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In March, I started volunteering for the Raise Up Washington campaign by becoming a signature collector for Initiative 1433, which would help over one million Washingtonians by gradually increasing the minimum wage statewide and providing them with paid sick and safe leave.

Some of you might ask: didn’t we just raise the minimum wage in Washington?

No, not in the entire state. We only raised the minimum wage in Seattle and SeaTac to $15/hour. The rest of our state – from Olympia to Yakima and Bellingham to Vancouver – is still stuck with a dismal $9.47 minimum wage. This is hardly a livable income workers who are struggling to support themselves and their families.

I-1433 raises the minimum wage gradually over the next four years to $13.50 for all Washington workers. It also mandates that workers receive seven paid sick or safe days per calendar year (which equates to one hour of paid sick or safe leave per 40 hours worked).

For people who sometimes get sick or have to take care of sick loved ones (i.e., everyone), paid sick days are a lifesaver. Many of us take our sick days for granted, but 1 million Washington workers receive zero paid sick leave. Imagine being a single parent working a minimum wage job who has an ailing child and cannot afford childcare. This parent must make a ridiculous choice – do they leave the sick kid to fend for themselves in order to make ends meet? Or risk their job and lose vital income to stay home and care for their family?

No one should have to make this choice. And yet, people are forced to do so every day in this state. Because we simply don’t offer a living minimum wage to Washington workers.

Let’s talk about the incredible benefit that low-wage workers would receive with a minimum wage bump. For a family of three, the poverty wage is $9.65/hour. That’s 18 cents more than what we are paying the low wage workers in our state. Yikes! And without a living wage, these workers are sinking further and further away from the American dream (and the middle class).

But this is not only a class issue – it is a race and gender issue as well. Over 40% of Black and Latinx workers earn less than $13.50 an hour, and far more female workers than males earn minimum wage.

What about small business? Cries the voices from the back. Well, that’s a legitimate question with a (somewhat) simple answer. Research has proven that raising the minimum wage has NO discernible impact on employment levels – which means that employers are not forced to fire their workers because of a raised wage. This is the case because of a number of other means by which small employers can compensate for paying high wages – and yes, that often includes a minuscule increase (about 0.4%) in prices. But what you probably don’t know is that these same employers often enjoy the benefits of lower turnover rates and greater worker satisfaction because of a wage bump.

Safe leave is the least discussed component of I-1433, but is vitally important. Safe leave means paid time off for workers who are suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. They can use this time to move out of an abuser’s house, attend to issues in court, file restraining orders, work with law enforcement, to find a safe house, and much more – without losing work that they desperately need. The fact that we are not already providing these services to Washington state DV and rape victims appalls me.

When I was assaulted by my ex, I had to take time off from work because of physical and emotional trauma, to move out of my abuser’s home, and to go to court. I didn’t receive any pay for this time. It was only by the grace of my deeply generous family that I stayed afloat financially.

For many survivors of DV and rape, I-1433 could mean a real chance of escaping their abuser and/or getting justice. In this way, a vote for paid safe days is a bonafide lifesaver.

I commend the Raise Up Washington campaign, and I urge you to sign I-1433, so that the measure will appear on the ballot this fall. We need at least 250,000 signatures to qualify.

Look for volunteers all over the state collecting signatures, visit the Raise Up Washington headquarters, or get in touch with me directly – I’ll bring you the petition to sign! And come November, make your vote count by voting for working families.

For more, check out this KIRO news story about the campaign featuring yours truly.😉

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Today I am one year violence free.

It has been arguably the hardest year of my life, and the most painful. I am unfathomable grateful to the people in my life who stuck by me this year, who showed me what true friendship really looks like. You have meant more to me than you will ever know.
There were times this year when I was so low that I didn’t see a way out. But I made it through because of your support and I am now so hopeful for the future. I am sitting in the cafe right now writing this, overcome by so much happiness that tears are spilling down my cheeks.
If anyone out there is in an abusive relationship (whether that abuse is physical, verbal, or emotional), please know that even though taking that first step to get out is SO damn hard, you deserve to be treated with love and respect. No matter what your abuser is telling you, you ARE worth it. You are worth all the love in the world, and more. I believe in you and I am here to talk with you and support you ANY damn time of the day or night.
I’ll be celebrating all day today, and tonight in Capitol Hill. Any and all are welcome to come and join me.
My heart is so full of love.

