I don't agree with, but this made my blood boil. I called him out on it. I wasn't hateful, I wasn't obnoxious. I just stated that it "wasn't cool" and it went from there. Within 5 minutes, two of his male friends also jumped on the status to defend the meme and I was called a "homophobic cunt". I'm not sure how me disagreeing with sexual assault qualifies me as "homophobic" or a "cunt" for that matter, but there it was. I just kept thinking, "And so it begins". That was the second time I've had to delete someone due to this damn election. The first was when a Trump supporter made it personal, referencing my domestic violence situation during my marriage and my rape. We can always agree to disagree, but don't ever make that shit personal.

I'm choosing to focus on the men who understand how devastating this election was for the majority of women. I don't have any room in my life for men who support sexual assault, homophobia (ironic, right?), or any of the other things that Donald Trump has come to stand for. I'm choosing to focus on what *I* can do to better our situation. I'm focusing on my children. I'm focusing on educating myself. I'm anxious to see exactly what kind of changes are coming our way. I'm relieved that Trump has already started backpedaling on many of the promises he made to the Republican party. It doesn't speak highly of the importance of honesty to him, but it's a relief either way.

What are you doing to balance out the changes that are coming? What are you doing to fight for those whose rights are at risk? What are YOU doing?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Moral Choice

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, or avoiding Facebook for the sake of your sanity, I'm sure you've seen all of the pro-life propaganda that has been flooding the media, thanks to Donald Trump's incredibly inaccurate (and irresponsible, if you ask me) description of late term abortion. One of my favorites is this one that popped up across my news feed multiple times yesterday:

I'll be honest, I couldn't bring myself to read the actual article. But you can clearly see, it's an article saying that Hillary Clinton is telling people to deny their Christianity and their beliefs to support abortion. 

Now, I realize that many of my followers do not believe in God. And that's fine, that's their choice (see what I did there?). I, on the other hand, grew up in church and had a deacon for a father. I don't go to church anymore, but I still consider myself God-fearing. With that being said, I thought this would be an interesting topic to explore.

Many of you know that I have not always been pro-choice. I used to be, what I would now consider, a pro-life whacko. I wasn't out protesting at clinics, I wasn't sending death threats, but MAN, the topic would get me heated. Looking back, I realize that I only felt that way because that's the way my mind was programmed growing up. I'm certainly not blaming this on religion, but those were my parents' beliefs and it takes kids a while to make up their own minds on complex issues. When I first began to question those pro-life beliefs, the biggest hurdle was my faith. My church had taught me that abortion was wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts. When I think back on it now, I can pick out a few instances where abortion wasn't wrong for a few members of our church because apparently their cases were the exception (funny how that works, huh?). But regardless, I still believed in God, I still believed in the idea of Christianity. How could I be okay with abortion? So the internal struggle began.

Now, the article I previously referenced, states that we the people must deny our faith and any Christian values that we may have, in order to support abortion. I'm not having it. As someone raised in the church, I'm fairly familiar with the Bible. And when my internal struggle began, so to speak, I did some poking around on this exact topic. Let me make one thing clear: THERE IS NOT ONE SINGLE SCRIPTURE THAT SPECIFICALLY CONDEMNS ABORTION. NOT ONE. What the Bible does specifically reference is the sanctity of life. So let's examine this. Here are a few scriptures that many pro-lifers like to use in reference to abortion:

Jeremiah 1:5 : Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

This does not reference abortion, but the sanctity of life. It clearly means that every life matters. And it does. I have never met a woman who has had an abortion that did not recognize the gravity of her decision. Whether she believes that the fetus she's terminated is "alive" or a person or what have you, she understands the gravity. She understands the potential of what is growing inside of her. My personal interpretation of this scripture is that it is to provide comfort for those who find themselves feeling lost or obsolete. I'm not sure why many pro-lifers see the word "womb" and automatically relate it to abortion.

