Category Archives: Random Blogging

StayHomeWriMo Day 3!!!

Writing Prompt: Set your text to white and try free-writing in invisible mode. No inner editors allowed! (Typed according to instructions using word, ps, I suck at free-writing and I hated that I couldn’t see it. My inner editor is very mad about this.)

Quarantine has left me a little lost. I wear pajamas all day, though I hear I’m not the only one. I play a lot of video games. I watch a lot of tv, mostly anime. Surprisingly, I’m not reading much. I grabbed a new book the last day I left the house, which was well over a week ago, but I’m not even halfway through it.

I had a discussion with my therapist about why quarantine is hard. The emotions it triggers in me. Fear, sadness, frustration, boredom, rage, depression, anxiety, loss of control. She told me to write about other times I’d felt those things. It seemed silly at the time. I’ve never been one to rewrite to begin with, but then today’s prompt was DO THE THING so here I am, doing the thing.

I guess I could draw a likeness here to what it feels like to be raped. When you’re raped, you lose all sense of control. Over yourself, your body, the world around you. That’s a bit what quarantine is like for me. I couldn’t control my company shutting down, losing my job, not being able to leave my house for days and days on end. I couldn’t control when I was raped. Two totally different situations but yet also the same, in a way. At least to my head. I could keep throwing comparisons. Being held down, being locked inside my house. Not being able to control the idiot in the bodega who might get me sick with his lack of personal space, not being able to control the man on top of me. Not knowing when my next paycheck will come or if it will come, not knowing if I’ll ever feel sane enough to work again.

My brain doesn’t always recognize when it’s safe. And honestly, quarantine life isn’t that bad, minus the boredom. It’s given me lots of time to paly Animal Crossing, after all. But my brain’s response to these emotions it feels are what makes it bad. These emotions mean things aren’t safe, might never be safe again. This uncertainty feels like I may never get my feet under me again. This lack of income makes me think I’ve been doing my life all wrong. That it will never be back to the way it was. That it’s time to strike out on my own and do my own business for real.

And maybe, in a way, I’m not so lost after all. Maybe the uncertainty of quarantine is what I needed to figure out my path was, once again, wrong.

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StayHomeWriMo Day 1!

Creative Wellbeing Writing Prompt: Think about a character who’s stuck inside. How do they feel about it? Why are they there?

We were the picture of tranquility as we stood in an aisle of our local lawn and garden store the day after our first Christmas as a married couple. I was burrowed inside a black down jacket, a woven red scarf around my neck. His coat stayed in the car; he didn’t like to wear it shopping. Married six months and change, we made the joint decision to buy everything we needed for future holidays on clearance. We got our Christmas fix by going to his parents’ house, conveniently located right around the corner from our apartment. He was physically incapable of separating from them, which meant that I got lots of family Christmas time. It wasn’t the same as having our own tree though, so on December 26th, he finally caved and we found ourselves staring at picked over half off holiday merchandise.

“How ’bout this one?” He pointed to a glossy fake tree that was easily six feet tall.

I leaned my head on his shoulder. “You don’t think it’s too tall for our apartment?”

“You doubt me?” His voice had that slight familiar edge it got when he was angry.

“No, I just—”

“Maybe you’re right,” he cut me off. Pointing at another tree, he asked, “Maybe this one?”

The second choice was full and green and not quite as tall as me. It seemed the perfect size, was only forty dollars, and was one of the few still available in a box. We loaded it into the cart, and then moved on in search of ornaments. I took several glittery reindeer from their hooks and put them in the cart, while he went for blue and silver glass balls and dangling icicles. We paid and took everything outside and put it all inside the trunk of his black Chevy, carefully locking up so we could go see a movie.

It was around eleven when we got back home. We hauled everything into the lobby and then leaned against the wall. I suggested we take it all down to our basement storage area, since Christmas was already over. “I’m tired.” He pulled the keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door to the hallway that led to our apartment. “You do it, if you wanna be the boss.”

“Hey, wait!” I shoved the tree box into the doorway to prop it open as he turned towards our apartment. “It would go faster if we both did it.”

I didn’t need to look at him to feel his eyes boring into me.

“This is heavy. We could probably do it in one trip. If we both went, I mean.”

