Standing beneath the Umbrella: Dismantling Privilege


“No” was a word I used often in childhood. When there was something I didn’t like or want I would get fussy and wiggle free from my mother’s grasp until I was standing. I would yell “NO” at the top of my lungs and stomp my foot on the ground. It was always easy to say ‘no’; especially to the people I loved. I believed in the power of choice and I never questioned it.

Something changed during adolescence. From the age of fifteen onward, my ‘no’ steadily began to lose its stability and importance. It was disregarded in the hallways at school, passed over in my part-time job, and ignored in nearly every sexual encounter I engaged in. As a rape survivor, most might conclude that the event of sexual assault was the moment I lost my ability to choose. In reality, I had been on the weak end of a losing battle over my body and voice for years. For me, being raped had just marked its ultimate demise.

My brain had been corrupted and my body colonized by the patriarchal idea that I owed men something. I owed them the only thing of value that I had to give—sex. Everything in my world was against me. From television and movies, showcasing women as objects meant solely to fulfill sexual desires, to popular music that divided me from my identity and placed me in such categories as “bitch” “hoe” and “slut”. The culture I grew up in left me nameless, faceless, and dehumanized me to the point where I was nothing but a hole for any and all men to enjoy.

Looking back, what I find most horrifying was my belief that this was normal. I thought sexism was a harmless part of life and sexual coercion was inevitable. The memories of my abuse pale in comparison to the sickening realization of my own inability to see. At eighteen I was blinded and enslaved by a patriarchy that was built to destroy me.

Privilege is blinding—it only allows you to see your own perfectly paved path and the paths of those who rest above you. A privileged lens is clouded, making it hard to focus on the individuals who have less than you do. We can’t see them because in order to move up, we have to stand on their backs. I know this, because I’m white. I was raised to be racially insensitive—it had been ingrained in the mind of my community long ago and was continuing to be passed on. Preconceived notions and stereotypes dictated my thinking for much of my young life in such profound, yet subtle ways that I failed to recognize them.

In the seventh grade, I proudly showcased posters of all my teen idols on my bedroom walls. Ripped from magazines and printed from the internet, I hung them with scotch tape and gave them life. At sleepovers my friends and I would giggle and daydream about the dashing men in those pictures, posing nonchalantly in their Tommy Jeans.

Unfortunately, one poster had to go. My mother saw Usher standing, abs exposed, dark and handsome, and immediately removed him from my door. “Oh honey, don’t start this nonsense. You can have Justin, Leo can stay too, but Usher has to go.” I looked at my mother side-ways and before I could interject she sat down beside me and spoke again, “If you start dating black boys, white men won’t want you anymore. You don’t want to be known as the girl who goes with black guys—protect your reputation.”

I didn’t fight what she said—instead, I internalized it. I learned to fall in line with my peers and look down upon other races. I disengaged and disconnected from minorities until it was simply, ‘us’ and ‘them’. It was easier than trying to fight it. There were 10 black kids who I attended middle school with. They fit the stereotypes that white media had created for them; they existed within these frameworks because they were safe and unchallenged. We knew nothing of their struggles with feeling ostracized—we just “knew” they were good at sports, and the hair from their heads felt funny between our fingers.

I didn’t hate other races, so I never thought of myself as being racist—but wasn’t I? The older, cooler boys constantly threw ‘nigger’ around, they were numb to it—raised with it—accepted it as everyday terminology. These were the same boys who called me slut, or weak, or stupid. I never chimed in, but I laughed along—afraid that if I didn’t they would turn their heckling towards me. It wasn’t safe to stand out. I used my privilege as a shield; I deflected my own marginalized experience by mocking those with less privilege. In their minds, I may have been a slut—but at least I wasn’t a beaner, a kike, or God forbid, a nigger.

Literature saved me. I felt different from the kids around me, but still not unlike them—I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I connected with different cultures, groups, and individuals through their written experiences. Books became my religion—if Sandra Cisneros was my saving grace, then James Baldwin was the son of God. By opening a freshly bound book, I could reach people who lived past the uniform trees and sidewalks that made up my pristine and perfect suburb. I could engage in someone else’s reality and for the first time I was able to see what life was like for those living on the outskirts of power.