Isaiah 49:15 : Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 

I think this scripture speaks for itself. I'm honestly not sure how this gets brought into the abortion debate. If a baby is at it's mother's breast, it has already been born, eliminating the correlation to abortion. Am I the only one who sees this as a reference to neglected living children? Again, in my opinion, this is a scripture meant to comfort those who need it.

Psalm 127:3 : Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Kids are great! I have three of my own and they make my life so much fuller than I ever thought possible. Boom. That's it.

I'd like to point out that while all of these scriptures specifically referencing the sanctity of life, no Christian is out supporting Syrian refugees, protesting the death penalty for murderers, or working to improve things for single mothers with new babies. Instead, I'm seeing Christian protesting Syrian refugees, pushing the government to expedite executions, and shaming single mothers for being on welfare. Funny how that works, isn't it?

So we've looked at the Biblical side of it, or at least part of it (I don't have time to blog all of the times that the Bible references children). Let's examine a few scenarios:

  • A little girl is raped. Through absolutely no choice of her own, she becomes pregnant. Carrying this pregnancy means compromising her body that is not mature enough to support a pregnancy...which could easily lead to difficulty carrying wanted pregnancies later in life. It also means compromising her mental health, which could result in suicide (a sin, according to the Bible). It is immoral to force her to carry the pregnancy. Bottom line. There is no question as to whether or not this warrants an abortion.

  • A woman, married, gets pregnant by her abusive husband. She fears for the baby's life once it's born. There's a good chance that this child will die regardless of the decision made. It can be abused and murdered after birth where there is no doubt that it will feel every second of suffering that it endures, OR, this woman can go to a clinic and have an abortion early in her pregnancy where the fetus will feel nothing. Again, no question of morality here.

  • A young couple decides it's time to expand their family and they get pregnant. 20 weeks into the pregnancy, they learn that the baby the woman is carrying has Turner's syndrome, which means it's kidney's aren't functioning, it has cardiac defects, and the lungs are effected. There is no chance that their baby will survive long after birth. And while it is alive, it will struggle. It will be in pain. And it will greatly impact the parents to watch their child suffer and die in their arms. Which is worse? Euthanizing the fetus and ending the pregnancy, or carrying to term and watching their baby die? Again, in my mind, there is no question.

These are all extreme cases, but they happen daily. Making a baby is not a perfect science. And relationships aren't always as happy and easy as they should be. Real people find themselves in these very real situations on a regular basis. However unfortunate it may be, that's our reality. And for these extreme cases alone, we cannot allow abortion to become illegal. And many Christians who consider themselves pro-life support abortion in most of these cases.

So what about the "other" abortions? The majority of abortions. Then it becomes a different kind of moral issue. If you don't support it, that's fine. But women will find a way to terminate unwanted pregnancies, regardless of whether or not they're legal. Is it moral for a Christian to fight to outlaw abortion while knowing that women and girls will die trying to terminate their pregnancies, whether it be due to DIY abortion methods or going to unsafe providers? No. It is not moral, by any stretch of the imagination, to outlaw something that will force parents to lose their daughters, children to lose their mothers, and husbands to lose their wives. And if you, as a Christian, can't wrap your mind around that, wrap it around this: Separation of Church and State:

(Referenced in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution): 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

(Shockingly enough, this does not only apply to the Muslim faith, but to all of us.)

As always, any feedback is welcome. And please feel free to share!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Because Life Doesn't Always Offer a Trigger Warning

A few months ago, while clearing out an old email, I came across some old emails from 2010 that included images. Eager to see if it was old baby pictures of my littles or some pictures from a drunken girl's night, I opened it.