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I don’t know why I’ve held back on sharing this for so, so long.

My ex was convicted of Count 2 Unlawful Imprisonment DV (Domestic Violence), AKA kidnapping. Because he pleaded guilty to kidnapping me, they dismissed his Assault 1 charge (probably because I didn’t get seriously injured).

Justice, at least some amount, was served to him by the Seattle court system.

He received:
– Probation for 2 years, during which he is to abstain from all drug and alcohol use including marijuana and will receive random urinalysis testing
– 5 days of mandatory work crew
– He cannot receive any new criminal law violations
– He must ask permission in order to leave WA state
– He is ordered to complete a Domestic Violence Assessment and to abide by any recommendation
– He is to receive a chemical dependency evaluation and complete any recommended treatment
– He cannot possess any firearms
– There is a 2 year No Contact Order in place (he cannot be within 500 feet of me, my place of work or my home, and can be arrested on site if he is)
– He must pay fines of a little over $1000

My Victim Advocate also told me that she has almost never heard the judge speak so sternly to a defendant in all of her time at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. She told me that the judge must have been deeply impacted by what I wrote in my victim impact statement. He said to my ex (and his whole family, who were in the court room):

“I want to be clear that if you miss a UA or come back positive I will likely jail you. You have issues that you need to deal with; I am very concerned based upon what I read in this report about you dragging a woman, covering her mouth, telling her that you are going to do unspeakable things to her and putting your hands over her neck, which is the number one indicator that you are likely to kill somebody in a domestic violence incident. I am not going to give you any leeway; for the next two years if there is any violation you will be seeing me and you can expect to go to jail.

I want this to be clear that you are to go to this Domestic Violence Assessment and you are to be honest with the assessor and you are going to do what he or she tells you to do and you are going to do what probation officer tells you to do. You are to not use alcohol or non-prescribed drugs. You are not going to violate the law. You are going to be squeaky clean for the next two years. You do NOT want to come back and see me because of what’s likely to happen then….and you need to get your LIFE IN ORDER so that you do not find your way back here.”

She also mentioned that the judge told him that his behavior was very homicidal, at which his mother (physically battered for years by her own husband, who was sitting next to her) burst into tears.

I cried when I read this. Cried because it’s hard to understand how I got to this place. Cried for his mother, who I cared for dearly. Cried because I was so happy that some sort of justice was doled out to this man that I used to love so much. Cried because I was afraid he might come after me due to being so mad that he wasn’t going to be allowed to party or travel whenever he wanted. Cried from exhaustion.

I’m still healing every day and I just want to tell everyone out there who’s dealing with DV that things do get better. But it’s a freakin’ slow process. And life sucks sometimes in the aftermath of this type of betrayal.

Still, I know how incredibly lucky I am to have escaped before we got married, had kids, or he did real physical harm to me or someone else in my life.

Just remember, friends, things aren’t always what they appear to be on the outside. If you think your friend might be in an abusive relationship, find a way to gently talk to them about it. You could save a life.

If I can help prevent even one person from going through what I’ve dealt with over the last year, it will all be worth it. I continue to stay as strong as I can, despite health and emotional issues resulting from this misery. I hope you all keep on staying strong too. You are worth it – and you deserve to be truly, unconditionally loved.

