It’s hard not to be an alarmist when you are the survivor of sexual assault and we just elected a Predator in Chief.

It’s hard not to be an alarmist when your family has been physically chased and threatened because the dad is black.

It’s hard not to be an alarmist when your son has been called “nigger” more than half a dozen times just this school year.

It’s hard not to be an alarmist when your 17 year old daughter gets catcalled and told “I love foreign girls” by an overly aggressive guy at school.

It’s hard not to be an alarmist when your foreign husband has considered whether his family’s social media activity might become cause for deportation.

It’s hard not to be an alarmist when you are thankful your oldest, who was born in Mexico and whose first documents in life indicate that she was for a brief time a Mexican citizen, doesn’t look like your middle child who’s been asked if she is Mexican.

It’s hard not to be an alarmist.


I Wonder.


What I struggle with today is this:

⁃Does this election validate my dad who told my kids they aren’t black because their black, foreign father makes too much money ?

⁃Does it validate my mother’s insistence that anyone who voted for Barack Obama is a socialist who “hates America?”

⁃Does it validate the man who refused to let my black, foreign husband use the bathroom in his gas station, claiming it was out of order I had just used it?

⁃Does it validate my rapist who told me I asked for it or the man on the subway who groped me as I was pinned between other passengers at rush hour and was too afraid to scream?

⁃Does it validate the men who followed my young, biracial family out of a diner and then chased us in their car for miles and miles as we feared for our lives?

⁃Does it validate the high level executive who, upon realizing my husband is black after months of only having spoken to him on the phone, decided he would refuse to ever utter another word to my husband and even rode for 4 hours in a rental car with him once in total silence?

⁃Does it validate the drunk guy in the street who tried to overpower me and then screamed “fucking whore” at me when I kneed him in the groin and ran for my life?


I wonder.

An Outsider on the Inside


I’ve felt like an outsider my whole life.  Sometimes more than others, sometimes a vague sense of not fitting right, and other times a serious wedge I’ve felt between me and others.  Mostly, I have perceived myself an outsider when others would likely not have thought me a real outsider.  But whether my outsider status was “real” or just “perceived,” the perception of being an outsider is, in my opinion, real enough of a qualifier.  

My earliest memories include feeling like an outsider in my enormous, Italian Catholic family.  My mom was the oldest in the second generation of Americans in her family and, after marrying my dad, the first to leave Pennsylvania to live out of state.  I spent the first several years of my life on the west coast.  Each summer, my mom and I would fly back east to visit.  She, of course, fell right into the routine of her large family.  I peered at my 30+ cousins and wondered where I fit.  They pointed out that the way I talked and dressed and acted were different.  And they pointed out that I was an only child, the child of parents who had climbed up from their blue collar background to a white collar, upper middle class status, accusing me of being “spoiled” because I enjoyed privilege they didn’t have.  They needn’t have pointed it out, of course.  It was glaringly obvious I wasn’t one of “them.”  Once we moved back east, though, I assimilated into the family and found my way, but that first developmental stage of my life perhaps set me up to feel different for the rest of my life, and to be ok with that.

The next time I felt like an outsider was at 16 when I was raped by my first ever boyfriend.  At the time I didn’t even know there was such a thing as date rape, and I definitely didn’t tell anyone what happened.  I felt dirty and damaged.  Any sense of sameness that I felt with my girlfriends and my cousins vanished.  Because of my Catholic upbringing, purity and virginity were highly valued. My hopes for a white wedding hung in the balance, in my mind, so I did my best to distance myself from both the boyfriend and the memory of what happened.  As long as no one found out, I’d be fine and my life would look normal.  Meanwhile, inside, I took it on as my own and told myself I must have wanted it; I must have somehow given him permission.

For the next several years, I looked at other young women and wondered how it was that no one seemed to notice I was different, that I was damaged.  It never occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one something like that had happened to, nor did it occur to me how good I had become at hiding my outsider status.  I became the life of every party, the center of all social gatherings, in order to blend in and to hide my pain.  

