#IWSG — Questions

Today, I share with you my post for this month’s question from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

I love when people ask me ANY questions about my writing because that means someone is actually READING what I am writing! There are few greater thrills in life than seeing a notification that I got a comment on one of my blog posts! I am also in the process of writing a novel (have been for a few years now), so I also enjoy when people ask me what it’s about. Maybe someday I’ll finish it…..

I get uncomfortable when people ask me where I get my ideas for the things I write because my answer is pretty unremarkable — I get my ideas from life and the world around me. There is no magic pill available for inspiration. I just find it where and when I can! I feel like when people ask, “Where do you get your ideas from?”, they’re looking for an answer that either wows them (if they’re not writers themselves) or points them in a definite direction (if they are also writers). I never feel like I can answer this question adequately!

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2018 Year in Review

2018 is in the rear view mirror, and that’s fine. I feel fortunate that 2018 was not necessarily a highly eventful year — I didn’t have any real bad experiences, but I also didn’t have any superbly outstanding events, either. Some highlights, in no particular order:

1.) Boxing class: In January 2018, I started taking a boxing fitness class and it has literally changed my life. I love the variety of activities we do. I love the emotional release I get from donning a pair of gloves and hitting a bag. I love how strong I feel when I can do an exercise the way it’s supposed to be done instead of modified. I love the supportive atmosphere — the instructors and the other women who are in class are simply some of the best people on Earth. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed anything as much as I enjoy my boxing classes!

I can throw a punch — do not mess with me 🙂

2.) New grade book platform: This school year, our district adopted a new online grade book platform to coordinate with our transition to standards-based grading. I’m not going to name the program because I’m not interested in bashing the company/product by name. But the transition has not been easy. It has been hard trying to learn the beck end to get the program up and running, and it has been challenging to assist teachers as they try to learn the ins and outs and figure out how to make it work for them and their parents and students. I’m not thrilled with this grade book program — I feel like it was sold to us one way but it is much different in reality. So it’s been a bit exhausting.

3.) Grand kitty: My daughter and her boyfriend got a cat named Fergus, and he is such a fun cat! I love playing with him and cuddling him — he makes me miss having a cat so much!

4.) My first grant: I applied for and was awarded with my very first grant at work! I was awarded $1000 from Window World of Joliet to purchase STEM materials for the maker spaces at our 4 school buildings. It was pretty exciting to get free money!

Receiving my check for the grant I won from Window World of Joliet. Joining me are 2 of my co-workers, Sarah and Lesley and the owner of Window World of Joliet.

5.) Mom’s big move: My mom sold her house that was a half mile down toe road from me and moved to a single story house in an active adult community 30 miles away from me. It is weird not having my mom right down the road, but I am happy for my mom having an brand new home that is easy for her to move around in!

6.) Hamilton! For Valentine’s Day, Jim took me to see Hamilton, and that started a love affair! I have seen it two more times since then and listened to the soundtrack countless times. I simply cannot get enough. I love the music, the story, the artistry — how lucky I am to be alive right now 🙂

My first time at Hamilton!

7.) Court case settled! In August 2016, Jim was hit by a car while running which caused him to injure his shoulder and required surgery and physical therapy to get fixed up. The court case for this incident was finally settled in November — a little more than 2 years after it happened! I am thrilled that this is over and done — and that it was settled without having to go in and experience my first deposition!

8.) #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport: These 2 movements brought out of me the admission that I was the victim of sexual assault twice in my life — once when I was about 10 years old and again when I was about 14 years old. I never told the world about these things but felt compelled to do it this year to help shine a light in the fact that there is hardly a female alive who has not experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault and that there are so, so many of us who never reported it (like me — I never reported either incident). I really believe we need to change the culture we live in — we need to believe women when they report, we need to support women when they share, and we need to shame the men who hurt women rather than shame the women and engage in victim-blaming.

What does 2019 hold for me? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out!