He shrugged, rolling his eyes. “Fine. Whatever.”

I couldn’t understand why his mood had so suddenly changed, from happy one second to cold and distant the next, but I was grateful for his help. We each looped bags over an arm, took our respective ends of the box, and started down the stairs into the dark basement. Everything fit easily into our storage area. I was on tiptoes putting a plastic tote I’d stuffed with ornaments on an upper shelf when I felt his eyes on my back. I turned around, and he was leaning against the doorway.

“It’s amazing to me,” he said quietly, “how many things you can’t do for yourself.”

I bit my lip and turned away from him so he wouldn’t see me tear up. The evening had been so nice—dinner, a Christmas tree search, a movie—and it had suddenly changed. Had he not liked the movie? Was it something I’d said?

“Did I do something?” I stayed facing away because I couldn’t bear to look at him.

“Oh man,” he laughed. “Are you crying? You can’t even have a simple conversation without being a stupid little baby?”

The idea that I could never make him completely happy because I never knew what he was thinking was a frustrating one. Perhaps it was the frustration that made me cry rather than his actual words—the sudden realization that I was, in fact, never enough and never would be, that I had put myself into a hopeless situation I couldn’t walk away from.

I turned back towards him, blinking furiously to push back the tears, and moved to shove past him. He pushed me back, and I grabbed fistfuls of his jacket in a failed attempt to keep myself from falling. There I was on the ground, my cheek stinging from where his fist had struck it. “Don’t touch me,” he spat, towering above me. “Don’t ever touch me.” He left me there on the floor in tears and shut the door between us. I heard the key click in the lock but made no effort to stop it.

He went upstairs, and I sat on the floor in the storage area, my back against the Christmas tree, and cried. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong; his words were the only words that were important to me and any thought I had of my own didn’t matter. When he saw me, when he spoke to me, I wasn’t nothing. He was the first person who ever truly loved me.

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Quarantine Life: Week One Update

Let me start out by saying this probably will not be a magical or happy post.

NYC is apparently now an epicenter of COVID-19, and it’s changed my life in a lot of ways. I pride myself in being able to roll with these huge, dramatic life moments, but this has been a lot. My company had no choice but to close, and it scares me to not know if/when we will reopen. It seemed like such steady work, walking and training dogs, and I never imagined the need wouldn’t exist. But it doesn’t now. Everybody is home. I had to lay off 15 people this past week. Many of whom are worse off now than I am. And that’s a lot to grapple with. Working with dogs is fantastic and I love it, but it’s very paycheck to paycheck; now there’s no paycheck. Should I be looking for something else? Am I even qualified? There’s nothing else I WANT to do.

I could write. This could be the push I need to write. But who would buy what I have to say? I’ve sold all my good words. I’m scared I don’t have anymore. I’m frustrated by rejection, by having to pay TO submit work. I’m frustrated that I’m seemingly not qualified for any actual writer jobs, the big girl jobs. I no longer feel secure in either line of work I’ve chosen for myself.

This pandemic has smashed my job security to bits. After I left B and went to college, then grad school, I thought I’d never be in this position again. I’m without a job, fighting the masses to apply for unemployment wages over a website that keeps crashing because it wasn’t equipped to handle this amount of jobless people. I’m eating ramen on the daily, albeit doctored ramen. (Thank you, Delish blogs!) And I don’t leave my house. In a way, not leaving the house used to be a dream I had. Now I wonder why I ever thought it was cool. I’m wondering how I’ll pay all the bills–student loans, therapy, cell phone, health insurance, credit cards. Netflix. God, it’s such a first world problem, but I can’t lose Netflix. I’ll go even MORE crazy, if that’s at all possible.

I miss being outside. I miss running errands. I miss going to the gym. I miss Target, of all things. It’s not all bad though. I have amazing clients that have helped with groceries and rent; 100% would be homeless within two months were it not for their assistance.

On the bright side, I preordered Animal Crossing before this whole fiasco started. So at least I can pretend play at better days somewhere more fun than here.


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The Problem with After

What they don’t tell you about after is how hard it will be to wade through, to go on as if nothing has happened to you. They don’t tell you how the strangest, most random, things will remind you–riding the subway across from a woman with a baby in a sling; waiting in line for tacos while the couple in front of you coos at the stroller in between them; the onslaught of babies on social media that fill you with both love and jealousy; another birthday in another year where none of your life is the adult life you thought it would be. 