While doing internet research yesterday, I found my way to the website of Washington state nonprofit Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN). Curious, I clicked on the link “Is my relationship abusive?” The page presented the following questions:

Do you feel…

  • Confused about your relationship?
  • Like you are going crazy?
  • That you are “walking on eggshells”?
  • While doing internet research yesterday, I found my way to the website of Washington state nonprofit Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN). Curious, I click on the link “Is my relationship abusive?” The page presented the following questions:
  • It is hard for you to spend time with family or friends?
  • As if you can’t do anything right?
  • That your partner decides when and where you have sex?
  • Like you are in a relationship with two completely different people?
  • That you need to justify everything you do?
  • Drained?

Does your partner…

  • Call you names or put you down?
  • Want to know what you’re doing and who you’re with all the time?
  • Act extremely jealous?
  • Find excuses to keep you from getting enough sleep?
  • Push, shove, or grab you?
  • Keep you from leaving when you want to leave?
  • Force you to do things sexually you don’t feel comfortable doing?
  • Promise to change (get counseling, go to AA, etc.)?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, when considering my last serious relationship. I didn’t even need to think twice before I wholeheartedly agreed with every single statement on the page, except for one (which was more of a half-truth).

Just as I have been many times since I was attacked by my ex-boyfriend (and subsequently came to the devastating realization that I was a victim of domestic violence, emotional abuse, and manipulation to the highest degree), I am dumbfounded by how stereotypical my DV experience was.

And as always, I wonder why I didn’t realize what was going on sooner. But that’s all part of being with an abusive person – it’s a constant battle between listening to your own logic and what you know is right in your heart of hearts, and listening the things that your partner tells you. The reality presented to me by my ex was one in which I was the most selfish, foolish, shameful, and undeserving person. He was “trying so hard to forgive me” for all of my many “sins,” but he just didn’t know if he could be strong enough to do so. I’ve always struggled with my self-confidence and self-worth, so it was easy to believe these things coming from the person who I was deeply in love with (not to mention living with).

Would I have left earlier if I had known what I know now? There’s no way to know for sure, but I’d like to think that the answer is yes. That’s why I challenge every person reading this post to consider their relationship with their partner. If you have any question in your mind whether it is abusive, please do yourself the incredible, possibly lifesaving, favor of learning more about what domestic abuse looks like.

If you are pondering whether or not you are involved in an abusive relationship, I suggest that you read the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. This book is an incredible investigation of the mind of abusive and controlling men (please note: people who are in relationships with abusive women, as well as folks who are in same-sex relationships, can also gain a lot of valuable information from the book, but it is written primarily for cisgender women who are in abusive romantic relationships with cisgender men).

The incredibly strong and brave women that I met at my first DV support group meeting suggested this book to me. It changed my perspective on everything. It made me realize that I wasn’t crazy – that the horrible feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, and isolation – along with the attachment I was feeling towards my abuser – were all normal things. More than normal in fact – they were the standard.

The more I read about domestic violence and abusive partners, the clearer the pattern becomes. I only wish that I could have recognized it earlier. But maybe, just maybe, sharing my story will help someone else do just that.

If you have any question in your mind about whether or not you are being controlled or abused – or you answered “yes” to any of the questions listed above – please take a harder look at your relationship. Read Bancroft’s book. If you can’t read it at home for fear of your partner, read it at the library or at work. Seek help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to get your questions answered by a real human being who understands what you are going through.

Whatever you choose to do, remember first and foremost that you are worthy of true, unconditional love and you do not deserve to be abused (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexual, or in any other way) – no matter what your partner would have you believe.

For immediate assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE
TTY: 1-800-787-3224

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Originally posted in Everyday Feminism

(Content warning: sexual assault, rape, victim-blaming)

In February of 2014, actor Shia LaBeouf was whipped, stripped, and raped. By a woman.

Although he remained silent about the assault for a time, the young actor eventually told the world that he was raped by a female stranger during his Los Angeles art installation, #IAMSORRY. The installation ran during Valentine’s Day weekend and allowed art show attendees to sit silently in a private room with LaBeouf, who wore a paper bag over his head.

In an October 2014 interview with Dazed Digital magazine, LaBeouf told reporter Aimee Cliffthat a woman whipped his legs for ten minutes, removed his clothes, and proceeded to rape him. After she fled from the scene, LaBeouf sat silently in shock, unsure of what to do or where to turn.

