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Here I am, stricken again, devastated by the stories I’m reading in the news, crying over innocent people being gunned down because of the color of their skin. Purely that—the color of their skin.

I’ve experienced white privilege. More times than I realize, I’m sure. One incident that stands out in my mind happened about a year ago, when I was pulled over by a police officer in a quiet suburb north of where I live, and I argued with the 20-something officer about whether I’d been speeding. Hours later, I was shocked that I had spoken to him in such a disrespectful, even reckless, way. I didn’t curse or shout, but I talked to him as though he was a petulant child and I was his mother. Truly. I was asking him for proof of what he had seen on his radar gun, insisting that it wasn’t possible that I’d been speeding. When, in fact, it was altogether possible: the speed limit was only 30, which is very easy to exceed. He let me off with a warning. The experience lingers with me for this reason: if I’d been a black woman or, worse yet, a black man, I might not have survived.

My seven-year-old daughter has a lot of questions about the Black Lives Matter signs that she sees around our beautifully diverse community. I have given her an age-appropriate, simplified explanation that sometimes the police are harder on black people than on white people, and sometimes encounters get violent. I’ve told her that the signs are to protest against that inequity and to remind everyone that the lives of darker skinned people matter just as much as the lives of lighter skinned people. She believes this deeply in her heart, this sweet child of mine with beloved black friends. It is my hope that as she grows up and gains a fuller understanding of the troubles all around her, she will continue to be a voice for change, someone who stands up for what’s right. I’ll keep trying to lead the way for her.



The Secret That’s All Around Us

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I’m going to talk about something women aren’t supposed to talk about.

I’m ten weeks pregnant. But I’m not going to have a baby. Instead, sometime this month, I’ll have a miscarriage.

Ten to twenty-five percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. One in five first-trimester pregnancies end in miscarriage. Did you know that?

It’s possible the statistics are even worse than that, but some women don’t know they’ve had a miscarriage because they didn’t know they were pregnant. If the miscarriage happens in the first couple of weeks, the woman might just think she’s having an irregular cycle that month or a heavier-than-usual period. We don’t always know.

We also don’t know for sure what causes each miscarriage. The expelled tissue doesn’t come with a damage report or diagnostic summary. We can only assume that the chromosomes didn’t match up quite right. The fetus developed until it couldn’t anymore.

An early miscarriage is a blessing of sorts. I consider myself lucky in comparison. I have close friends and family members who have endured much worse. Imagine the agony of being induced into labor, knowing that you are giving birth to stillborn twins. Imagine having to go to an abortion clinic to surgically remove a lifeless child during your second trimester—when it is a child you desperately wanted to have. Imagine having to pack up all the things you had already purchased for the nursery, knowing that your baby is never going to come home. Imagine going through fertility treatment after fertility treatment, but never seeing a plus sign on the home pregnancy test. Yes, though grieving, I’m aware that I am one of the lucky ones.

Two days ago I was a smiling, expectant mother. I went in for my standard 10-week checkup expecting to hear my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. That had been such a thrilling experience for me a few years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child.

The doctor and I were chatting in a friendly way as she ran the Doppler device over my abdomen, listening for the heartbeat. She kept searching. We both grew quiet. She kept searching. After what seemed like an eternity, she said to me, “Don’t worry. It’s often hard to hear the heartbeat this first time. Let’s go in the other room and use our ultrasound to check things out.”

We went into the next room. She covered my slightly bulging belly with that cold blue gel to aid the ultrasound wand. The viewing monitor was not at a good angle for me to see it, but I didn’t have the emotional energy to ask her to turn it. She began pressing the wand down in various spots to search for a visual of the baby. I was hoping and hoping and almost ready to throw up. Tears were starting to well up in my eyes. This is not how it’s supposed to go. My husband isn’t even here.

The doctor saw what was there, but she wasn’t ready to tell me yet. She said she wanted to send me to Maternity Diagnostics, where they have better ultrasound machines and can get a better visual. I had business appointments booked for the rest of the afternoon. I hadn’t anticipated being with the doctor for more than 30 minutes, an hour at the most. My HMO doesn’t like doctors to schedule secondary exams on the same day, anyway, and I would have had to wait for my doctor to get special approval for the referral. (Damn HMOs.) So, my ultrasound was set up for the following day. I had 24 hours to wait and worry.

I talked to my husband that night. I asked him if he was available the next afternoon to attend the ultrasound with me, but he had an important meeting to attend. I would go alone and hope for the best. I was telling him and telling myself that, most likely, everything was going to be okay.