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Resolutions

Like almost everyone, I make resolutions with the start of each new year. Here are the resolutions I made for 2018 and how I fared with those resolutions:

1.) Run 2 half marathons: nope, didn’t happen. I’ve struggled to get my running mojo back after the marathon in 2017. I did run 3 5Ks, though, so my running wasn’t a total loss.

2.) Lose weight: lost some, gained some, but overall, I think I had a net loss of a few pounds in 2018.

3.) Go to the dentist: finally did this in December and found a nice dentist who works to keep my fears in check. I’m scheduled to go back in February for a deep cleaning.

4.) Declutter: did some of this but not enough. I. Have. Too. Much. Crap.

5.) Attend church at least 25 times: this was a big fail. I think I probably went only like 10 times in 2018. That’s too bad for me because I always feel better when I go to church regularly.

6.) Read the Bible: nope, failed at this, too. I need to learn to put down my phone and pick up a book when I go to bed!

7.) Reduce my f-bomb use: I might have done this, but not very successfully. It still comes out of my mouth more than I would like it to.

So, it looks like I had more failures than successes with resolutions in 2018. What will happen in 2019? Well, here is what I hope I will be able to make happen:

1.) Lose weight (old resolution): I just want my weight to start with a 1 instead of a 2. I’m going to set some other resolutions that will hopefully assist with this.

2.) Declutter (old resolution): I simply MUST get rid of crap.

3.) Attend church at least 25 times (old resolution): I feel good when I go to church. It brings me a sense of inner calm. I need to fulfill this resolution.

4.) Read the Bible (old resolution): This is a better idea than surfing Facebook or playing Candy Crush when I relax before bed.

5.) Reduce my f-bomb use (old resolution): I just feel better when I’m not such a potty mouth.

6.) Cut back on how much meat I eat (new resolution): I am going to try to have 1 or 2 days a week where I don’t eat any meat. I know it is healthier for me, and believe it or not, sometimes I feel bad eating an animal.

7.) Break up with sugar (new resolution): I am addicted to sugar. I know this. I try so hard to not eat sugar, but I literally have withdrawal symptoms sometimes (shakes, headaches, upset stomach, irritability) so I cave in. I want to fight through that and get rid of my dependence on sugar. My boxing gym is helping with this as they are sponsoring a 20 day sugar detox challenge starting today, January 1.

8.) Be able to do a 3 minute plank (new resolution): I was so close to being able to do this in November, but then I ran into a rough spot with my knees, hips, back, and shoulder. But I’m feeling pretty good now, so here I come for the 3 minute plank!

My boxing instructor encouraging me by planking with me while I’m pursuing a goal of a 3 minute plank in November.

9.) Be able to do push ups (new resolution): I want to be able to do real push ups — not push ups from my knees, not half-assed push ups where I barely lower my body, but real live push ups. I’ve never been able to do real push ups in my life, so I think it’s finally time!

10.) Hit my 100 ride mark on my Peloton (new resolution): My husband and I got a Peloton bike right before Christmas and it’s a cool milestone when you get to 100 rides. I’ve got 9 rides already, so I’ve got 365 days to do 91 more rides!

Taking my first ride on our new Peloton the night it was delivered!

Do you have any resolutions? Or do you have any advice that can help me on the road to achieving what I’ve resolved for 2019? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear from you!

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Amid all the brouhaha over the “Christmas” (more like winter??) song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, I had to weigh in. You know I can’t keep my mouth shut.

I read what I thought was a really good analysis of the interpretations of this song on Snopes. It kind of explains the spirit in which the song was originally written, points to the first time the lyrics were seen as questionable, offers alternative interpretations where the lyrics are viewed as empowering to women, to the current context we are seeing in society now.

It’s important to know the lyrics, so even if you’re familiar with the song, take a minute to read the original lyrics. Different recordings by different artists sometimes change the lyrics. Then you can start to form your own opinions. But since we all form our opinions based on different life experiences, you really can’t discount other people’s opinions just because you disagree with them or you don’t like them or you think they’re silly. You can have your opinions about people’s opinions, but ultimately, opinions aren’t facts. So if you think “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is just a playful tit for tat song, that’s your opinion. If you think it’s got a “rapey” undertone, that’s your opinion. If you think people are insensitive dolts for seeing nothing wrong with the song, that’s your opinion. If you think people are being laughable snowflakes for finding the song offensive, that’s your opinion.