LaBeouf’s art show collaborators, British artist Luke Turner and Finnish artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö, claimed to have intervened to stop the assault, but the woman (whose identity remains unknown) has not been charged with any crime.

Sadly – but not unexpectedly – LaBeouf received disturbing backlash for speaking out.

Critics asked why he didn’t “fight her off” (thus attempting to discredit the deep loss of control that LaBeouf experienced when he was raped) and made jokes that he must have enjoyed it because “what man wouldn’t enjoy no-strings-attached sex?”

Others accused him of fabricating the rape for publicity or laughed off the feasibility of a man being raped by a woman entirely.

These taunts, accusations, and denials are exactly the type of victim-blaming that the feminist movement has been fighting against for decades in terms of the rape of marginalized people.

They deny the power and control that LaBeouf’s female assailant exerted over him because he is a man and therefore should have “fought back.”

Many people simply won’t admit to the real societal damage caused by women who sexually assault men.

The patriarchy has cemented society’s idea that “real” men are always craving sex and constantly, infallibly “ready to go.” Under these prescribed circumstances – where women hold the key to sex, which men are relentlessly seeking – men are expected to be grateful for any sexual advances thrown their way, wanted and unwanted alike.

Worse yet, popular culture has made male rape into a culturally accepted joke.

Let me be very clear about one thing: Rape is never a joke.

The concept that sexual assault of a man by a woman is impossible, ridiculous, or funny stems directly from assumptions about patriarchal gender roles – precisely the same assumptions that are used to blame and silence other rape survivors.

There is no question that in our world, the number of cisgender men raped by women is much lower than the number of cis and trans women, trans men, and non-binary people who are raped by men. But this doesn’t mean that male survivors should be cast aside or laughed at.

In order to be true allies of rape survivors, we absolutely must support all survivors – not just those who we identify with.

This article seeks to investigate the experience of one type of rape survivor specifically – that wherein the survivors are cisgender men, which means that their experience of their own gender matches that which they were assigned at birth.

And hopefully, by understanding more about the rape of men by women and recognizing ways that society undermines male rape survivors, we can create a more inclusive community where all survivors feel safe and supported.

In order to do so, let’s take a look at some significant reasons why the rape or sexual assault of men by women should never be downplayed or joked about.

1. An Erection Does Not Equal Consent

Let’s start here: Not all men have penises, and not all people with penises are men (because not all people are cisgender!). However, the social myth that it’s impossible for men to be raped by women comes from the (oppressive) assumptions that 1) all men have penises and 2) erect penises are always signs of sexual arousal and consent.

But despite what people will tell you, it is physically possible for someone with a penis to be raped by someone with a vagina.

The scientific truth is that men can have a physiological response to sexual coercion even if consent has not been given or desire does not exist.

Research shows that deep fear and traumatic stress, coupled with the physical stimulation of an assault, can result in involuntary erections or ejaculations.

As another example, according to research psychoanalyst Paul Joannides, most men experience REM sleep erections in the morning when they first awaken – and these erections are often not accompanied by feelings of sexual desire at all.

Simply put, just because a man has an erection does not mean he wants (or has consented to) sex – because the body is capable of having erections without any sense of sexual desire.

This is not unlike the phenomenon in which people with vaginas who are raped sometimes experience self-lubrication of the vagina or even orgasm during their assault.

These survivors often have a hard time admitting that they experienced physical arousal or pleasure while being raped, and feel that their body has “let them down.”

It’s plain and simple: Sex without consent is rape – erection or not, lubrication or not, and last but not least, orgasm or not.  And this is universally true, regardless of either person’s gender or sexual orientation and no matter what prior relationship existed between the two individuals.

All people deserve to have complete autonomous choice in their sexual activity.

This remains true even if no physical violence has been enacted against the survivor (see section three for more about this important distinction). Just like a woman is not “asking for it” by wearing a short dress, a man is not “asking for it” because he has an erection.