But I already knew it wasn’t. I hadn’t felt nauseous for weeks, and I’d had a nightmarish dream about failed milk production two nights before. I didn’t feel right.

As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep much that night. I curled up next to my two-year-old daughter as she slept and smelled her hair and listened to the sweet sound of each breath she took—for hours before I fell asleep. I’m so thankful that I have her. She is the love of my life.

I went to the hospital the next day for my ultrasound. In the waiting room, I looked at the paperwork I’d been given the day before, authorizing this exam. I saw the code for why the ultrasound was ordered: Threatened Abortion. My doctor is sending me for an early stage ultrasound because she suspects I’m going to lose the baby. Oh god. Oh god.

The technician recognized me from my visits there during my first pregnancy. She asked if I’d had any trouble with the first pregnancy. I said no. Then tears started to roll down my cheeks. She told me, “Hang on, honey. Let’s see what we can find out.”

Once again, my abdomen was covered with the cold blue gel and the wand searched around. This time I could see what the technician was seeing. I saw how little there was to see.

She asked me if there was any chance that my dates were off, if maybe I wasn’t as far along as I thought. No, sadly, that couldn’t be the reason for the baby’s small size. I had been trying to get pregnant. The exact start of my last period was clearly marked on my calendar. I had taken a home pregnancy test four days before I expected to get my next period—the earliest you can take a test. It had been positive. If my pregnancy started any later, it would not yet have registered on that test. The dates were correct.

To get a better look from a different angle, she gave me an intravaginal ultrasound. Thankfully, insertion of the probe doesn’t hurt. But I wonder if I would have even felt it if it did. I was numb.

The picture on the monitor was the same. There was a clear picture of the gestational sac with a very tiny baby inside. The technician told me the baby was “not measuring 10 weeks.” She didn’t mention the lack of a heartbeat, but I had seen on the monitor that the heartbeat line was straight. There was no heartbeat.

I needed to hear from her what I already knew. I asked her between sobs, as she gently held my hand, “So, if my dates are correct, and the baby isn’t as big as it should be, does that mean that the baby has stopped developing?” She nodded. Then she excused herself and left the room to call my doctor.

When she came back into the room, she found that I hadn’t moved. I hadn’t put my clothes back on. I was just sitting on the table, with a white sheet covering my body, paralyzed by sorrow. She told me as kindly as possible that I should go ahead and get dressed. She explained that I should make an appointment at the front desk for a follow-up ultrasound in one week. Then I should go upstairs to see my doctor to discuss the situation further.

I got dressed. I walked to the front desk and made my appointment. The woman typing everything into the computer asked me to repeat the spelling of my last name four times. She asked me to repeat my social security number three times. I finally wrote it down for her. I honestly don’t know which of us was getting it wrong. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be there anymore and she was keeping me there far too long.

She finally had all the information she needed from me. I walked out of the office and rode the elevator down. I started walking across the main lobby. A paramedic walking through gave me a concerned look. I must have really been a mess to worry a paramedic. His concern was enough for me to break down again. I crumpled into a chair and began sobbing. It’s possible I was even wailing.

No one put a hand on my shoulder. No one cried with me. That would happen later. For now, I was alone. Completely alone—there was no longer a child developing inside me. I wondered how many days or weeks I’d been singing and talking to a child that was already dead.

“I loved you,” I whispered to the child I will never hold. “I really, really wanted to be your mommy. I’m so sorry I never get to meet you.”

I composed myself and walked the rest of the way across the lobby to the elevator that goes up to my doctor’s office. I stepped in, followed by a man in a suit. I pushed four and he pushed five. Then I said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” and quickly pushed three. I started crying again.

“It’s okay,” he said gently. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” The kindness of strangers is often the most powerful.

“No, but thank you,” I sighed, stepping off the elevator. No one can help me with this.

I walked into my doctor’s office, and the nurse quickly ushered me into an exam room. She’d been expecting me. She patted my arm and said the doctor would be there soon. She walked out and closed the door. I was alone again.

It probably only took the doctor a few minutes to come, but it felt much longer than that. She did not walk in offering me any hope. She walked in saying how sorry she was. She went on to tell me how common first-trimester miscarriages are, and we discussed next steps.

Sometime in the month of December, which is usually a beautiful time of year for me, I will have a miscarriage. If I don’t have one naturally, then I’ll start the new year with a procedure called dilation and curettage: a surgical removal of the contents of my uterus. My chances of a natural miscarriage are 50/50. It’s possible that my body will continue to hold onto my lost child in the same way that my heart will. If it comes to a D&C, I won’t be the first of my friends to have that experience. I do take some comfort in the fact that there is a whole community of women around me who share this pain, this sorrow.