Suddenly, it was 2010 and I was back in that cold bathroom. I could hear the video games being played in the next room. I could feel my hands shaking, head throbbing, face on fire, and the panic of trying to document the situation with pictures as quickly as I could before he caught me. I was back on that bed, curled up and crying with the door locked, hoping that he didn't try to come in. I was 23 years old with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I couldn't believe what I was looking at. I didn't recognize the girl in those pictures, but I felt her. I felt her pain and her fear. I felt her hopelessness, I felt her desperation. I knew this girl all too well. My mouth fell open and I immediately felt those all-too-familiar knots in my stomach. Within seconds, I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. And after that, there were tears...lots of them. It was so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I was looking at my former self. And my former self....she was a trainwreck. If you told me 6 years ago that I'd be sitting half way across the country, looking at these pictures, and trying to process the fact that this was me, I wouldn't have even laughed. I would have been angry at you for tempting me with such an impossible idea.

I don't know that girl anymore. It's hard for me to fathom that she ever existed. But she did, and the indention in my forehead, the scar on my shoulder, and the knot on the bridge of my nose all prove it. I was, at one time, the girl I always told myself I'd never be. I was a statistic. I came out of it, not only alive, but swinging. Hard. And you know what the scariest part is? Until the very moment that I opened those emails, the only person in the world who knew about them (other than me), was the girlfriend that I sent them to for safe keeping. My family didn't know. My abusive partner didn't know. My neighbors didn't know. Because that's what domestic violence isolates you. It lies to you and tells you that you deserve it. It reminds you how alone you are and how little anyone cares. Domestic violence is a cunt, plain and simple. And the only way to get ahead of her is to talk. Talk to your best friend, talk to you family, talk to a therapist, a doctor, a doesn't matter. You have to break out of that cycle of destructive thinking and convince yourself that you are NOT alone, you do NOT deserve it, you ARE worthy of help, you are worthy of a life, you are worthy of security...and you CAN pull yourself out of it, because no one else can do it for you. Take a look at some of these stats (courtesy of the Huffington Post):

4,772,000 -The number of women in the US who experiences physical violence by an intimate partner every year.

1 in 4 - The number of women who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 

1 in 7 - The number of men who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 

Worldwide, men who were exposed to physical violence as children are three to four times more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence as adults than men that did not experience domestic violence abuse as children. 

I wish I could post a step-by-step of how to to break the cycle, or even how to grow the pair that you're going to need in order to save yourself (because it won't be easy). But honestly, I can't remember. That whole period of my life is such a blur. Partly because I drank a good bit at night to numb the pain, both physical and emotional, and partly because I'm just now beginning to realize that I am damn good at putting things out of my mind when I don't want to deal with them.

For now, I can do a few things. I can share the pictures here. I can talk here. I can throw it all out into the abyss of the interwebs and hope that someone, somewhere will read it and realize that she (or he) is strong enough to survive. I certainly did not experience abuse in it's worst forms. In fact, I'm lucky compared to many, many women. But the ugly truth is that it still happened. And the uglier truth is that while this post does include one, real life doesn't always come with a trigger warning. A lot of times, life decides to knock you on your ass and watch you squirm when you least expect it.

The following pictures were not from the same occurrence, they weren't even from the worst of them. But they're the ones that I had the guts to document. The ones of my face were from being headbutted and slapped after an argument related to an affair (I still have a knot on my breast bone from being kicked in the sternum after I fell down) and the others were months later, after having an empty car seat thrown at me when I walked away from an argument. #RealLoveDoesntHurt

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This shit doesn't necessarily get easier to deal with. It still hurts to know that I was in that position. It's still scary to think that it could happen again with someone else. And it still has the power to leave my stomach in knots when it crosses my mind from time to time. But here I am, confronting it and sharing it with you guys in the hopes that it will help someone else confront it as well. 