2. Sexual Assault of Men by Women Is More Common Than You Think

Society teaches men and women from an early age to strive for power and control – and that rape is one of the most devastating and powerful forms of control over another person. To believe that these societal messages affect only men is false. Women are susceptible as well, and women can be rapists – even if the number of female perpetrators is much, much lower than the number of male rapists.

For example, statutory rape of a male student by a female teacher is one way in which an older woman can exert authority and power over a younger man. And although she may be the most famous case, Mary Kay Letourneau is not the only predatory teacher ever to take advantage of a young male student.

Over the last few years, an increase in cases of female teachers committing statutory rape against their teenage male students has been reported.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the numbers of assaults are going up – it may simply suggest that more survivors are coming forward.

Still, there are undoubtedly many more cases that go unreported – due to manipulation and abuse of the minor, or due to the minor’s fear of society’s retribution against them.

Statutory rape of boys by adult women occurs outside of the classroom as well. Women who sexually assault their own children or children whom they have authority over (as the child’s counselor, coach, or mentor, for example) make up many of the cases.

But it’s not just boys under 18.

Adult men are also sexually harassed or assaulted by their female partners.

However, because of the lack of research done in this field and the fact that many men feel intense pressure not to report these crimes, statistics regarding the rape of adult men by women are unreliable.

When reviewing this topic, it’s also very important to recognize that the number of identified woman rapists is very low compared to that of men overall. Only 3-4% of single-perpetrator sexual assaults are attributed to women.

Taking into account that we don’t have reliable statistics about how many men are raped by women – and the undeniable fact that even if we had accurate numbers, they would be drastically lower than those of cis and trans women, trans men, and non-binary people who are raped by men – it’s crucial to recognize that we can still help male survivors of rape.

And of equal importance is the fact that we can be supportive of them in a way that doesn’t detract from the support offered to other survivors.

3. Not All Sexual Coercion Involves Physical Violence

Woman perpetrators often use very different tactics than men to push for sex, such as repeated unwanted touching, emotional manipulation, and intoxication.

Categories of sexual coercion include foresexual or presexual contact (kissing, touching, or groping against the survivor’s will or without their consent), coercive sex (described above), attempted rape, and completed rape.

Studies show that women are much more likely to instigate unwanted foresexual contact or coercive sex than the latter two categories.

New research estimates that roughly 19-31% of college men experience some degree ofunwanted sexual contact, and researchers believe that the bulk of the perpetrators in these cases are women.

A woman who coerces or forces a man to have sex with her, even without initiating any physical violence, is still a rapist. “People think men can’t be raped and they don’t understand that…no still means no,” says Curtis St. John, a representative for MaleSurvivor, a national support group for male survivors of sexual abuse.

It’s crucial to remember that all sexual harassment, manipulation, and assault is extremely problematic, for men as well as women – and downplaying any aspect of it hurts the movement to support survivors.

4. Survivors Who Are Men Are Even Less Likely to Report Being Assaulted

Survivors of sexual assault who are men are much less likely than women to report it to the police. There are many reasons for this, all grounded in society’s fucked up teachings about gender.

Sadly, some men may not even realize that a crime has been committed against them.

According to sexual assault researcher Garnets, “because most men have internalized the social belief that the sexual assault of men is beyond the realm of possibility…men have trouble accepting their rape experience as real, not only because it happened to them, but that it happened at all.”

This idea is bolstered in cases where no physical harm was done to the survivor.

Other men may feel that they have lost their manhood as a result of being assaulted and experience profound shame and embarrassment, causing them to stay silent.

Many straight men don’t speak out due to fear of being ridiculed as gay because they weren’t interested in sexual advances from a woman.

Because the patriarchy has taught them that being gay is “wrong” from birth, they may not even be willing to admit that they didn’t want to have sexual contact with their rapist, for fear of being labeled as gay.