Women suffer. Again and again, in different ways, women suffer. And we often do it in silence. It is not in my nature to be silent.


The cramping began two days after I’d been given the heartbreaking news. Two days after that, I began to bleed.

I had a miscarriage in the middle of a workday. No one around me knew. I was in work mode and couldn’t allow myself to break down. I hosted a prearranged networking event right beforehand. I had a business meeting minutes afterward. That night I went to a once-in-a-lifetime book launch. As you can imagine, I wasn’t at my best for any of that.

My lost child didn’t get a funeral. I said goodbye as I flushed a toilet. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Yet I know I’m not alone in my pain. Miscarriage is all around us. We just don’t usually talk about it.


Christian Sex and Shame

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I was heavily involved in church youth groups as a teenager. As a result of spending every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening with the same kids, I ended up primarily dating guys from inside the group.

We were pretty incestuous in our dating, actually; the girls all passed around the same few guys. We tried not to compare notes too much, because that might get into TMI territory, but we certainly kept a thumbs up or thumbs down rating system in place and sometimes fought over who got first dibs on trying out the new guy. I would bet that the same thing was going on in the guys’ camp.

A church romance often started with holding hands in the back of the church bus on the way to or from a field trip of some sort. Then we’d hold hands while sitting next to each other in a church pew during a worship service. Then we’d find time to be alone and we’d kiss. Later, if we were alone in a totally private space, we’d progress to what I like to call Christian sex.

As horny Christian teens, we could make out plenty. We just couldn’t have actual intercourse, because premarital sex was against God’s law—and could get the girl pregnant and therefore ruined for life. A Baptist girl certainly doesn’t have abortion as an option if she gets knocked up. In fact, she’s likely to be standing at a busy intersection on a Sunday afternoon with horrifyingly graphic abortion protest signs, not having any understanding of what it might feel like to actually need an abortion.

I rarely had to tell a Christian boy no, because they rarely presumed that intercourse was even an option. Any amount of kissing and touching were fine, as long as his naughty bits didn’t try to touch mine.

I wonder sometimes if that’s part of why I was so vulnerable the night I was raped. I was only 16. I had only dated boys who didn’t try to do anything I wasn’t ready to do. They were never even rough with me. They were gentle and kind.

When I went on a double date that night, I thought it would be exciting to be with someone new. My friend had set me up with her boyfriend’s friend—an older boy from my high school. I couldn’t help but think ahead to the prospect of actually having a boyfriend at school. (All the church boys went to different high schools than I did.)

My date was driving me home from the party we had attended. I’d had a few drinks, which I was feeling a little guilty about, but I was hoping he was impressed that I could hold my liquor with such grace.

He didn’t drive me straight home. He drove to a dark, secluded parking lot at the edge of the high school property. I was open to the idea of making out a little, though I was starting to worry about what time it was. It was already past the curfew my parents had set for me.

He stopped the car, unbuckled his seat belt, and leaned across me to lock my door. Then he grabbed the adjustment handle on the side of my seat, throwing my seat into the reclining position. I moved my hand to my seatbelt latch, intending to unbuckle, but he pushed my hand back, stopping me from doing so. He hadn’t spoken a word yet, and neither had I. I wasn’t scared yet, but this was feeling very strange to me.

He lifted my shirt and yanked my bra up to reveal my breasts. He grabbed at them roughly then reached down to yank my miniskirt up. I started to protest, and he covered my mouth with his hand. With his other hand, he ripped my underwear down and jabbed two or three fingers straight into my vagina. I cried out in pain—as much as I could with my mouth covered. He told me to shut up, then took his hand off my mouth. I know now that I should have screamed at the top of my lungs at that point, and fought him with all of my might, but I didn’t. I just started to cry. I foolishly thought the assault was over, that he had just wanted to explore my body in that brutish way.

He unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, and lowered them. I was scared at this point, and certain that I did not want to do whatever he had in mind. I told him I really wanted to go home. He ignored me.

He climbed on top of me, straddling my chest, then pried my mouth open and shoved his erect penis into it. He gripped one hand around my throat and told me that if I bit him, he’d kill me. I believed him. He was much bigger and stronger than me.