When I went away to college, I began to test my limits with substances and decided “purity” was a waste of time.  Jesus became nothing more than an above average teacher and God was an antiquated, out of touch grandfatherly idea someone made up because humans crave an explanation for the unexplainable.  Because neither of them could have been the Good Shepherd or my Redeemer while I was busy beating myself up for having failed to live up to the faulty standards my flawed faith had placed on me (or I had placed on myself).  I started criticizing the institution of the Catholic Church and all “organized religion” and claimed to believe that the Church was evil, all because it failed to catch me when I fell.  It took nearly a decade to get to a place where I understood what happened was not my fault and that I did not need to abuse myself trying to atone for it. It took much longer than that to forgive the Church for not being perfect.  I’m still working on that.

Well on the other side of that experience, in my early 30s, I got a call from a high school friend.  “Charlie died,” she told me.  Charlie was my first boyfriend.  “He hanged himself in a swing in front of his dad’s house.”  I purposely use his name at this point in the story because it was at that point when God worked on me in an amazing way that I hadn’t expected.  I had spent almost 15 years hating Charlie and at that moment he became a real person to me again. I felt a profound sense of sadness for him, and I found myself praying for him.  I wasn’t even a Christian, I was a fake Catholic, and yet I felt compelled to pray.  I didn’t understand it, and the only way I can describe it is that I lamented his life and had a sense that there really wasn’t anyone else to do that for him, so I did it for him.  

Charlie’s parents were both abusive, neglectful alcoholics. After their divorce when we were in middle school, his mom spiraled out of control and eventually died several years later.  His dad married immediately after the divorce, got sober and had more children.  Unfortunately, he left Charlie behind and refused to play an active role in Charlie’s upbringing.  They never made amends that I know of, and I can only imagine that Charlie’s suicide in his dad’s front yard was one last message to his dad about the damage that was done.  As I sat with the news, all I could think of was how desperately painful Charlie’s life must have been and I grieved for him, lamenting the circumstances that made him who he was.  And I forgave him.

As I’ve gotten older, I continue to experience being an outsider in some significant ways, not the least of which are my biracial marriage and a chronic pain condition. Those two things set me apart from most people in my community.  But what I’m realizing is that my outsider status is perhaps one of my best assets, something I now get to watch as God puts it to good use.  Because who better to represent the outsider to those on the inside than someone who has spent time on the outside looking in?  Who better to speak for those on the fringe, those who are invisible, those who feel unworthy, than one who has felt apart, unseen and undeserving?  Who better to welcome outsiders and proclaim to them that they are in fact worthy and welcome, that they have a place at the table on the inside of God’s own heart than one who felt unwelcome?  An outsider on the inside.