Being exposed to racism in this way shaped my idea of who a rapist could be. I was taught by my mother and encouraged by the boys around me—boys I was supposed to be impressing—to be leery of men of color. They were the ones who drove around empty parking lots in dark cars waiting to pull young girls in. Dark men were lurking outside of bars and in alley ways, waiting for their shamelessly drunk victims to stumble by.

My rape didn’t happen in an alley, and I was sober. It wasn’t at the hand of some dark, hooded assailant either, but rather at the hands of a man I trusted with a face that I had lovingly caressed on several occasions. He took me the way he wanted me and disregarded my shaking body and begging. To this day, he fails to recognize it as rape because he was conditioned to believe that he was entitled to my body and I, owed it to him.

I fought hard for my ‘no’. I fought for my body, my voice, and for the futures of my unborn daughters. I took refuge in the sacred feminine and fed from it. I surrounded myself with powerful women who held me up and let me stand even if it was on their shoulders. I made peace with my body and fell in love with myself for the person who I am. I fought an uphill battle against my own shame and insecurities and came to realize that privilege, entitlement, and misogyny had kept me caged. There was nothing wrong with me, and there never was—it was all an illusion inflicted on me by those who are knee deep in power.

Subtle prejudices are usually the hardest to overcome. Mostly, because ways of thinking dubbed as ‘harmless’ are widely accepted. Privileged groups often don’t see their own power in the same context as those who are disconnected from it—when we’re not butt of the joke or the target of the insult, we fail to see how dangerous they can be. I’m telling you this so you can understand that even as a victim of sexual assault and sexism, I too carry privilege and that privilege is directly connected to the oppression of non-white, non-Christian minorities. As a community we must recognize the role that privilege and entitlement play in our lives. We need to take a closer look at the stereotypes we perpetuate and simply ask ourselves, ‘why’. We must educate ourselves and our children that stereotyping and profiling will ultimately snowball into victim blaming, taking the form of racism and sexism—the very two phenomena that hinder human rights and destroy our concept of community.

I Am Unbreakable

My stomach dropped when we entered the room. I wiped my hands on the sides of my pant legs as we searched for somewhere to stand. We were late, but no one noticed. Everyone’s eyes were focused intently on the large screen that hung in the center of the room. Images of women and men rotated slowly on a PowerPoint presentation. One after another the photographs appeared in front of us—images of friends, mothers, neighbors, and sisters all holding up signs that carried the weight of rape, molestation, and trauma. I knew what I had come to do; I was there to share my story and to add his words to the collection of abuses obtained by Project Unbreakable.

Project Unbreakable, founded by Grace Brown, began as a Tumblr page. Brown’s idea was to help victims break their silence by photographing them holding signs that read quotes from their attackers. Since its start in 2011 Grace has photographed over 300 victims and this once small movement continues to grow.

I stood in the back row of the crowded lecture hall, listening to stories alarmingly similar to my own. Each word, piercing stare, and utterance of abuse pushed me back to a place I never wanted to return to. I saw his face emerge on the screen and shook my head—struggling to focus, I heard him hiss and spit poison into my ears and my hands began to shake. I am here, I am safe, I repeated it over and over again in my mind but his words muffled my attempts to stay focused. His voice was booming within my brain and I could feel his words slithering inside of me—I knew I was ready.

He didn’t mean to—or, at least that’s what he told me. I can still see the guilty look on his face as I laid crumbled and silent on his bed. “It was an accident….I didn’t mean it…. You’re making me feel like I raped you.” I can still remember thinking that no, of course it wasn’t rape—rape happens in dark allies, rape happens to strangers—not to me, not in this bed. But in reality, that’s when he silenced me. In that moment declaring that what he had done was somehow outside the contexts of rape was all the convincing I needed.  It was an accident and as we all know “accidents” happen.

I was eighteen when he raped me, but the abuse began a year earlier. At first it was verbal—he’d tell me I was worthless, call me garbage, and throw all of the familiar names at me, names I was already used to hearing. The more he broke me down the more I depended on him to build me back up. I used to think of my love for him as an addiction—that something deep inside kept willing me back to him. Or, that my love had turned him bad and everything he did to me I deserved—it was my fault.