Here’s one thing about opinions: for the most part, your opinions matter to you and to people who have the same opinions as you. I also find it deliciously ironic that the battlecry in society  for people to stop being so hypersensitive and getting offended by everything happens because people are offended by people being offended.

I’m to the point where when I say, “Baby, it’s cold outside,” I’m referring to either the weather or the hard-heartedness we humans are so fond of showing each other nowadays.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, indeed.

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#IWSG December Post — My Writing Space

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeMy post for December’s #IWSG answers the question, “What 5 objects would you find in my writer’s space?” First, I’m supposed to have a writer’s space? My space is wherever my laptop is, I suppose. I don’t have a dedicated space — is that bad? So I guess I can just say the world is my writing space 🙂 But as far as objects I have that would serve as writing tools for me, I suppose first I’d have to say my laptop/Chromebook. It’s where I do all my work. Nowhere near as much writing would happen without it! I’d also say that when I sit down to write, another object near me is probably my unfinished novel. Someday I’ll have time to finish it. Sigh. Third, I’ve always got a pen and notebook somewhere near. If I have to write down a reminder or idea real quick, that’s where I do it. A fourth item would likely be something to drink, like soda or water, not alcohol. Alcohol would just make me sleepy. But Having pop or water gives me something to do as  I ponder. I can take a sip and think. Finally, my dogs are always with me when I’m writing. My one dog, Zoey, always wants to crawl on the keyboard. I think maybe it’s warm, that’s why she likes it. But my dogs are always glued to me when I write. Maybe they’re jealous I’m giving some attention to something beside them? I don;t really have a typical writing space or typical writer’s tools, if there are such things. But these are the things I almost always have around me when I write!

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#IWSG November Post — Creativity

Note: I wrote this, and then I forgot to publish it until I got the email about the December topic. Doh! Well, here’s November’s post, a month late!

The topic for November’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group is, “How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?” After spending a little time thinking about this, I don’t know if my creativity has changed in any way, but I feel like my imagination and desire to write has increased dramatically. As I’ve found (or created) time to write, I find myself wanting to write more — writing begets writing! And because I do more writing, I see potential things to write about everywhere — in personal experiences, in local or world events, in songs, in my dreams, in conversations with other people. My biggest obstacle is that no matter how much time I find or create for myself to write, it’s never enough. Hey, I absolutely love my teaching job (especially because I DO get to do some writing for it!!!), but I am looking so forward to the time when I can retire so that I can spend my days writing, writing, writing!

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2019 Running — Help Me

I have been talking a lot lately about putting my name in the lottery for the 2019 Chicago Marathon. Working the aid station at the this year’s marathon a few weeks ago really got the urge up again. Plus, I have also been known to tell people that even though I crossed the finish line in 2017, I feel like that marathon ran me instead of me running that marathon. I feel like I could do better than 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 seconds. I know I shouldn’t care about the time; I crossed the finish line, and it wasn’t easy to do. The training was hard; the race was hard; but my desire to finish caused me to push all that hard stuff to the side.

Another reason I keep thinking about running again is that I am in better shape now than I was when I ran the marathon. I am 20 pounds lighter than I was when I did the marathon (and I hope to be be down another 20 – 25 pounds within a year). I cross train regularly through my boxing class — my overall physical fitness level is improved. I have core strength and my knee is noticeably stronger than it was when I did the marathon. And when I finished in 2017, I didn’t get to run through the “regular” finish — I had to go through a small, temporary finish off to the side on the sidewalk. I want to know what it’s like to cross that regular finish line.