He was thrusting his penis in and out of my mouth so hard that the edges of my mouth tore. I was continually gagging as it slammed against the back of my throat. It’s a wonder I didn’t vomit. He stopped before reaching orgasm. For that brief moment, I was thankful. He had stopped, and I was glad to not have to swallow the sperm of someone whom I now hated more than I had ever hated anyone.

But he wasn’t finished. He kept his hand around my throat, but moved his body down. I begged him, “No, please, don’t.”

Without pause, he shoved his penis into my vagina, tearing the delicate exterior and breaking my hymen, all within a matter of seconds. I screamed in agony. He tightened his fingers around my neck and told me to shut the fuck up.

He kept going until he reached orgasm. He left his filth inside me. Then he relaxed his whole heavy, sweaty, disgusting body on me for a minute, crushing me under his weight, before climbing off of me and over to his own seat. Tears were running down my face.

“If you tell anyone about this, bitch, I’ll kill you,” he said. He pulled his jeans back on and started the car. I shifted my clothes back into place and cowered as close to the passenger door as I could, getting as far away from him as possible in that moment.

He could have tossed me out of the car and left me there, in the parking lot, but I suppose that might have drawn unwanted attention. He drove me to my house and told me to get out. As soon as I closed the car door, he screeched off.

I let myself into the house with my own key and walked straight down the hallway to my room. No one in my family saw me. I think they were all asleep. I don’t know how late it was at that point. Nothing seemed to be in real time anymore. Things were getting hazy.

I took off my clothes, my belt, my shoes, and my jewelry and threw them all into my wastebasket. I put on a robe and went out to the hall bathroom. After closing the bathroom door behind me, I took off my robe, looked into the mirror, and started to cry again.

I could see bruises already beginning to form on my neck where he had gripped it. There were half-moon-shaped cuts on my breasts from his nails digging into my flesh. I felt warm liquid running down my legs. I turned on the shower, stepped in, and crumpled down to a seated position, wrapping my arms around my knees. I sat there, rocking back and forth for a long time, the water running over me and blending with the blood and semen from between my legs before running down the drain.

The next morning, and for several days afterward, I wore a turtleneck to hide the bruises. I don’t remember anyone commenting on it, even though it was summer. I emptied my wastebasket full of evidence into the garbage can outside, to avoid the inevitable questions from my mom if she had been the one to empty it.

I didn’t tell anyone what had happened.

A few weeks later, I went into the pizza place where he worked. I hadn’t known he worked there, or I wouldn’t have gone in. He jeered at me and asked if I’d like to step out back for a moment of privacy. I ran straight outside, vomited in a garbage can, then jumped in my car and drove off as quickly as I could. (Ten years later, I went into that pizza place again to meet up with some friends. It still made me queasy to be there.)

Then, somehow, I forgot it had happened. Truly. I must have repressed it for my own protection. I didn’t remember anything about that night until two years later, when my naked boyfriend climbed on top of me and brought his penis up to my mouth. The position made me flash back to that horrible night.

I pushed him off of me and started sobbing. He began apologizing profusely for making me uncomfortable, for moving too quickly. I finally calmed down enough to talk. I told him it wasn’t his fault that I was crying—that someone else had hurt me years before. That was the first time I told anyone.

I can’t remember at what point I started sharing the story with select friends and family members, but I did eventually. Each person was shocked to have not known about it beforehand and felt sorry to have not been able to provide emotional support for me at the time. But how could they have been there for me, when I had chosen to be alone with my pain?

Initially, shame was what kept me from telling anyone, not fear. At the time it happened, and in the hours immediately following, I was certain that the rape was my fault. If I hadn’t had anything to drink, if I hadn’t worn a miniskirt, if I hadn’t accepted a ride home from a person I knew so little about, if . . . if only. And when I couldn’t agonize over it any more, I blocked it from my memory.

The boyfriend who was the first to know was a big part of my life for a number of years. We dated off and on, and he was the first person with whom I had consensual sex. Sadly, that was traumatic for me too, because of Christian guilt.

We were very familiar with each other’s bodies from countless make-out sessions, but we had never crossed the line and had intercourse. One night we parked in a quiet spot on the outskirts of town and climbed in the back of his Jeep Cherokee. After making out a little, he told me he really wanted to make love to me. I said I wanted that too. I was 18, and I was ready.

The experience wasn’t entirely pleasant or entirely unpleasant. We were rookies, after all. But I remember that immediately afterward, I was feeling wanted, loved, womanly, and safe in his arms. Then he pulled away from me and told me what he was thinking, and all of that went away.