I found myself identifying with the labels he had placed on me. He called me worthless and so that’s exactly what I saw when I looked in the mirror. The abuse wasn’t my fault—but I had internalized the feeling that I had deserved all of it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. Today, one in three adolescents will be a victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

I used to wonder why it took being raped for me to finally break contact with him. Looking back, I understand that I was no match for the toxic cocktail of manipulation and coercion he was feeding me—especially when coupled with the idea that the messages he was sending me were the same ones I was receiving from my peers and from the media. I learned young that love was fear and sex was only for him to enjoy—not for me, my body and my pleasure were irrelevant.

I didn’t speak about my experience for two years. I had let myself become convinced that talking was useless  because no one would believe me—it was his word against mine and his was always heard first. Excusing abuse and placing a higher value on a man’s word over that of a young woman is a societal norm that must be changed. This phenomenon is a large contributor to the fact that only 33% of girls in violent relationships admit to being abused.

Finding the courage to tell my story was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life, but I couldn’t be more satisfied with my decision. I am fortunate enough to have a community of women and men who help me lift my voice and support my choice to speak. We didn’t choose to be abused—but we can choose to heal. We can choose to take back authority over our bodies and reclaim our power and purpose. I, along with the other one billion victims worldwide can rise against physical and sexual abuse. Together, we are unbreakable.

No More Ms. Nice Girl


I stepped out onto the mat. With my feet placed firmly beneath me, I began to breathe. I heard the cheering from the line of women at my left. They were waiting for it to begin, for my triumphant win, waiting for something to happen. And happen, it did. Julie, a woman no taller than 4’9, stood beside me and asked me to lie down on my back. “Remember, he can’t hurt you. I’ll be right here the whole time. I won’t leave your side.” I dropped gently to the ground and stretched my legs out in front of me. I could feel my assailant, a man in a homemade padded suit, standing over me. It didn’t matter who the man behind the mask was anymore, the only thing I saw when I looked up at his makeshift helmet was the rapist, the kidnapper—the enemy.

Originally, I was going to use this piece as an opportunity to discuss the illusive soccer player I had been seeing and his latest fuck up, but none of that really seems to matter to me anymore. Looking back, the challenges I faced with him seem so miniscule in comparison to what I confronted on the old blue mat in my self-defense class. I enrolled in the course on a whim. My mentor got me an amazing deal, one too good to pass up. She had been talking up the benefits of self-defense classes for weeks prior. She explained that it would give me a chance to make peace with my rape and reclaim ownership over my anger and my body. It all sounded good until I learned that I would have to reenact the experience of being raped and fight the man— the rapist, off of me. Then, I got scared. It was the kind of scared that makes your stomach jump and whine and leaves your hands and knees shaking long after the excitement has settled.   Consumed with unease I could no longer focus on the boy and our non-relationship.

Lying on the mat, I clenched my fists and the man knelt over me. He stroked my arms and grabbed hold of my wrists—a move I always hated. Joe would grab my wrists a lot. He’d grab them and pull me on top of him, “No, no….can’t we just talk? I don’t want to.” But soon my “no’s” would be silenced and he’d have me anyway he wanted. But now I was here, surrounded by friends, I was safe. “Use your voice Liz, use your voice.” The women called to me. I choked on my “no” and could barely get it out. My voice was shaking and its weakness surprised me. “NO.” I tried again, this time it was louder—angrier. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and into my mouth. My vision was turning black and I had to fight to stay present and aware. “NO” I said again and waited for my opening, a moment when he’d be the vulnerable one, and then I could strike. He was down at my feet and about to flip me onto my stomach when the women screamed, “Kick…kick….KICK!!!”  I kicked him in the face once, and then again, and then one final time before his head hit the floor and he assumed the “technical knockout” position.

I didn’t fight when it happened. I never fought with him. I was too afraid to face what I already knew, that if I refused to give him something, he would take it anyway. The night he pinned me up against his wall, I froze with fear. My screams went unnoticed and my “No’s” were ignored. Something deep inside of me was broken that night. Some kind of God given trust was lost and my mind and my body were separated from one another. I was no longer in control; I could no longer protect myself.