I had my mind all set to apply to run Chicago next year when one of my running friends suggested I check into the Grand Rapids Marathon. I did — and it sounds like a fascinating race to run! The FAQ page is an absolute selling point — it is HILARIOUS! Some highlights that make this race enticing: they have an earlier start for people who are “velocity challenged” (read: slow). They will keep the course open until everyone finishes. They had aid stations every 1.5 miles. And it looks like no lottery. Just pay your fee and run. No whining allowed (see the FAQ page). Running Chicago is an exceptional experience — and I experienced only part of it. Trying to run Chicago again means I am taking some risks if my time ends up being not what I want it to be.

So now I’m in a conundrum. Do I attempt to face my old nemesis, the Chicago Marathon? Or is my nemesis the distance and the proving ground is irrelevant? My husband asked me, “What does a ‘win’ look like?” and I’m honestly not sure. I think a win looks like crossing the finish line in less that 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 seconds. Ideally, I’d love to finish in 6 1/2 hours.

My plan is to continue with my boxing as cross training 2 times a week and running 3 times a week (2 short runs during the week and 1 long run on the weekends); use a longer training plan (last year was 20 weeks, but this year I want a 32 week plan); and I am seriously considering using a training coach.

But I am seriously unsure of what to do. I need your help. If you’ve read this and you’ve got an opinion to share, maybe you can tell me which option you like. I’m like Johnny Number 5 — I need INPUT (my age is showing with that allusion!!!).

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Aid Station 10 — Chicago Marathon 2018

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Me, Jim, and Lucy (and another volunteer from PepsiCo/Gatorade) before the course opened.

Today, as I get ready to celebrate the one year anniversary of my own running of the Chicago Marathon, I spent the first half of my day volunteering at an aid station. My sister-in-law Lucy works for PepsiCo and they always have a crew of volunteers work aid station 10, which is at the halfway point of the race, at the 13.2 mile mark. I asked her if this year, my husband Jim and I could work the aid station with her PepsiCo crew handing out Gatorade Endurance Chews.

I have worked the start line in the past, and it was really cool. But after running this race last year, I developed a soft spot in my heart for the aid stations. They were awesome, and I think that’s part of the reason why it impacted me so significantly when I lost my course support last year — I lost an energy source, both physical and mental. So I really wanted to help runners this year by being part of an aid station.

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Me and the hubs before we got all wet and tired.

Some of my most memorable moments:

  • The wheelchair/handcycle athletes are total beasts! Being able to see them up close in action is jaw-dropping!
  • The elites are so fast! It’s a thrill to be momentarily in the presence of these super-human athletes whose bodies clearly don’t operate like the rest of us mere mortals!
  • The front of the pack runners are WAY intense — the back of the pack runners are more laid back. When the front of the pack runners come through, I know they are uber-amazing athletes who are driven by goals, BIG goals, and it shows. They take their running seriously, and when they want those chews, they want them BAD! They don’t stop or slow down. The grab those chews from your hand at top speed and with force. I’m actually surprised I don;t have any cuts or bruises on my hand! The back of the pack runners might still be running or they might slow down to a walk, but they aren’t anywhere near as forceful with grabbing the chews. Some of them want more than one pack for later in the race (no problem — take as many packs as you can carry!). Some of them grab one flavor and want a different one (the front of the packers aren’t as picky about the flavor). Many of the back of the pack runners say, “Thank you,” or, “Thanks for volunteering,” as they come through the station. It’s so nice of them to say that because I expect no thanks at all. I wanted very much to be there for those runners today. It was truly my pleasure. And I’m not implying anything negative about the other runners at all. I expect all the runners to use their energy for the race, not for thanking me.
  • There is guilt involved with doing this job. I felt guilty every time someone tried to reach for a package of chews and I missed their hand — happens a lot! I knew that they only had one or two more people behind me with the energy chews and I didn’t want anyone to miss out on a fueling opportunity. I also felt guilty for not being as much help to some of the runners as I wanted to be. I used the Gatorade Endurance Energy Chews last year, and I liked them a lot. But the one big flaw is with the packaging. They are hard to open up, even when you use your teeth, which is the easiest way to do it (grab the perforated end and rip or bite the package under the first chew). Some of the runners would get chews from us then ask for help opening them. The runners were tired and/or cold and/or wearing gloves and/or their hands were wet. The problem was my hands were cold and wet, and the packages were wet, too, so I felt terrible wasting these runners’ precious time trying to help them open their packages of chews. And then the guilt of leaving while there are still runners on the course. I had my own horror story of coming through an aid station and watching as an entire table of Gatorade was dumped onto the street to be cleaned up. It was demoralizing to have people who had helped me at other aid stations now “turning their backs” on me. It was the final nail in my mental coffin last year. I ended up relying heavily on my family, friends, and Team in Training coaches to get me to the finish line. I didn’t want to abandon any runner while I was out there today. But when it’s time to clean up and go, I have to. I stayed as long as I could. I’m sorry, runners who I left behind. I really am.