He apologized for sinning and causing me to sin. He felt guilty for influencing me and causing both of us to do such a bad thing. Now I felt dirty. I felt tricked and violated again. And, again, I felt shame.


Hair and Identity

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I’m in an early stage of pregnancy, and one of the many annoying symptoms is that my hair is falling out. Later in the pregnancy, the hormones and prenatal vitamins will start working in my favor and I’ll have longer, stronger hair than any woman really needs. I know this from my first pregnancy. But, for now, I have the gross sensation of getting handfuls of loose hair in my hands every time I shampoo.

And, every time I do, I think of my dear friend Rekha who is going through chemotherapy. She recently posted on Facebook that learning to live without her hair is the most difficult part of her journey.

A woman’s hair is such a major part of her identity in our culture. So much of our sense of beauty is tied up in our lovely—or not lovely—locks. When I was in my teens and twenties, I changed my hair in some significant ways. Each time, I did it to reinvent myself.

When I was in high school in California, I had extremely low self-esteem. There was tremendous cultural pressure in my community to look a certain way, and I didn’t fit the bill. I never felt attractive, so I used my limited funds to make adjustments here and there. I paid for spiral perms that made my head look like a yarn mop. I coated my hair with lemon juice and coated my body with baby oil, then laid out in the sunshine in my backyard (one with no swimming pool, mind you), hoping to become blonde and tan. It never worked, of course. I just further stressed my already fried (from the perms) hair, and came inside with a sunburn and some more freckles and moles. Sunburn that would later peel in a very unattractive way, and moles that I would need to have removed a few at a time in later years, whenever dermatologists would worry that I had early phases of skin cancer.

Toward the end of high school, I gave up on trying to look like one of the cheerleaders. I chopped off my hair and dyed it auburn. The haircut was in style at the time, but I can tell you now that it was mushroom-shaped and not very attractive. But it did succeed in giving me an increased sense of confidence. I was a different girl now than the mousy haired girl who had been ignored or teased, or worse. I dared to start believing that maybe I was pretty, even if none of the boys at my school were asking me out. At least boys from other schools were interested, and sometimes even guys from the local colleges. I focused on them and tried not to let it bother me that I was never asked to go to my high school prom. I went to the proms for three other local high schools instead.

My college roommate had the same short, auburn hairstyle. People thought we were twins. Or they teased us about having stepped straight out of the movie Single White Female. I loved it that a simple haircut equated me to this dear friend of mine, whom I had always adored (and still do). I gained a little more confidence and had a little more fun at the nightclubs.

Then, at some point, a man I respected told me that I’d have a much harder time finding a husband if I kept my hair short. More often that not, men like women with long hair. I grew my hair out and, voila! I had a husband by age 23—a very respectable age at which to get married in Fresno, California.

My new husband and I moved to Chicago just a few weeks after our wedding. After settling in, I was pleased to find that no one here teased me for being pale. If you are bundled up from the cold six months a year, it’s tough to maintain a tan, after all. Within a couple of years, though, I didn’t feel like I looked hip enough to live here. My hairstyle was too farm town California. I needed a haircut.

I wanted to look more edgy, more urban, so I went with really, really short hair. I was modeling my look after the haircut of a friend I had at the time. It was a cute haircut on the right person. I wasn’t that person. I suddenly felt naked, stripped of my femininity. While I did get significantly increased attention from women at the Belmont stop, that wasn’t what I had been going for. I started the awkward process of growing my hair out again, through some extremely lame transition styles.

About a year later, my hair was long enough to shape into a new look. I went with a jet-black, chin-length bob and bangs. People started calling me Betty Page, a name I had to look up online before knowing how to react. I dressed as a dominatrix for Halloween and amazed myself by playing the part pretty well.

But while there was a sexy side to my hairstyle, it looked so unnatural on me that it seemed like I was in disguise every day. I suspect that’s the reason that every time I flew home to California with that hairstyle, I was stopped by security at the airport. I looked like I was hiding something. And I was. I was unbearably sad then. But very few people knew until they heard I was getting a divorce, ending my seven-year marriage.

Over the next few years, I grew my hair longer, went red again for a while, and met a Greek with a thing for redheads. We got married, I got pregnant, and my hair grew and grew and grew. When the whole lot of it flopped forward into my daughter’s poopy diaper one day, I knew it was time to chop it off.

I went to see my hairstylist and had him tie my hair back in a ponytail and measure it. I had enough extra to donate the minimum 10 inches to Locks of Love. A haircut has never felt better.