It wasn’t just my physical boundaries that I had trouble protecting, but my emotional ones as well. As I stood in line and cheered along for the other women I couldn’t help spacing out. The moment was gone and I was no longer in Joe’s bed, hands pressed against the wall. Now, I was in my hotel room in St. Augustine, Florida, lying beside a man I had been fantasizing about for months. We were inches apart but I couldn’t have felt further away. I was turned over, crying silently to myself and listening to the low hum of his snoring. We had, had sex…semi-painful, unromantic, awkward sex. It was nothing like I had imagined it would be. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I didn’t need to be there for it. Like, I could have been anyone, it didn’t matter, the connection we once shared was lost and I was just a body for him to rest on.

“I’m about to blow your mind, Liz. Listen up…this is serious.” I wiggled around in my chair and looked over at my friend, awaiting her next words. We were sitting on the front porch of her mother’s cozy Italian Village home and the sunlight seemed to dance around our bare feet. “You wanna know why we date guys who treat us like shit and have nothing going on?” “Because boys suck?” I joked, half-heartedly. “ERRR. Wrong! It’s because we don’t think we deserve those nice guys with college educations and good jobs, the ones who will treat us like queens.” She was right. I had spent most of my adolescence convinced that there was something wrong with me. I was a victim—I was damaged; I had, had an abortion—I was controversial. Nice guys like nice girls, ones without scars or pain, the kind of girls who wear pearls and smile a lot—girls who are whole and happy—girls who weren’t like me.

Then something shook me from my trance. It was my mentor; she had placed a bag of ice on the back of my neck. “This will help keep you present. Hold it to your chest.” With shaking hands I thanked her and took the ice focusing my attention back onto the mat. One by one I watched the women step out onto the mat and fight their battles. Some were fighting old lovers, nameless attackers, and others were fighting family members. I watched as they screamed from their bellies and kicked and punched as if their life depended on it—because for many of us, it did. I stood in awe as I watched quiet, reserved women rise with ferocity and anger like phoenixes, hungry for redemption. I saw women who had never gotten their chance to scream and fight retrieve their dignity from the ones who stole it and revisit dark places they had spent years trying to hide away. The energy in the room grew thick with power and I fed from it. I gathered strength from their strength and their cheering kept me awake and ready.

I was my turn again, and this time I was going give it everything I had. Before I had a chance to catch my breath he grabbed me from behind. The line roared with support and direction. He threw me on the ground and slipped a pillowcase over my head. “This changes nothing. You don’t need your sight—you can feel him. Wait for your opening.” Julie’s voice was calm and clear. I breathed and centered myself, waiting for my chance to get out from under him. “I’m going to fuck you in the ass and throw you in the dumpster.” The words slithered out from behind his mask. My eyes widened and I got pissed. In that instant I knew exactly what I was fighting for. With one move I heaved him off of me and ripped the pillowcase from my head. I kicked and kicked without stopping, my limps flailed about and I hit every target on his body I could find. Finally, I got up—refusing to fight him on the ground—I was going to show him that I could take him where he stood. At the same moment he charged in my direction I shot my foot into his groin and he fell to floor. Julie blew her whistle and the women screamed with joy. He took off his helmet and looked up at me with a smile, “Well I know I wouldn’t mess with you if I wasn’t wearing this suit.”

I’ve been called brave before. They’ve called me brave for sharing my story on the Internet, or for handling my abortion alone, but this was the first time in my life that I had actually felt it. I had overcome my greatest fear and persevered when I was at my most vulnerable. In a lot of ways it was the best moment of my life. It was better than the time I meditated under the sun in New York City, or climbed the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and saw a lake so clear it looked like another sky. I ran back to join the women in line and I heard a familiar voice calling me from the other side of the gym, it was my father. Smiling ear to ear he held out two big thumbs up and I realized how blessed I truly was. I have people who love and care for me because I’m worth being loved. I’m tired of letting others push me around and silence my voice. Now is my time celebrate my life and my body. This is the beginning of the greatest love affair of my life—the one I’m having with myself.

The End is Just the Beginning


I stared at the screen and my hands began to shake. Every cell in my body was seizing with anger and I thought seriously about throwing my keyboard through the office window. “He blocked me on Facebook?? Are you fucking kidding me?!” I screamed at the computer. And there it was, the inevitable ending I was looking for. I had been half expecting him to break up with me for weeks before it happened. Of course, I expected him to handle the situation…well a little differently then he did.