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    Jim surveying the tables of Gatorade Endurance Chews once we got them all opened up. There are tables behind me and across the street, too, that are just as full. That’s a lot of chews!

  • There are some things that leave me shaking my head. Like the runners who had a choice to make: either run today’s race in sopping wet shoes and socks and risk horrible blisters or run barefoot while carrying their wet shoes and socks. And I saw enough of the latter to leave me slack-jawed. I have to think that had I been faced with that choice, I would have chosen to quit. I don;t think I have the guts to bear the blisters or to go any part of that race barefoot. I also had to wonder about people who asked what the chews were and seemed perplexed. I can’t imagine a long distance runner not knowing what those energy chews are — even if they don;t use them or don’t like them. And then there are some people who don’t seem to really be serious about the race. I saw these people at the end of the shift, maybe around noon or so at the halfway point. Some people just strolling and talking and laughing while on their phone. Another couple just walking and holding hands and talking the whole time. It seems like they had no idea they were on a marathon course. I wanted to ask, “Did you actually pay the three digit entry fee to stroll through this race like it was a 5K and likely not finish it?” But who am I to judge, I suppose. But it left me scratching my head.
  • I was so cold and wet and my back hurt, but I was not going to voice that out there at the aid station knowing full well that my pain and discomfort was noting compared to the other 40,000 people who passed by me all morning! And a quick shout out to KFit Boxing in Minooka, my boxing gym — if it weren’t for “Small Weight Wednesdays” and all the milk the cows and small arm circles, I would not have been able to keep my arm extended to runners for hours on end like I did today! Thanks, Anne!
  • I remembered how much the encouragement and the energy of those aid stations helped my, so I vowed to to give that to all the runners I saw today. I shouted support and cheers to everyone the whole time I was there. My horribly raw throat is a testament to how dedicated I was to passing that energy on to the runners!

If you’ve ever thought about volunteering at the marathon, In highly recommend working an aid station. If you’re not afraid to work hard for a long time and transfer all your energy to the runners you encounter, then you will find it a highly rewarding experience, guaranteed.

As for the inevitable question, “Are you going to work the aid station again next year?” The answer is

Not if I decide to run the race again myself!

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#IWSG — Life Events

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThanks to a post I read tonight by Jacqui Murray, I stumbled upon the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! I signed on right away and thought I’d take a stab at this month’s topic even though I’m a few days late because when I saw it I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got something to say about this!”

My best writing has always come from major life events. Major life events are what inspire me to write. Those events can be both positive or negative. But whatever they are, it’s the emotional connection to the event that compels me to write.

When I was younger, it was negative experiences that drove me to write, and it was usually in the form of poetry. Bad poetry.  As I have gotten older, my emotional processing has turned into blog posts. Sometimes I still crank out a poem, but it’s not too often, and if I’m being honest, sometimes it’s so personal that it’s hard to figure out what exactly I;m trying to say without knowing the event that inspired it.

But as long as I keep having life events, I suppose I’ll keep writing 🙂

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#WhyIDidntReport

Note: this post contains information about sexual assault. While it is deliberately not graphic, it still may be detailed enough to be disturbing or upsetting. It is also a huge risk for me emotionally to share this information, but I am trying to add my voice to the many other brave voices out there trying to explain why it is not uncommon not to report sexual assault.