What they did tell you after: you can have another baby, for sure. When you’re ready. But they don’t tell you that your marriage will die (as well it should have) and there won’t be anyone else banging down the door to start that family, no one that wants to do that with you. (Not that he ever wanted to. Or ever loved you.) Not you. They won’t tell you that you’ll start to think there’s something wrong with you because it’s been ten years and you never did have that rainbow baby.

You’re going to be 36 this year. 36 years old and single, with no feasible way anytime soon to have a family. You’re lucky to pay your rent. You want to go on vacation but you can’t afford it. Your therapist tells you there are other ways to have a baby but you know you can’t afford those either, and you aren’t at a place in life where you responsibly should try. And you don’t want a relationship. They don’t tell you that either. You don’t want a relationship after your gigantic shit show of a marriage exploded in your face because you’re pretty sure you’ll never trust anyone that way again. And you don’t see the point. Beyond having that kid, is there even a point?

They don’t tell you that you’ll start to forget him. What he looked like, smelled like, felt like. You don’t remember how big he was. You do remember that he was warm. You look at pictures, at this baby with his little hat in black and white, and you try to remember if he had hair, if you even saw him without that hat, but you can’t. You remember the nurse telling you they took him to a fridge, not in the morgue with the other dead, a regular fridge, because he was too small. They don’t tell you you’ll think about that randomly whenever you open your own fridge. You’ll wonder if he was cold. If he knew what was happening as he died. Because he was old enough to live outside you. You wonder why he didn’t do that.

They don’t tell you that you will like your life, being free to make decisions for just yourself and go to movies and shows and out to eat and have a job that takes you all over the city. They don’t tell you that you sometimes won’t mind the fact that you don’t have to think about anybody but yourself. They don’t tell you that you’ll feel bad about that.

But you do want a kid. Every February that you’re a little bit older, you want that a little bit more. They tell you that feeling will fade. They are wrong.

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To Infinity and Beyond

I think my notions of who I’m supposed to be are too grand. This weird body quest of mine, part infinity because I have officially lost count (maybe 8?) continues…maybe as far as it can go in its current form. I’m not sure. I can’t tell if I’m just sad that today hurt or if I’ve really gone as far as I can go.

I got kicked by another dancer in class today. Hard. It will leave a lovely bruise to remind me for at least the next week of that moment when I thought “well what am I doing wrong that I got kicked?” Life lesson number 999,999: I didn’t do the kicking; the other dancer wasn’t watching where she was going. But it was automatically me that was wrong, at least in my head, and I think that’s the theme song of my life. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s always me.

I hold on to things too tightly–not a musing, but a fact. I hold on too tightly and I can’t let go. I see why my therapist thinks pole dancing class is the best thing ever for me now, louder than ever. We worked on a wrist sit up in the air today and I couldn’t even focus on doing it precisely right (my general MO for all things pole) because I was too busy worrying I might plummet to my death. The teacher told me to lean and my internal dialogue kept saying “you want me to lean IN to the fall feeling??” along with a few choice swear words. I can’t do that. That’s giving up control. I don’t fly that way. Therefore I don’t fly at all. If I could let myself go, even just a little, it would be so much easier. But I don’t know how. I’m too regimented, too set in it all being perfect.

Do I want to fly? Fuck yes I do. Do I accept the fact I won’t? Should I? The voice in my head screams that I’m a fat ugly bitch, and I try not to listen most days, but today it’s hard. Today I cried on the train on the way home because I felt like I wasn’t good enough, because class went too fast like it always does at this new level–too much choreography, too many steps, not enough room in my head to hold it all for the five seconds it take to replicate it when that voice is too damn loud–and I couldn’t keep up. And every time I fall behind I hear that I’m not good enough. Every time.

His voice. Not mine. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s still there. Why he appears in this life I’ve built now, so far beyond him. Why he permeates everything.