I hadn’t spoken to him in three weeks prior to the Facebook incident. We had decided to take some space apart, which is laughable considering we live almost 900 miles away from each other. He was set to try out for a soccer team in Thailand and assured me that he needed space to “mentally prepare for the challenges ahead.” Apparently for him, mental preparation requires having sex with his ex girlfriend.

So, that’s sort of how it ended. He deleted our love with the click of a mouse and it was gone so quickly it was like it never happened. He sent me an email a couple weeks after, mostly so he could ask me to stop messing with his wikipedia page. Drinking can drive you to do crazy things sometimes. Luckily, I didn’t get much crazier than changing his name to “Douche” and changing the word soccer to “Douching”. Before I knew it his page looked like a poorly executed mad lib.

Work began piling up on my next, and by that I mean a FB post went unanswered. Regardless, I was not living up to my potential. I listened to nothing but Aimee Mann and Ani Difranco for two weeks straight before my CEO finally knocked on my door and asked me if everything was alright. I looked up from my desk and into his soul, “Tell your daughters to never date athletes.” He nodded his head and backed away from my office with caution. Everyone sort of left me alone after that. My weekends were filled with drunken debouchery and my attempts at dressing “sexy and single” fell short and I looked more like a baby prostitute than anything else. I stopped wearing pants and eating anywhere besides my bed. I had spent the last 8 months allowing my life and my future to revolve around someone other than myself, someone who was using me and who didn’t really care for me at all. It was time to pick myself up off the floor, put on my big girl pants, and try to get my life back on track. It was time for a rebound.

There was another guy that I had, had my eye on. He had meaningless leg tattoos, a beard, and dumb job–the attraction was immediate. One night he even got drunk enough to tell me that he’s incapable of loving other people. We made out sloppily for hours on his sweat stained sheets. His room, his bed, and his beard reaked of stale cigarette smoke. He had “rebound” written all over him and I went in for the kill. It wasn’t until he rejected me, that I thought seriously about revaulating the decisions I was making. “But I’m hotter than him. I have a better job and a brand new car. Like, I have everything going for me. How can he NOT be into this??” My friend stared blankly from behind her lit cigarette. “Do you even like him?” “No, I’m just trying to get back out there.” She took a long pause before finally responding, “He sends snap chats of himself on the toilet, and you want to have sex with him.” “Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Sure I get rejected in relationships ALL THE TIME but never for casual sex. NEVER for casual sex. What’s happening to me?” My friend practically fell over laughing, my face flushed pink with embarrassment and suddenly I felt deeply irritated. “You need to relax, you’re just hitting your quarter-life crisis a little earlier than most people. You’ll be fine.”

Quarter-life crisis–It didn’t need to be explained. I knew exactly what those words meant as soon as they fell from her mouth. College was over, my friends had all found healthy relationships or had moved away, or both. Real life had begun and it was sucking me in some unknown direction, one filled with morning commutes and paperwork. I thought about my job, how hard I work and how little money I make, I thought about still living in Columbus in a stuffy condo that I hate, I thought about my latest failed relationship and realized that this was not where I thought I’d be at 23. It was enough to push me near the brink of a complete meltdown, during which I continued to try to answer my own question of What the fuck do I want out of life?

The truth is that I only really think I know what I want. I do know that I don’t want to be sitting in an office watching the 27th severe summer storm of the season only to realize that my windows are down and my umbrella’s in the car. Moments like these remind me that my life might be a cruel joke. There’s a reason why I don’t know what I want and it’s the same reason why these little life crisis’ exist. It’s because we tend to lose ourselves sometimes. We put other people’s needs before our own until we stop remembering who we are and what we were made for. We allow ourselves to become disconnected from our goals and dreams and once realized, it can cause stifling depression and anxiety. I’m tired of trying to live my life for some guy, or for my friends, or even for my parents. I’m looking for me, and I’m not going to stop until I’ve found her. I’m going to prove that your twenties are not a lost decade by making mine the into gold.

Love & Life: It’s Complicated


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always had a different answer for this question. One week I’d proudly tell adults and relatives that I wanted to be a psychiatrist and just days later decide that I was meant for the stage and I was made to be an award winning actress. I never had a strong hold on what I wanted to do with my life. The thought of doing one thing forever and ever sounds a bit mundane and passionless. In college, I changed my major three times, coming up with one new plan after another. Even at 23 I can’t really tell you what my ideal job would be because my dreams don’t really work like that. There isn’t just one thing I want to get up and do every day but more of a cause I long to stand for.

