What’s at stake in the midterm elections?

46.1 percent of Americans age 18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential elections, according to the census government website. Younger voters are known for skipping the midterm elections, viewing them as unimportant. Typically Republicans vote more often in midterms, although hopefully opposition to Trump and concerns with Russia could swing it this time around. This year early vote count is showing that Republicans are more likely to vote early than Democrats and on average, 60 percent of voters show up for the presidential elections whereas merely 40 percent of those same voters turn up for midterms.

If this hasn’t already made you curious as to why voting these coming midterms is so important, let me break this down a little bit more for you. Midterm elections obviously happen in between every presidential election. Since congress is literally up for grabs at the moment, who takes congress will set the stage for the rest of President Trump’s term and for years to come. This election is being called a “Referendum on Donald Trump” because if the Democrats can secure congress it would insure that any Republican legislation would be dead on arrival and there would definitely be more investigations into corruption, Russia and Trump’s businesses.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that although I’ve voted every presidential election, absentee from overseas, since I turned 18, I haven’t voted every midterm election. During the Obama years I kind of just sat there going, everything is fine for another 4 years… but something I wasn’t paying attention to was the fact that the Republicans had the majority in the House of Representatives and Senate since 2010 and have slowly gained more control since. If we look back it becomes easier to see how someone like President Trump was actually elected. As someone that was completely shocked by the outcome of our last election, I, like many of you, realized it was time to start paying more attention.

So, how does this work? We know that Republicans are in control at the moment but if Democrats take control of either house, it could spark major changes. Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. House elections are 2 year terms so literally every seat is up for grabs. Republicans currently hold 246 seats while Democrats hold 193 and 6 are currently vacant. More than 40 Republicans aren’t running again including house speaker Paul Ryan. Flipping the house has only happened 3 times in 25 years so it is pretty rare. Our senate is comprised of 100 Senators, 2 from each state. Senate serves 6 year terms so elections are staggered every 2 years meaning 1/3 of the Senate is currently up for grabs (35 seats). The Senate is currently controlled by the Republicans by a tiny margin. 36 governorships are also up for grabs and we are seeing a historical amount of women running, mostly Democrats. As you can see, a lot is at stake in this election! But not only that, it’s an incredibly exciting time as well!

It is incredibly close and tight as far as predictions go. And if you remember 2 years ago as well as I do, I am paying even closer attention now and leaving nothing up to chance. Look, I get it, I have friends and family members that don’t vote because they feel that they aren’t educated enough on politics or the political process. That was a fine excuse before but it doesn’t work anymore. If you don’t know where you stand, there are basic online quizzes that can give you a start to point you in the direction of candidates that align with your beliefs. Check out this quiz here to get started! Once you know where you stand, identify the issues that you believe in the most and find candidates that share your beliefs and values. Voting is your right! And it’s time we stop leaving it in other people’s hands! Lets start the discussion and become an active member of society. Young people, please vote!

If you’re still not convinced let me remind you that whoever controls congress, controls the country. There are SO many things at stake in this election that surely ONE of them hits home for you! The big things up for debate include gun control, health care, environmental policy, infrastructure spending, immigration, voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, criminal justice reform, and student loan policy. Surely you believe strongly in AT LEAST one of these things, and if you don’t you ARE directly affected by multiple issues I just listed! AND if you’re still not convinced it’s time to do your research and vote on November 6th!

I know this article may seem a little bit bias, because it is. I think it’s clear to you where I stand but that’s not the point, the point is that you have the right to vote and I want EVERYONE to exercise their right! Even if you don’t stand on my side, stand up for anything! It might sound like I only want you to vote if you’re a young democrat but this is a call to ALL voters! If everyone votes then at least we know that majority of our population is being represented accurately. It’s time to stop bitching and it’s time to start voting. Do it.

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#metoo is the catalyst

The hashtag #metoo has gone viral this week, with women posting their experiences with unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault publicly on Facebook in hopes that men will begin to see the magnitude of the problem. We’ve been told our whole lives that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted or raped, which is too high of a number regardless, but doesn’t even begin to explain the myriad of things that we experience as women on a day to day basis.

In light of this I feel inspired to tell a story that changed my life. That changed absolutely everything I believed about myself, my autonomy and my body. A story that has been told many times, that resonated with every woman I know and one that ended and started my life again.

I was drugged and raped at my own house when I was 17. My parents were out of town and I had friends over which led to other people being invited that I didn’t know very well. Same old story. I remember having 2 drinks and then completely blacking out. I remember him on top of me and being completely aware of it all and not being able to move. I remember wanting to fight with everything in me but being absolutely helpless. The next day I cried to my friends and they told me I was raped. I was too scared to call a spade a spade. A girlfriend of mine brought me into Planned Parenthood for a rape kit and called my parents because I was too ashamed to do it on my own. I called a guy I was dating at the time and he immediately told me it was my fault because I was drinking. I felt all of the shame immediately and tried to hide the evidence and clean myself up for fear of being judged or labeled.