I plan to let my hair grow throughout my pregnancy again. I’ll let those prenatal vitamins do their magic, and I’ll hold out until I have at least 10 inches to spare. And this time, when I sit in that chair at the hair salon, I’ll have Rekha in mind. I hope she’ll have a full head of her own beautiful hair again by then.

Who’s Fault Is It?

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It was always my fault. My father wouldn’t have needed to whip me with his belt if I hadn’t misbehaved. He wouldn’t have thrown his coffee mug at me if I hadn’t made him so mad. He wouldn’t have choked me and slammed me against the wall if I hadn’t been such an insolent brat. It was my fault. Right?

So I thought it was my fault later, too, when other people hurt me. When I was date raped at the age of 16, I didn’t tell anyone. I was ashamed. I was sure it was my fault. If I hadn’t worn a short skirt, maybe I wouldn’t have been raped. If I hadn’t had anything to drink at the party we’d gone to, maybe I would have been able to stop him. I should have trusted my instincts and gotten a ride home from someone else after my blind date—who was a friend of a friend—started to creep me out. After the party, instead of driving me home, he drove to a dark, isolated parking lot where no one would hear me screaming.

If I had gotten pregnant from that assault, I would have killed myself. Truly. I almost did anyway.

Now, as an adult, I regret not telling anyone about what happened. I have a layer of dread that maybe he did that to other girls because he was free to do so. I hadn’t told anyone he was a rapist. If he did rape another girl, is that my fault on some level? Then again, we live in a society that continues to undervalue women. Just look at all the misogynistic statements made by politicians and media personnel about rape victims. I’d say they, too, are at fault on some level when a woman gets abused.

It was my fault again when I chose to stay in a relationship with a verbally abusive alcoholic for three years. Honestly, I kept thinking I could fix him—or that maybe I could behave in a way that wouldn’t set him off so much. I cared about him and felt sorry for the darkness in his heart that was making him so miserable. I kept thinking I could help him heal his wounds; but, instead, he just kept triggering all of my old ones. I kept flashing back to awful scenes from years before.

I didn’t have the strength to walk away when he was insulting me or even when he abused his dog in front of me. He always apologized for his behavior later, when he sobered up. I loved him when he was sober. We had a passionate, exciting relationship. He made me feel beautiful—something I hadn’t felt for a long time. It wasn’t until his own mother saw him mistreat me and told me I deserved better, that I woke up enough to protect myself from the physical violence that I am certain was imminent. After I moved out, he threatened me and even stalked me, to a point at which I had to call the police. It took some strong therapy and antidepressants to get through the whole experience.

Sadly, he wasn’t even my first abusive boyfriend. I dated another volatile man when I was 21. He had a two-year-old son from a previous relationship, and I witnessed him verbally and physically abusing the boy. I found myself wanting to stay in the relationship for the sake of that sweet child. I had an instant connection with him and wanted to protect him from his father’s temper. Years later, I realized I should have called child protective services, and regretted that I didn’t think of it at the time. Lucky for me, the dad dumped me a couple of months later, so I didn’t have the option to stick around long enough for anything worse to happen. And when something worse did happen, it would have been my own fault, right?

Abuse runs in cycles. We all know that intuitively, and countless studies support it. Some children who are abused end up becoming bullies who abuse other people, even their own children. Other children grow up allowing one person after another to abuse them. And, so, the hits keep coming. One bad experience leaves you more vulnerable to the next one. It’s a tough cycle to break—even when you recognize that you are in it.

For the record, my father is a much better man that his father ever was, and he mellowed out enough over the years to become a loving grandfather. I have forgiven him and can even say I love him. The abusive alcoholic I dated for three years was also from a damaged family. I never met his father, but I know his mother and two brothers also did far more drinking than anyone should. I hope at some point he is able to sober up and become the man I believe he can be. But I won’t be there to see it if he does.

Why share all of this? I’m sharing it because I am not the poster girl for abuse. Most people in my life don’t know these parts of my history. I have always been the type to put on a happy face. But I’m finding that harder to do these days. When politicians make ignorant remarks about rape, I’m fuming with rage for days, even weeks. When I hear about another child being beaten or molested, I weep. I feel powerless and yet empowered to do something to change the world we live in—the world in which I am raising my children.

The time is now. Let’s break the cycle. We have to vote for people who are looking out for all members of our society. We have to support federal, state, and local programs that are helping the people who need it most. Sanctity of life needs to apply to more than just an embryo. Let’s work together to build a society that values every life and see where that takes us.