When I Was

  1. When I was 12, one of my cousins grabbed my breasts when the big group of us were rough-housing.  I wiggled out of his grasp but didn’t say a word because I was too embarrassed.  I don’t know if the others saw him do it.  Later that summer, the group of us built a tent in my backyard to sleep in overnight and he exposed himself to me telling me, “look at this!”  I waited a few minutes and told them I was afraid to sleep outside, and I went inside to get away from him.
  2. When I was 15, a guy bought beer for a party I went to.  When he handed me an open can and I accepted, he told me I had to make out with him as payment.  He grabbed me by the waist, tried to force his tongue down my throat and then made a huge scene when I pushed him off me and yelled no. It was humiliating and everyone at the party laughed.  A girlfriend of mine called me a prude.
  3. When I was 16, the guy I had been dating for several months pinned me down in the car, ripped my pants off and raped me.  And then made me clean the blood off the leather seat with my torn underpants. I was a virgin, saving myself for marriage. I wore turtlenecks for a week, even though it wasn’t cold, to hide the bruises on my wrists and hickies on my neck. I didn’t even realize that it was rape and I didn’t tell anyone what happened for several years because I thought I asked for it, that I owed it to him because I let him kiss me.
  4. When I was 17, a boy in my class squeezed past me in the hallway at school and gave me a “purple nurple.” It hurt so badly it brought tears to my eyes. By the time I got home, there was a golf ball sized egg on my breast and a big red welt. I hurt so badly I was afraid something was really wrong. So I told my mom I ran into a locker. She took me to the doctor who did an ultrasound, told me everything was fine, to take Tylenol and “be more careful.”
  5. When I was 18, I was riding a Greyhound bus home from college for Thanksgiving.  A guy in the seat across from me made motions at me “inviting” me to sit with him and when I refused, he unzipped his pants, masturbated until he climaxed on the seat and then held a handful of his semen up to show me.  I was too scared to get up and tell the bus driver.  All I could think to do was to put my laundry bag in the seat next to me to prevent him from trying to sit with me.  I rode for 5 hours that way.
  6. When I was 18, I had a crush on this guy, Billy, who was a baseball player.  One day he asked me to help him give a tour to a recruit for the team at our college.  After the tour, Billy suggested we all meet at a party. So I met them there, excited at the thought that Billy might actually like me back. When I got there, they had already begun drinking and Billy pushed me at the recruit. The recruit asked me to dance and before the end of the first song, had me pinned to a wall forcing his tongue down my throat and running his hands all over me.  I pushed him away and ran back to my dorm feeling humiliated.  I told my RA what happened and the next day, she took me to the coach to repeat my story.  The recruit was blackballed and didn’t get accepted to our school and Billy got reprimanded.  Billy avoided me when I tried to “explain” and refused to ever speak to me again.
  7. When I was 19, I was walking to the public bus stop.  A guy on a bike was riding towards me and as he got close, he reached out and grabbed my breast and squeezed really hard.  I screamed out.  He circled back around before I knew what was happening and he grabbed my ass on the way back.  I moved into the edge of the yards on the far side of the walk so he couldn’t ride close enough to me to reach me and trembled the whole way to the bus stop, afraid he would get off the bike and come towards me.
  8. When I was 20, a friend of mine and I were leaving a nightclub looking for a cab.  A drunk guy in the street approached us and grabbed us both, trying to kiss us and pull us towards him.  Luckily he was staggering drunk and my fear emboldened me.  I kneed him in the crotch and pushed him away from us.  He screamed, “fucking whores!” as we ran away.
  9. When I was 20, I was on a subway and thought the guy behind me was fondling my ass. So I elbowed him and realized he had a knife and was trying to cut the strap of my purse to steal it.  I frantically pushed my way through the crowd to get away from him so he couldn’t stab me and got off in a panic at the nearest stop even though I didn’t know where I was.
  10. When I was 19-24, living in a big city relying on public transportation, I can’t even recall the number of times someone grabbed my boobs or my ass on the bus or subway or catcalled me on the street.  There comes a point when you just can’t keep track.  And you learn to sit/stand near the older women on the bus and to be grateful when they smack a guy with their purse to protect you. And you recognize the deep, deep sorrow in their eyes as acknowledgment that they’ve been through the same disgusting shit.
  11. When I was 22, I told my boyfriend about being raped when I was 16.  He told me I must have led the boy on and that if I was dating him, it wasn’t rape.  He went on to tell me I should never repeat that story because people will think I’m “damaged.” I am.
  12. When I was 25 and working in a law firm, one of the junior partners came onto me.  I was married with a child by then and tried to deflect his attention by talking about my family. He pushed me to meet him for drinks and “joked” that he would tell his dad, the senior partner, that I wasn’t doing a good job at the office if I didn’t meet him.  I “joked” that HR would like to hear that story and quit the following month.
  13. When I was 45, a tape of Donald Trump saying he could “grab her by the pussy” surfaced and a bunch of idiots claimed that’s not sexual assault, it’s just “locker room talk.”  Locker room my ass.   May God have mercy on their souls.  May they never experience what it feels like to be powerless, literally at the hands of a predator.
  14. When I was 45, I feared my silence had taught my daughters to be silent, to feel embarrassed and humiliated the way I did. And I prayed they would be stronger and bolder than I, that they would be smarter and speak out against sexual assault and harassment. That they would be braver than I was. But mostly I prayed they wouldn’t need to be.
  15. When I was 45, we elected the first Predator In Chief.  And I have no words.