Tweets like this compel people to do things they never thought they would have to do:

Sounds to me like POTUS is implying that there is some level of BS because Dr. Ford didn’t report her sexual assault when it happened, which has prompted responses using #WhyIDidntReport.

I shared on Facebook this week that I have been sexually assaulted twice in my life, and I reported neither of them. Here’s why.

Assault #1: I was approximately 10 years old, and I was spending the night at my friend’s house, like I had done many times before. This night, I woke up not feeling well. I told my friend and she woke her parents. Her dad came in to sit with me. We were sleeping in the family room, my friend on the floor, me on the couch. My friend’s dad sat on the couch at my head and was kind of patting my head and hair, which was a little weird to me, but it didn’t feel bad. Eventually he worked his hand down the front of my nightgown, and I’d prefer to not go into specific detail beyond this. When he did this, I froze. I didn’t move. I tried not to breathe. I thought maybe if he thought I was asleep he’d leave. I was scared. It felt weird. He eventually stopped and went away. I told no one. Here’s why: I had no idea how to tell my parents what happened. It would have been embarrassing. I wasn’t even sure that I was right to feel weird about it. This was my friend’s dad, a man I knew who had always been nice to me. Maybe this wasn’t a bad thing? Maybe this was how he helped his kids feel better? It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that what this man did was one of the most wrong and violating things a person can do.

Assault #2: I was 14 and on vacation with my friend. We went to a campground where her extended family was vacationing. I met her 17 year old cousin who I thought was cute. I flirted with him. I was a boy-crazy teenaged girl. He flirted back with me. One night we went for a walk out into the nearby woods. I remember hoping he might kiss me. He did. And more. Both over and under my clothes. Again, I prefer not to go into the specific details. When he started to put his hands under my clothes, I asked him to stop. More than once. He did not stop. He ignored me and was forceful. I didn’t tell anyone about this. Here’s why: I was embarrassed. I was afraid I’d get in trouble for doing something sexual — I didn’t want adults to know I ever did anything sexual in nature, especially my parents. I was afraid I’d be called a tease. After all, I flirted with him. I wanted him to kiss me. I sent him signals that I liked him. I felt like it was my fault that it happened. I was afraid my friend and her family wouldn’t believe me, and I was at their mercy since I was on vacation with them. I seriously didn’t think this was sexual assault until probably a year ago or so when #MeToo really started to gain momentum. It was then that I realized that this event (as well as the other) was indeed sexual assault.

I had never shared any of this with anyone except my husband, and even then, I didn’t tell him about sexual assault #2 until a few years ago. To be quite honest, I don’t really want to share any of this with anyone now, either, but I am sick of people doubting women’s stories because they didn’t report it. I’m not necessarily sorry that I never reported it, except for the fact that I’m sure these two men also went on to sexually assault other women or little girls, as might be the case from my first account. I feel terrible that my inaction might have caused harm to others. But I can’t change the past. All I can do is try to help by enlightening others as to why people don’t report. It seems to me that Dr. Ford had plenty of reasons not to report what happened to her. If that had been me, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know I was doing anything sexual, and I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to know I had been drinking or that I was at a party where there was booze. I would have been scared about what other kids at school would think or say (which is a legit reason if you understand anything about the value teens put on the opinions of their peers).

Women have little to gain personally by reporting a sexual assault. It won’t negate what happened. It won’t remove the damage that was done or heal the injuries that were caused. All it does, at best, is prevent someone else from going through the same hell, and at worst, drag the woman’s past and reputation through the mud and paint her as some sort of slut who deserved what happened to her. In Dr. Ford’s case, she has absolutely nothing to gain by reporting it now and much to lose.

To me, this story has transcended whether or not some man gets to be nominated to the Supreme Court. It has become another story trying to explain to the world why women don’t report rapes and sexual assaults. It’s not easy to do — at all. I beg people to please try a little empathy. It might just help you be able to help others.

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