Although 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetime only 1 in 10 actually report it. I reported it. It went no where. Another “victim” lost in the system. My word against his, no evidence because I showered, did the dishes, and deleted his text messages that said, “you’re not going to tell people I like, raped you, are you?” In full on survival mode, I did what I needed to do to try to feel normal again. I remember walking into school on the first day of senior year and his locker was next to mine. I requested a change. Entering the cafeteria one day he held the door open for me from across the parking lot, staring me down, making my skin crawl and bringing back all of the same feelings and emotions. I went to counseling because my parents thought I needed it and sat there with my arms crossed, refusing to talk about it, insisting I was fine for 6 months.

It carried into University where I went from straight A’s and dance captain, studious, barely drinking- to partying to forget, denying myself the right to feel any emotions, blaming myself for what happened because maybe I shouldn’t have had that party, had that drink, trusted those people. I was a bad kid, that’s what I thought. It ruined my relationships because I didn’t enjoy sex and felt shame during sexual intimacy. My high school boyfriend held me down the first time while I cried and refused to stop. He kept covering my mouth and telling me to “relax”. These stories are normal! My experience isn’t unique! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to women I know and love share their experiences and heard everyone in the room say, “me too”. Me too. You too. Her too.

By 19 I was struggling with a drug addiction and a partying lifestyle. I was completely out of control. Because in the back of my head, not dealing with the root of the problem became the way I was dealing. I refused to talk about it or even admit the experience to anyone except the police, who were no help. I began to hate myself. I felt disgust with my body. I hated and didn’t trust men. I spiraled and forgetting became my solution. I found myself in rehab after my freshman year of college. It was the first time that I saw the strength, beauty and healing power of talking about things. I got to share my story and listen to others and it changed me. I was told that I needed to try to control my drinking, because it was obvious to my counselors that I didn’t try to control it because I wanted to be out of control. They told me to spend 6 months in counseling afterwards, sober. I thought at the time that after 6 months I’d be excited to get back to partying, but surprisingly 6 months came, then 9, then 1 year and finally after 2 years on my 21st birthday I had my first drink again.

Being sober changed my life and saved me. I changed my major to Women’s Studies because I remember the women that held my hand while I had the rape kit done. They told me that they could stand outside or stand next to me but either way they weren’t leaving. I yelled at one of them and said, “you don’t understand” and I remember the way that she looked at me and said that she did. After that I realized I now had a power to share my story and be there for someone else that experienced what I did, knowing that I understood. I worked for a sexual assault clinic, I volunteered on campus for a non profit called WATCH. We took notes during sexual assault and domestic violence cases, at the court house, documenting and making public whether or not the victim was re-victimized during the trial. Did they ask her what she was wearing, how much she had to drink, how many previous sexual partners she’d had- like any of those things matter in that moment.

Finding my voice allowed me to help others. Sharing my story and allowing myself to talk openly about it became the catalyst for the rest of my life. It changed my lifestyle, my mentality and my college major. It made me strong. But first, it made me hard. I tried to fight it, I tried to blame myself, I tried to be quiet. But in the end, all of those things only hurt me. #metoo is the catalyst for awareness surrounding sexual assault. I hope that it softens men when they understand that it’s their mothers, daughters, sisters. I’m not saying this is isolated only to women because I’ve seen many posts from men in my life that have been assaulted by women. This is the catalyst, this is the conversation we need to start having so that we can start raising men right and stop saying things like, “boys will be boys”. Your gender is no longer an excuse for your behavior.

The world needs more men with gentleness on their lips, flowers in their hair. Not balled up fists and denial of their emotions. I don’t blame the men that have hurt me because I know this is a bigger conversation about the way that society teaches men to be men. Although they’re taught to protect us, they aren’t taught softness. Although I’m incredibly happy to hear women so openly sharing their stories I want to know what’s next? The dialogue is our catalyst but what now? How do we make the world a safer place for women AND men? How do we learn to balance our masculine and feminine within ourselves and the wider world?

I want to see solutions and action. Raise your boys to play with dolls and teach your daughter’s to stand up for themselves. If you son is bossy you say he’ll be a leader, if your daughter is bossy you tell her to be quiet. Women are sick of being catcalled EVERY DAY. We’re sick of our bodies being policed without our input, your laws all over our bodies, men determining the future of birth control and abortion without the opinions of women. Where does this end? When can we start telling these stories and be taken seriously by our bosses, our partners, and especially other women?

It’s 2017 and it’s time to wake up! So ladies, keep sharing these stories! And men, start listening to your women with more softness, more love. Maybe you don’t understand, you probably don’t, but all we need is to be listened to, believed. It starts here.

#metoo

An Open Letter about the Million Women’s March

As of January 20th, Donald Trump is officially the 45th president of the United States. I logged on to Facebook for a brief second in the morning, almost forgetting and then logged out instantly. I also watched only the highlights of the Inauguration ball, speeches, and Whitehouse greetings without letting it affect my day too negatively. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m safely on the other side of this “wall” that is supposed to be built, but I know that my sisters, friends, mother and other important women are back home now, living in Trump’s new world.

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