I was made to heal women and girls. I know this. It lives inside of me and continues to grow stronger and stronger as I become more engaged in feminist activism. There have been a handful of women who have entered my life at the exact time when I needed them the most. When I look back at where I’ve come from I imagine these women as a mile markers in my life’s journey. They guided me, pushed me forward, and gave me the hope and strength I needed to soldier on. I know what I was made for; I just don’t know what that looks like yet. I don’t know what form it has to take in order to be at its most effective.  So that’s what my life looks like. A long, winding, intricate, path that is leading me towards self-discovery.

His life isn’t really like mine. Well, it is and it isn’t. His purpose has a shape, has a name, has rules and guidelines. His career is already a fully formed idea. He’s an athlete so his career and his job are the same thing, whereas mine are not. I have a 9-5 position at a 3 million dollar a year non-profit in central Ohio. I have a salary and benefits, I even have a brand new car that I bought all by myself. He doesn’t have these things yet because sports don’t work the same way that a day job does. There are all these risks involved, make-it-or-break-it deadlines, fast transitions, and it can all be gone or it can all be up for grabs in the blink of an eye.

To me, his life seems terrifyingly unstable. On the upside, he has a dream that he can see. He is an athlete—he wants to be the best one, that’s tangible. He doesn’t have to go searching for a dream the way that I have to, but the downside is that he has to fight for it. He has to go where the money is, always chasing down the chance to advance, the chance to have control over his team and his life. Making plans is meaningless when everything is uncertain. So how could I, realistically, plan to move across the world with him when he asked me to? And honestly, I wanted to—I still want to. But I can’t leave my life, the life that I’ve created here, to live in constant uncertainty.

At first it seemed perfect—another undeniable sign that the two of us were meant to be together. Of course, I need to keep reminding myself that my life is not a Nicholas Sparks novel. When he told me about India I was in the middle of reading the national bestseller Half the Sky. I was drawn to the women in the book and I felt compelled to stand up and be a voice against sexual slavery and trafficking. When the opportunity to go to a country known for its mistreatment of women and girls arose I knew that this would be the next step in my journey and being beside him was where I needed to be.

But something went awry. In the midst of our excitement we stopped listening to one another. Somewhere between stress and hope we let communication spoil. Being a part of his life requires me to be able to pick up and leave whenever we have to, to stay in hot pursuit of his dream. I guess I didn’t realize this—that whatever kind of home I made there I would have to leave behind. I imagined working for centers that take in women who have escaped from brothels, setting up a make-shift school in a small backroom and teaching their children how to read and write, count and dream. I couldn’t just leave that behind and I couldn’t move to a country so hungry for change and keep my mouth shut, my eyes covered, and my hands at my sides. Once there, I would need to be involved and stay involved until I was damn well ready to move on.

This idea for my life doesn’t coincide with his. Because he’s never held a “normal” job he can’t quite grasp the restrictions mine has on my life. Professionally, I need to give my agency 6 weeks’ notice before I resign. If I quit without giving any notice then they have to struggle to find someone new to fill my position as quickly as possible. In the time they spend looking for a new hire my work would be piling up on the desks of my associates. I can only imagine what my next job interview in the states would be like….”What was your reason for leaving your last job?” “A man.” “Oh, I see.” It’s hard enough for a young woman in the workforce to be taken seriously, I don’t feel like adding “I’ll abandon my job for my boyfriend” to the list.

But did I mention that I’ve never wanted anyone more than the way I want him? The thought of being with another man just seems laughable and sort of sad to me. We’ve been at this semi-relationship-thing for a long time now but still the very sound of his voice in my ear gives me butterflies and starts Cee Lo’s Fool for You playing on repeat in my head. It’s the kind of infatuation where I could be a hostage in a convenient store shoot out and if he called I would shyly look up from the floor and kindly ask the masked assailant, “Can I take this?”

A couple weeks ago I met a boy. Well, I guess he’s actually a man. Clean, interesting, with a charming smirk. I thought about how easy my life would be if I was with him instead of the athlete. If I could throw my phone in the Olentangy and rid my mind of India and greatness and just kiss him instead—everything would be so much simpler. Ignorance is bliss but I’m not ignorant. I can’t unlearn what it’s like to be with a good man, one whose dreams and goals are as big as your own—a man who doesn’t just want to take a bite out of life but wants to consume every last crumb of it. So I turned away from the boy knowing that he’ll never be enough for me.