If you are a victim, or suspect that someone else is, please reach out. The following resources were found by doing a simple google search of "Domestic Violence Hotline":

  • You can TEXT the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Just text "go". You will receive a return text with their terms of service. You let them know what's on your mind, and then set you up with a crisis counselor via text. I texted them myself to see how it all worked. This is a great option if you're a little scared to reach out. The texting option still leaves a bit of a barrier. It's free, 24/7, and confidential.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers tons of resources. And what I really like is that when you visit the website, you immediately see the following pop-up:

  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: This website provides a red pop up in the lower right hand corner of the screen that reads :Safety Exit. Quickly exit the site if in danger. (Yes, people, it is that serious) Visit this page for resources.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Incident

Earlier last year, I was scrolling through Facebook when an article caught my eye. The headline read "I Named my Rapist on the Internet". It was an intriguing read and an even more intriguing idea.

If you've been a long time reader, you may remember that in 2014, I posted an article about becoming a statistic in that area, myself. It was so intimidating to have it out there, I removed the post a few days later. I just couldn't bare seeing it in black and white. I couldn't handle the idea that I had given him power by acknowledging it. I couldn't face it at all. It probably didn't help that I had posted it within a month of the incident. But since I read that article last year, I've noticed a few things:

1. I still refer to it as "the incident". I have a real issue giving it the power of calling it the "R" word.

2. My "incident" and the millions of "incidents" that happen on a yearly basis is a huge topic in the area of feminism and I haven't been able to stomach posting it on my own feminism-based blog.

3. Once I get to the point in a relationship that I have to explain that "hey, you can't do's a trigger", I feel the need to apologize, regardless of how patient and kind-hearted the guy in question may be.

4. The relationship complications, the fairly common nightmares, and the self loathing I tend to feel from time to time pale in comparison to the guilt that I feel over not turning him in.

5. It's time to face it.

The idea of naming your rapist is a matter of accountability, of letting go, and of releasing yourself as a victim. Rape is taboo. There are so many questions. For example, the night after it happened, my best friend (who happens to be a nurse at an abortion clinic) and I were in her kitchen talking and I asked the only question that was bouncing around in my mind: Was it really a rape if I didn't scream?

I don't know how it happens, but sometime during that God-awful event, a seed of doubt is placed in our minds, as if somehow we're to blame. It's a heavy feeling, wondering if you even have the right to label it a rape. But finally, after 2.5 years, after spending endless hours milling over every single detail of that night in my mind over and over again, I'm comfortable with the idea that yes, I was raped. I was violated. I said no. I tried to talk sense into him by naming every reason in the book that we shouldn't be having sex. I pushed as hard as I could, only for him to exert little effort to push back into me. I came out of it with bruises on my thighs and an entire body that ached for days. I was raped. It's that simple and that gut wrenching all at the same time.
                                                              Dustin G.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Too Soon?

I went to a new gynecologist today (I know, but it's relevant to the post). She was going over all of the basics, and asked if I had ever had the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. I explained that by the time it got popular, my doctor told me I was too old. She asked if any of my children were girls and if so, how old was she. Yes, she's 9. She asked me if I had considered getting the vaccine for her. I was stunned. "Of course not! She's only 9! We haven't even had the sex talk, much less considered a vaccine for an STD. Are parents actually doing that this early? I can't even wrap my head around that". If I wasn't stunned enough already, what she said next nearly made me fall off the table...."What I can't wrap my head around is that I had a 9 year old girl on this same table last week telling me that she had already had three sexual partners. We need to start having these conversations earlier and earlier". I took the pamphlet that she offered on my way out.

Nine years old. Three sexual partners. Let that sink in for a minute.

I don't about your children, but my nine year old still spends hours playing with her Monster High dollhouse and trying new nail polish designs. Sure, there have been moments where my immediate thought is, "Whoa, kid, slow down!". I've noticed that she likes to try and wear outfits that I think are too old for her, that she'd give her right arm for me to let her wear make up out of the house. I know that these conversations are coming, and they have to be had. But.....she's nine. My mom never had "the talk" with me, proper. She answered questions that I would ask....and those questions didn't start until I was 12.

When did you have "the talk" with your kids? What was your approach? Is 9 years old too young to receive a vaccine for STDs? Let's hear it!