I write this not in search of a pity party, but rather to share that it’s not all flowers and unicorns all the time, yet I still get up and try again. I write this to remind myself that I’ll get up and try again. My bruised feet, however, may have something to say about that…

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PTSD: The Ultimate Bitch—or, My Body Quest Continued

When I was in sixth grade, my school did a drama production that was a hodge-podge of many different productions. It was my first experience in drama, one I never even intended to audition for, and it was a blast. Minus one number. I don’t remember the song anymore, but I remember we were scientists in white lab coats and there was a modicum of flirting involved. It was the most frustrating experience at the time, because I didn’t know how to use my body that way. I remember the confusion that flooded me with the directions we were given. You want me to toss my hair? Bend and snap? What?? I wasn’t more than twelve (is that how old sixth graders are??) but I already knew I didn’t want my body to be on display. I already knew my body was an object to be used, that I didn’t own it, that I never would, and to act that way would illustrate some connection to my body that I absolutely did not feel.

To this day, whenever I watch the VHS tape of that number and I can’t help but cringe at how awkward I am. I never learned these skills, and I’m almost 35 now. I learned different skills–how to cover a bruise; how to placate an angry man; how to pretend I liked sex until I didn’t care enough to even pretend anymore. He took, and he took, and he took, like so many before him had, and sometimes I gave because that was what I was supposed to do, and sometimes I didn’t, because that was just the way it was.

Sit down. Be quiet. Do what you’re told.

I don’t know what it’s like to enjoy being touched. I hate being touched. I don’t know how to display my body, and I don’t want to. And I hate projecting an aura that says I may want that. I don’t do sexy.

It has always been important to me to do the right thing, perfectly, the first time. This bleeds into everything I do. I don’t share my first book with anyone because it’s not perfect. I’ve struggled with submitting writing work and missed deadlines because I can’t get the words just so. I show up to all of my clients at the precise time I am expected even though I have an arrival window. I wear clothes that disguise my body and its myriad of imperfections 99 percent of the time. I don’t do things where people can see if I’m not confident I can do them correctly. Hell, I don’t do those things where even only I can see. They taught me my body was a temple, but they didn’t teach me how to use it, how to worship it. They didn’t teach me how to own myself. After all these years, I am still owned by the world around me and how I appear within and to that world, and it’s scary to think of things being any other way.

Last night was round four of this weird quest I’m on to get in touch with my body. Pole class, but with a different instructor. A man. I worried it was a mistake signing up, but I let my therapist push me. I found myself very up in my head about it once in the studio. He was very sexual, more so than the usual teacher we’ve taken class from. And it caused a fairly immediate shutdown in my brain because I’m not that. At all. His way of teaching was so different from the first instructor we had, as were his expectations. I couldn’t do the things he could; I couldn’t make my body move and look that way, and I knew it. He came up behind me at one point to give me a spot, and I was very much done after that, at one point even uttering that I wanted to leave the studio. I knew then he was watching me, and that the more mistakes I made, the closer he would get–and he did. It got to the point where I didn’t want to take the pole when it was my turn; I scoped the room out to see where he was and would do a single sweep before hopping off in the hopes he would not approach.

My head told me my body is not mine. It’s everyone else’s. To be looked at. Gawked at? Used. My head told me I am incapable of executing any move that might look good or beautiful. Elegant? Worth looking at. My head told me I could never put myself on display, that that would give too much of what’s left of me away. My heart cried as that old tape wound its way through my brain of the same insults I had learned from the negative people I had in my life, and I couldn’t do a single thing on that pole without imagining everyone looking at me. He told the entire class that we could never bail, to always look like ‘we meant to do that,’ to always end with our sexy push-up (which, might I add, I still have not mastered). But I did bail. I quit without finishing move sets. I walked away after every skill to stand in the corner.

I turned to the wall and I almost started to literally tear up right there in the studio. And in those 90 minutes, I ruined a new hobby I’d just started to really enjoy. I didn’t thank him as we left. I didn’t say goodbye. I’m pretty sure he told me to smile and I wanted to smack him because I didn’t feel like smiling in the slightest.

PTSD is a bitch. But it’s more than just that. It’s a lifetime of habits, of thought patterns about myself, that I am worried I’m too old now to change. I’m worried it’s too late.

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On Being Present

I’ve been working more this year on being present in my body. I think I largely tend to operate in a manner where my body is secondary to everything else, a means to an end. I think I blame my body for a lot of what’s happened to me, and I seek to rectify that. I want to get back in touch with it, remind myself that I am strong and powerful and badass, and that I survived a lot of shit.