So that’s all of it—my big dilemma, my wanting to have my cake and eat it too scenario. I want our lives to intersect without having to make changes to either of them. I’ve known women who have thrown away their dreams to chase men—men who didn’t love them for long and who eventually threw them away. I’ve also heard the other story, the one with a woman who chooses her career over her lover and still wakes up every morning thinking about “the one who got away” even as she wears another man’s ring on her finger. For the first time in my life I don’t have a plan. I don’t have an answer to that daunting question of what I want to be when I grow up. I have found myself at a crossroads that I wasn’t at all prepared for. As I think of my path and the places it’s taken me and the long road I still have left to travel I take a look at the crossroads and wonder, “which way should I go?”

One Voice of Many

(A real photo from a brothel raid in the United States via

My arm has been hurting all day. The aching began when I woke up this morning. I stretched upwards towards the sky and felt a sharp pain shoot through my elbow and into my wrist. The pain was brief and blinding and I gasped as I held it against my breast. I knew why it hurt. I knew why the pain had come today and not yesterday or the day before. This pain was a sign, a warning, telling me that it’s time to stand and fight.

When he took it, he had me up against a wall. I had my arms out in front of me—pushing, wiggling, and trying to escape. I overextended my elbow in the struggle. Now the memory of my trauma is caught there and every time I hear rape, or feel it getting closer my arm aches and signals that it’s near.

Three women who had each been missing for nearly a decade escaped from a home on Cleveland’s west side where they were being held against their will. Most news stations haven’t come out and declared this as a case of sexual slavery but my sinking gut tells me that, that is exactly what this is. One girl, Amanda Berry called out to a neighbor for help as she scratched and pushed at the back door of the house which held her. After the neighbor helped her pry open the door she ran into his arms still clutching the hand of a six year-old girl. The heart wrenching 911 call she made after her escape can be heard all over mainstream media.

For the first time in 10 years we’re hearing Amanda Berry’s voice. A voice that her community believed had fallen silent. They probably thought that she had been kidnapped and killed, that her attacker was some deranged pervert who lusted for the blood of young girls. But he wasn’t. He was a school bus driver and Amanda wasn’t killed on the same night of her abduction, she was kept locked up in a house where she was raped, beaten, and humiliated at her captor’s convenience. Although it now appears less likely that this is a case of human trafficking – which is still a form of sexual slavery – we must take note that it has become increasinly more prevelant in the U.S.. Especially in my home state of Ohio. When we see cases where women and girls are being abducted by members of their own community it forces us to accept that rape is not a personal issue but a societal one.

Think of all the women and children who go missing from parks and neighborhoods every day who we assume have been kidnapped by one killer, one man, who is evil and unlike us. Now, let’s think about the fact that all these missing bodies could be hidden away in a dark room, two houses down from where we live. One man, one killer, one rapist who drives a white van isn’t the problem—we are the problem. Worldwide we have set up societal systems that allow women and children to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. By allowing this to continue we reinforce the notion that women are worthless and that our identities are meaningless. If there weren’t men willing to buy sex, and men and women who place a higher value on money than on the humanity of women and girls than sex trafficking wouldn’t exist, it’s that simple.

Last week 13 were arrested in New York for having ties in a human trafficking ring. These men were promising Mexican women brighter futures in the United States and then selling them to brothels once they crossed the border.  This wasn’t even big news. I didn’t see it in any headlines; it didn’t cover any of the popular magazines or printed papers that I pass in the supermarket. Besides an official news release from the Department of Homeland Security, the story didn’t see too much airtime. It was covered, but it didn’t get as much recognition as it should have. Women’s lives were stolen right under our nose. We should be up in arms about that but instead there’s just—silence.

Well I’m not going to be silent. I’m outraged and I will continue to express my thoughts on this issue fearlessly and with determination. When I stand up for women both here in the U.S. and around the world, I’m standing up for myself. When I fight against the desecration of women’s bodies, I fight for my own body. Human trafficking is the greatest form of genocide the world has ever known, claiming the lives of countless women and girls, and I’m sick of it. The rapes, the mistreatment, and the abuse of the sacred female have to end. I’ve made my stand, what will you do to stop human trafficking?

