I’ve reflected a lot the past three months about what I could possibly do to ease my worried mind. Emily Ellsworth and Ana Navarro have reminded me that I don’t have to just sit back and worry. I can do something. And then today, Mette Ivie Harrison reminded me that of the small things I can do, writing is a place to start.
So I wrote something, and sent it to my senators and congressman. I plan to make this a habit. When I write to them, I will post those letters here, because as Harrison wrote, maybe I can “give people courage and the promise that the future they hope for will come if they work for it.” Ellsworth’s advice for writing elected officials suggested making it personal, to not use form letters. So I made it personal.
Dear Senator [—-],
I am a survivor of domestic abuse.
When I was 19, I became engaged to and moved in with a man who hit me often, and verbally degraded me daily. The black eyes and bruises healed, but even now, 23 years later, his words at times bubble up and make me question my value.
At the time, I had social privilege—friends who sheltered me when I found courage to leave, and a family who took me back with not judgment.
My family had economic privilege—my family lived in Nebraska, but I was an 18-hour drive away. My dad’s job in the Air Force was such that he could take three days to come get me. His career was such that he had enough money to rent a U-Haul, pay for hotel rooms on the trip, pay for gas money, and buy meals as he rescued me. And when we returned to Nebraska, he and my mom had a house big enough to fit me back in.
My family had insurance privilege—when I was ready to admit I needed professional help to heal from the abuse, they found me a program that offered individual and group therapy. Without that advantage, I’m certain I would not be the successful teacher, writer, and musician that I am today.
As I established my own career, I enjoy those same privileges—social, economic, insurance—and when the words of my abuser crash into me at inopportune times, I can call friends or family for support, and I have on occasion gone back into therapy for “tune-ups” to make sure I don’t allow the abuse of the past dictate my present or future.
The rumored cuts to the Violence Against Women Act from President Trump’s team trouble me. I did not need those resources because I had privilege. Other women do not. I can imagine the helplessness that women in abusive situations feel. All I had to do to get help was swallow my pride and ask my family. Other women don’t have that luxury, and it should be our societal duty to help them escape and then heal from abuse.
I plead with you to seriously consider the effects of cutting the programs suggested by President Trump. Talk to women and children who have left abusers in the past. Please put a face on these programs at risk of elimination, and then please, find a way to keep them.
If we as a country stand by and allow resources such as these to be cut, I fear we have lost sight of the most basic truths from our constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Women in abusive relationships have none of these advantages. Please make sure they will in the future.
Thank you for your time.