How do I plan to do that, you ask? Well…I’ve gone to a couple pole dancing classes. It’s not what it sounds like. I’m not sure why I signed up initially. It sounded fun? I was curious? I had a lot of misconceptions prior to actually going, but the focus is very much on being present and aware of your body. Arm up, shoulder down, toes pointed, do something with that spare arm. It’s a lot of instruction and a lot of information. But it’s using my body in a way I’ve never let myself. I’m not used to using my body for ME. I’m used to it being used for other people. I’m used to catering the way I present myself to accommodate their needs and expectations.

The first class was not easy. I was frustrated within minutes because I couldn’t follow the warm up precisely and I like to do everything perfectly the first time without help. And I needed so much help. The instructors kept coming over to spot me, and the first time that happened I jumped away. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t control my body, couldn’t do it on my own. But by class two, I began to understand the mechanics a little more, how my body could operate for ME rather than how to mirror what I saw the instructor do in the mirror. I got better. Not great, by any means. But better. I felt myself connect to my body more in that second class, but it also scared me a bit.

I’m afraid of sex. I can say that solidly, I think. I’m afraid of the word sexy, of anything related to sexy, of using my body in a way that could be construed as sexy. My therapist tells me that I hear the words sexy pushups (because that is what they are called in pole class) and I panic because I don’t think I’m sexy. She says I am scared because I think that ability has been taken from me by my trauma, that my ability to connect in that way and present myself as sexy and not be ashamed is impacted by the person I have allowed my trauma to shape me as. She told me that I survived being raped and I survived having my body ravaged and I survived a lot of bullshit, but my body is mine now to do with what I please. She told me that I need to give myself permission to rediscover it now, that it’s been long enough and that I can do that.

So I will keep going to these classes, for now. Maybe not forever. But for now. And I will work on being present in my body, being grateful for how strong it is, for how it allowed me to survive. For the idea that it can be sexy, when I am ready for that, and for the idea that I someday may be ready.

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A Life Not Lived

I think of my son, Carter, as a whisper. A glimpse of something in the wind that my mind, in the grand scheme of life, barely got a chance to capture. I have to paint his life in my head, every year, a portrait of who he might be.

I picture him as dirty blonde. I don’t know why. In my memories, his hair after he was born is gray, almost translucent. And my hair is brown. B’s was brown. But I picture Carter’s as dark blonde. For the longest time, I pictured him wearing suspenders, one side on properly and one dropped off the shoulder just so. I think I wore suspenders as a kid. Maybe. Or I just wanted to. When he would have been younger, I’d picture him finger painting. Napping. Eating graham crackers. Now I picture him as he’d be, nine years old. Maybe playing sports. Soccer? Soccer seems safe, so far as sports go. Musically inclined, a trait I’d be much more likely to encourage.

I picture Carter as my everything. My entire world. I think I’ve been looking for him, looking to fill that hole, for all this time. I tell my therapist that I want kids, desperately. There is nothing I want more. I tell my therapist I will never have kids. I don’t want the kind of relationship that creates them. I’m not even looking. She tells me to put my big girl pants on and get to a point where I can foster. Adopt. I look this up and I know that I don’t qualify, that she is hoping and believing in something for me that I will never hope nor believe in for myself. She tells me that the point of all our work is so that I WILL qualify someday. I don’t argue. Can’t.

It hurts sometimes to think about Carter, to realize that I’m getting older and I could be nearing the end of that time of my life. I’m just a girl with two unsustainable careers who goes home at night and reads and plays video games and watches tv because that life she thought she’d have, married with kids, is unattainable. It is harder this year, as I watch the people around me procreate, as I realize it’s been almost ten years and I am really the only one who remembers him. There were no music lessons, no sports. No snacks. No naps. No finger paints. That is all in my head. He lived a life not remembered. And this year, the ninth year, I wish more than anything that I could change that. Because it hurts more than anything.

Carter’s whole life can be summarized by the few minutes I got to hold him. I can see it in photos, the way his fingers curl around mine, the way he fit just right in my arms. The way his eyes never opened, but I knew, just knew, that they were like mine. He was beautiful, and I’m the only one who knew him. And I know that even though he was gone by the time he rested in my arms, he knew he was loved. I know he knows it still.