Project Unbreakable has chronicled some of the horrible things that male survivors have been told by their rapists and their supposed “support systems.” One survivor’s ex-fiancé told him to “man up” when he panicked after seeing his rapist for the first time in the eight years since the rape occurred. Another young man was told by his rapist, “You’re a guy. You can’t say no to a girl like me.”

When messages like these are the prevalent experience of male survivors, it’s no surprise that many are hesitant to speak up.

In order for this to change, it’s crucial that we as a society stand up for male survivors along with other survivors. All survivors deserve equal recognition and equal justice.

5. Male Victims Experience Traumatic Fallout After Rape, But Are Still Made into Jokes

Many men who are sexually coerced or raped by women experience long-term negative consequences, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

This is especially likely to happen when older women rape young men or when alcohol is involved in the rape.

As previously mentioned, a man who has been raped by a woman and achieved erection or ejaculation during the assault may feel deep disappointment in his own body. He may feel that he doesn’t have the “right” to call the event rape because he had an orgasm.

Even if his body had a different reaction to the assault, he may still feel deeply conflicted about calling the rape out on what it is. After all, society has told this very man – consistently since he was very young – that having sex should be one of his top priorities in life and that he will be admired and venerated for his sexual conquests.

Research shows that most rape survivors, regardless of gender, are deeply traumatized by the unfathomable loss of control over their own bodies that they experience when raped.

However, men are much less likely to be honest about how much they are suffering in the aftermath of an assault, due to gendered expectations of masculinity and the public response to male rape.

It’s no secret that the rape of men is downplayed by the media and often made the punchline of jokes. Whether it’s a news commentator doubting the legitimacy of a survivor’s experience, or a crude joke on Tosh.O, the rape of men by women simply isn’t taken seriously in the public eye.

But here’s the thing. Rape is never funny. Certainly not to survivors. And it should never be delegitimized or downplayed.

Check out this article for just a few reasons why rape jokes are never acceptable (and ways to cope with hearing them).

Resources for Male Survivors

Men who have been sexually assaulted or raped by women are not alone.

Organizations like MaleSurvivor and 1 in 6 offer helpful resources for men dealing with the aftermath of rape, including hotlines, support groups, access to therapists, daily affirmations of hope, and recovery retreats. They also provide a large body of research for people who want to learn more.

And if you are the partner of a rape survivor, read up on ways that you can support and help your partner.

All Rape Is Real

There’s still a long way to go in acknowledging and respectfully representing men assaulted by women.

After LaBeouf’s experience at #IAMSORRY, popular commentator Piers Morgan made an all too familiar victim-blaming statement, proclaiming that “LaBeouf is one of the toughest actors in Hollywood…[but] he just let it all happen.” Morgan also called LaBeouf’s allegations of rape “truly pathetic and demean[ing to] real rape victims.”

As if Morgan – or anyone else, for that matter – has the authority to define what “real” rape is.

Rape comes in many forms and sizes, but it is devastating to the survivor no matter what.

And as feminist critic Van Badham eloquently states, “After Shia LaBeouf’s art gallery trauma, we should affirm that all rapes are ‘real,’ and all are breaches of trust.”

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To become a better ally of rape survivors, we must support all of them. And wonderfully, supporting male survivors of rape actually helps all survivors.

By working together – and never delegitimizing any case of sexual abuse – we can create a more inclusive survivor community.

DaniKat001

Yesterday was the second pretrial hearing of my ex (hereafter to be known as X). The second time that he got up in front of a judge and had his lawyer ask for a “continuance” (ie, more time) to come to an agreement on his case.

X has been charged with Assault and Unlawful Imprisonment. Or, domestic violence and kidnapping. Whatever you want to call it. The prosecutor in the case asked for him to be given 34 days in jail, fines totaling $1143.00, a criminal no contact order protecting me for two calendar years, a mandatory chemical dependency evaluation (and treatment if necessary) and the completion of domestic violence counseling.

