Dear Secretary Clinton,
First, I must congratulate you on your campaign. It’s now only a matter of time until you will be named the official party nominee, and, most likely, our first female president. You have fought vigorously for this moment, and have more than earned the reward. You are, in fact, the only candidate I could see myself supporting in this election. But I can’t vote for you—not yet—and I wanted to write you today in the hope that you might better understand who I am, and why many women like me feel the same way.
I am registered Democrat. An every-election voter. A mother. A wife. An atheist. A student. A photographer. I, like all of us, am a culmination of so many things. Yet the two that define me most are “feminist” and “survivor.” These identities, for me, cannot be separated. They are intertwined in a complicated yet empowering way. I am a survivor of child molestation by a family member, and later, I became an adult survivor of rape—twice. I was date raped in 1997, and in 2013 I was drugged and raped while working as a photographer at a wedding. He was a naval officer, and I’m sure you can imagine the difficult decision I faced when contemplating whether I should press charges. Ultimately, I didn’t. I sometimes hate myself for it, but I know I wouldn’t have survived the court-martial process and the assault on my character.
On November 22nd, you tweeted, “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.” You are so exactly right. According to a Stanford study, only about two percent of claims are false. Even so, we are dismissed, ridiculed, threatened, smeared, and made to feel that we are to blame. I don’t speak much of the date rape incident, but I am vocal about 2013. I, like many others, am often asked questions like, “what were you wearing?” and “how much did you have to drink?” These moments hurt, and it’s only the start of the long, painful, and embarrassing road ahead of us.
Your November tweet was moving, to say the least. However, I must ask why you continuously contributed to the problems we face. This may seem unfair, but I implore you to hear me out. Honestly, I do not blame you for your husband’s bad deeds, and I do not blame you for standing by him when his affairs with Monica Lewisnky and Paula Jones came to light during his impeachment trial. We love who we love, and you were a victim of his behavior. However, I do take issue with how you have yet to “believe and support” the multiple women who have alleged sexual misconduct and rape against Mr. Clinton.
Had this only been one accusation, I suppose you could say, “I know him too well.” I’d have understood. But we know there wasn’t just one allegation. There have been a string of accusations, and your handling of each one has shown a distinct lack of “belief and support.”
Juanita Broaddrick accused your husband of violent rape in a hotel room in 1978. Paula Jones was awarded an $850,000 settlement after accusing Mr. Clinton of sexual harassment. Kathleen Willey claims she was sexually assaulted during his first term as president. Then there’s the Monica Lewinsky affair, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
All of these women have something more in common than suffering abuse at the hands of your husband. That commonality is you, Secretary Clinton. Broaddrick wrote that you threatened her at a campaign event only weeks after the incident. When asked about this recently on the campaign trail, you called a survivor of rape “very rude.” Your instances of dismissive and/or aggressive behavior to these women became a pattern. Paula Jones was dismissed as trailer park trash by James Carville, one of your top strategists. Willey said of you, “she chooses to go after the women that he hooks up with, to ruin them again and again…”
There’s no better example of that than Monica Lewinsky, who was disgustingly slut-shamed on the internet after the affair was revealed. You called her a “narcissistic looney toon” and refused to entertain the idea that maybe your husband had wielded power in an abusive way over a confused 24-year-old. Then you had the audacity to accuse her of not allowing Mr. Clinton to break it off. Ms. Lewinsky was harassed at the time, and continues to be harassed today. As she speaks out on this issue of cyber-bullying, she is flooded with hate speech from your supporters. Yet you remain silent. I understand that this woman has caused you pain—so has Bill, but you now defend him and idly sit by as this woman is endlessly tormented. Where is your compassion? Where is your sisterhood to women?
I understand that it’s easy to call these accusations a “vast right wing conspiracy,” or attribute the accusations to women looking for fame. That’s the easy way out. I’m sure you believe the Bill Cosby accusers, and if Cosby can be the monster he is, why can’t the same be true of Mr. Clinton? He is not above reproach, and again, I would remind you that 98 percent of claims are legitimate.
This….this is why I cannot vote for you. The survivor in me says “no, she’s not your ally,” and the feminist in me agrees. You are the most influential woman in America, perhaps in the world. Why won’t you live up to your words? Show us that we are not forgotten. Show us that the most powerful woman has our back, and that we deserve to have a voice. Believe in us, and believe them. They spoke out. They were the brave ones; be brave with us.
I end this in saying that I don’t consider you beyond redemption. I want to vote for you—I want to like you. I truly believe, politically speaking, there has never been any one person more qualified for the office. You may not see this as the one issue that should negate all those positives, but to some survivors, that’s exactly what it is.
There are days when the only thing that keeps me going is the understanding and support of the ladies in my life. These gestures are vital for us as we move from “victim” to “survivor.” So, please help us. Renounce the smear campaigns of the past, and tell your husband and the rest of us that you hear and believe his accusers. The moment that happens, you will have my unwavering support. Until then, I abstain from this election. Please know that I don’t mean that as a threat, but only to show how deeply this critical issue affects me. I know you’d like my support, Madam Secretary, but first I will need yours.