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Life Update

One year ago today I had a day that changed the course of my life. I mean, if we’re being real, I’ve had one hell of a YEAR. But we aren’t talking about that today. We’re talking about a dog.

One year ago, I was mauled by a client’s dog. Really no other way to put that. You can’t make being used as a dog chew toy sound nice. And quite honestly, as angry as I was at the rescue, it was largely my fault. I touched the big scary crate the dog broke out of. I should not have done that; I should not have gone to where the dog broke out of. I know that now. I didn’t then.

I walked away that day with a torn up coat, shredded jeans, a bloody leg and back, and a massively bruised dignity. It’s still bruised. I don’t like when dogs I don’t know run at me. I try to avoid situations where there’s potential for a bite to occur. I used to have a passion for working with dogs labeled aggressive and I don’t have that anymore.

But what I will say for that day is that it woke me up. The idea that that dog had me so firmly I could have died if I hadn’t gotten out of the apartment…it was the catalyst to many things.

I was wallowing in the past. So I got a brilliant therapist who I have an amazing rapport with. I’ve done things with her that I never would have thought possible.

I was fully immersing myself in a career that wasn’t going to get me anywhere further. So I began to write, in earnest. More than I’ve ever written, which says a lot. I sent out essays. I got published a few times. I finished a second book. I’ve been more honest in my writing, but scared to share that here.

I was not happy with my life. So I began to change it. And I’m still not happy with it, but I am making strides towards where I’d like to be.

I have new goals now. I’d like to publish more. I’d like to change my career slightly. Own my own business maybe. Still with dogs, but more training. I’m most interested in service dogs right now, specifically psychiatric service animals. The real kind, not the fake I want to bring my dog on a plane kind. I might not know how to start a business completely on my own, but what I learned this year is that I can, if I so choose.

I came to New York City for grad school, and I love this city more than anything. I have no desire to leave it. But grad school cost me a huge portion of myself at a time when I’d barely begun to get to know who I truly was. I forgot what I was really all about. And I’m finding that out again. I’m a writer first. An activist. A speaker, even though it scares the shit out of me. I love dogs. I want to help people.

I want to do for other people what’s been done for me.

So one year ago, I got mauled by a dog. And I woke up.

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I See You. I Believe You. I’m With You.

I, like so many, have been glued to my screens following Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony at today’s Senate hearing. I don’t think I need to sum up the details of the case; if you haven’t heard, you haven’t been paying attention–and shame on you for that. Ford’s testimony today and her leveraging a sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is important for so many reasons.

I sat down on my bed and I watched Ford go through everything that happened to her thirty plus years ago. She was strong and consistent and an amazing witness. But it was one of her first statements that stuck with me: “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified.”

Terrified. But in four hours of questioning, Ford did not stumble at all. She was steady and sure. She did not ask for what happened to her so many years ago. She did not ask to have to relive the nightmare in front of the entire world. She certainly did not ask to be an example to others. But as she sat before that committee, in her strength, she is. And today, she is my hero.

If this brave woman can come forward and tell the entire world, because the world is watching, about this horrible thing that happened to her, that means the rest of us can too. The fact of the matter is, we live in a world now where the President of the United States does not support women. Where survivors are mocked, not believed, accused of having faulty memories. This sort of response is why so many do not report sexual assault. THIS sort of response creates a culture where sexual assault is okay. A lack of report does not negate the horror of assault. Survivors do not report for so many reasons–fear, shame, guilt, to name a few–but that does not make what happened to them any less real.

I think it’s important to remember on a day like today, as we look to Dr. Ford, that we also live in a world now where survivors are banding together, stronger together, and saying that this is not okay. Much of the world stopped today to watch this hearing. Work stopped. School stopped. People watched on the train, in waiting rooms, in their cars at the side of the highway. And that says something.

We are watching. We are listening. We are still here, and you will hear us. None of this is okay.

It’s time now to do more than just say words. It’s time to stand up. To do something. To believe. And so, Dr. Ford, I see you. I believe you. I’m with you. I was raped, and I can only wish I was as brave as you are. You are not alone. Your fellow survivors are standing with you.

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