In all likelihood, he will just end up paying the fines. It’s not that I want him to go to jail. No, that seems too dangerous of an outcome in a way. X would probably stew in his cell, reciting a constant mantra of that crazy bitch, that crazy fucking bitch. Perhaps he would come out even angrier at the world, at women, and at me.

No, it’s not jail time that I wish for him. It’s clarity of mind. It’s change of attitude and character – so that he won’t go on to hurt another woman. Another partner that he makes his whole world and swears his never-ending devotion to, that he tells is the most wonderful person he has ever met, that he is so proud of and wants to spend his life with…until she doesn’t live up to his perfect ideal of a subservient housewife who automatically knows how to make all of his favorite dishes perfectly. Who was practically a virgin until she met him, but is know well-schooled in how to please his needs and fit his every fantasy. Who is willing to put her own desires, beliefs, convictions – and even her own friends and family – aside for his.

I was never going to be that girl. And I think that the more that X got to know me, the angrier I made him. I wasn’t docile enough, innocent enough, selfless enough…and I had strong beliefs. Perhaps this was the worst thing of all. He once told me that I could NEVER teach our children about feminism.

Feminism, he said, was something he just did not like. When asked if he knew what it was, he became more volatile. X clearly did not have the slightest clue. But any time it became obvious to both of us that I was better educated than him, or that I was more knowledgeable about a certain subject, he would erupt into a state of rage and tell me how truly awful I was for “talking back” to him or for “making him look bad” in front of so-and-so.

There is so much that I want to say. And I don’t know that it is 100% safe for me to say it. But I am sure as hell that I need to say it – or this will just be one more story of domestic violence that goes unheard. One more sad tale of control and abuse that gets swept under the rug and forgotten – by everyone except the person who bears the scars, that is.

I need to repeat to myself: I am safe. I am loved. I will be okay. There is a good and happy future waiting. I do not need to feel this pain forever. I will not spend my life in fear of men. I will not let one angry, hurt man destroy my soul. I will not be controlled and abused. I will protect, support, and love myself. I will move on. I will be strong. I will find new and deeper strength each day.

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Me sunbathing at Suryalila

It’s been a long time, friends. A lot has happened. Ups and downs, adventures and joyful moments, sorrows and anxious nights. There’s much too much to write it all down in one sitting.

But to quickly summarize – I took a giant leap and traveled to Andalucia, Spain to take an incredible yoga teacher training course with Frog Lotus Yoga on an olive orchard/retreat center called Suryalila. I had the time of my life, worked my yoga butt off, wept tears of frustration, made incredible friends, pushed my boundaries, and learned more than I thought possible in 20 days.

I left the experience with a whole new approach to yoga, a deep passion of mine, and continued on to travel more in Spain, Germany, and Austria. I’ll upload pictures another day, but suffice to say, it was the experience of a lifetime. I will always be so thankful that I worked so hard to get there (working odd jobs all summer and getting donations from wonderful friends enabled me to pay the tuition), and that I succeeded in reaching my goal of becoming a yoga teacher.

I am now teaching yoga at multiple esteemed studios in Seattle (and have been since two months after I returned from Europe). I love the freedom and joy that this job gives me. When my students come to me after class and tell me how much they enjoyed their practice, my heart fills.

Striving to uplift my students while working out their minds and bodies can be a lofty task. There are days when I just don’t feel like teaching. Days when I feel like I’d rather pull my mat to the side of the room and just flow through the asanas (movements) while someone else leads the practice. But once I actually get to the front of the class and see those radiant faces, I am so grateful for the ability to guide them.

Other than teaching, I’m also working as the PR Manager of a growing vegan protein powder company, Sprout Living. This awesome group of twenty-somethings is dedicated to creating the very best organic, raw, non-GMO, cruelty-free protein on the market, and I’m proud to be part of the team.

That’s the very briefest of updates of course. There is a lot more to tell – not all of it happy. In fact, some of it is so devastating that I am still reeling as I write these words. But those tales are for another day.

For now I am simply happy to say that I feel ready to write again. I look forward to sharing stories, opinions, pictures, and much more with you all.❤