Going Out with a Bang


I sat at the bar in between two of my friends who were arguing over where to go next. He, of course opted for the gay bar and she was far less willing to spend another night surrounded by men who were more interested in what she was wearing on her feet than what she had in between her legs. I chose not to get involved; instead I stared at the flat screen T.V. in front of me. A soccer game was playing and as I watched the little brown men with perfect little builds dart across the field I couldn’t help but think of my ex. It had been over a month since we had last spoken and I wasn’t exactly pleased with how things ended. Basically, I found a psychotic amount of photos of him getting chummy with his ex girlfriend and when I asked him about them he simply stopped responding. Professional soccer player, maybe. Professional argument avoider, definitely! In the midst of my commiserating Drake’s ever popular, “Started From the Bottom” came shooting through the surrounding speakers. A song he frequently tweeted by a man (Canadian cripple) he idolized and adored. I gulped down my Makers and slammed the glass on the bar. “Who wants shots?!” And after that everything got kind of foggy.

We ended up at the gay bar because well, my gay friends always win the arguments. They are fantastic at convincing you that “it’s a great idea!” and “Just take another’s fine!”  If only conservative republicans would agree to sit down and have a drink with gays and lesbians then I really think we could get the ball rolling on this whole marriage equality issue.

Needless to say, they make the drinks strong. I watched the bartender flip the bottle upside down until the nozzle faced the floor as she poured whiskey into my glass. The splash of ginger ale she threw in seemed more like a garnish than anything. After two of these I made a sloppy attempt to dance on the bar, but fell. And received an inspirational pep talk from two random girls in the bathroom who assured me that calling him was a bad idea and if he really wanted to talk he would call me. “I don’t even know you, but I know you’re a catch! If he can’t see that than he’s crazy and you do not want to be with a crazy man!” I called him anyway.

I was clumsily shoving my phone back into my purse and attempting to light my cigarette from the wrong end when I caught the attention of the only straight guy at the bar. This is where my memory begins to fade. Apparently I didn’t notice his unibrow or the fact that he was wearing a suit. I definitely don’t recall locking arms with him and announcing that “I FOUND A STRAIGHT ONE AND I’M TAKING HIM WITH ME!” I also don’t really remember insisting he speak spanish to me the entire time we were having sex or getting mad at him afterwards and accusing him of not really being from the Dominican Republic because “Even my Spanish is better than that.”

In the morning I crept out of bed and tried my best not to wake him. I climbed into the shower and exhaled. Sick with hangover, I tried to best to wash whatever was left of my “Latin lover” off of my body. To my horror he was wide awake when I came back into my room. He began speaking to me cheerily and bringing up conversations we had, had the night before. I stared at him for a minute and my mind went blank. Oh my God, what is his name?! I sat still on the edge of my bed and struggled to remember anything about him but there was nothing there. It was no use, he could read it on my face. “You don’t remember much about me do you? That sucks. I remember everything about you.” I have become that douchey guy I always hated. This is my low point.

After he left I opened my laptop and there was some kind of spanish love poem in mid-play. I shuttered and closed it quickly. It had been warm the day before. So warm that my boss had let me leave work early and I was sure that it was going to be a good night. But no night is ever good when you’re trying to forget a person who you can’t stop remembering. I drank because I wanted a distraction. I wanted to kill the part of my brain that couldn’t let him go. Even if that meant losing something really important like my sense of smell or my entire liver. I had also done something else terrible, I used another person in an effort to take my mind off of someone else. Someone who I truly wanted to be with.  And sure I can tell my friends that if my ex hadn’t have left me feeling so broken then I wouldn’t have had to anger bang poor Havier, but we all know it wasn’t his fault. I feel like the typical response to a break up is to sleep with someone new, someone random who means nothing. Now that I can speak from experience I can say that that’s potentially the worst thing you can do. Using somebody doesn’t help you feel any less used than it does help you to, “get back out there”. Simply put, break ups suck and the only real way to heal from them is to take it easy and focus on yourself. Although drunken one night stands can sometimes become hilarious stories, the best way to cure heart ache is time, self-discovery, and an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s.