What Happened To Hope and Opportunity In America?

I am voting for Hillary on behalf of a young battered woman who didn’t have a prayer. She was me.

This is my story:

In 1980 I met and married the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen and I thought my life would be a fairy tale. Within a week of marriage I discovered I’d entered a nightmare instead. The beautiful boy beat me for just about any reason — from a bad day at work to finding crumbs on the floor. I sought counsel at church and was told that a wife must submit to her husband. And so I did. Our son was born shortly after my 22nd birthday. Our daughter came along 18-months later. My spouse used drugs, became paranoid, spent all of our money, and pulled us down to the seventh circle of hell.

I had never heard the term ‘battered woman’ and assumed this horror was some dirty little secret about marriage that mama never told you. When I asked for help and was found out, I was beaten again. Eventually, I stopped asking and told no one.

We left Texas and moved Up North. There, thanks to a visionary investment in social programs, I got a grant to attend community college. I began to learn that I did have some worth. A film called The Burning Bed premiered in 1984. It was a watershed moment for women like me. Finally someone pried the lid off the dark night and exposed our living hell to the light. Battered women’s shelters were opened. Police were trained to help us. After 5 long years in hell I called the police and was set free.

But escaping physical bondage is only half of it. Financial bondage keeps women like me with their abusers or locked in impoverished and hopeless traps to raise their children alone.

We lived in a four-plex with other single-mom families who traded hours of childcare and the “cup of sugar” rations that we all needed to stay afloat. I worked full-time as a secretary, got a small government subsidy for childcare and WIC coupons that provided cereal, milk and cheese. Even with that help we still we lived on the edge. Just an extra $10 expense in a week would topple us. Fortunately, my Pell Grant put an extra $500 in our budget twice a year that I literally could not do without. That carrot kept me going to college at night after work despite being exhausted and drained.

All this time, I fought off the same unwelcome advances from men that young working women have always endured. There was the abusive manager who told me about his erotic dreams, then threatened my job when I told him he dreamt too much. Or the new boss who, when I asked for a .25 cent raise, asked why my daddy didn’t take care of me. He said, “If I was your daddy, I’d take care of you.” Predatory men like Donald Trump show up like alligators in the pond, especially when you are a desperate young woman.

It took 5 long years but I finally graduated Summa Cum Laude from a private Lutheran college. I will never forget going to an interview on my lunch hour and receiving a job offer from IBM at a salary 4 times what I made as a secretary. I ran back through the secretarial pool like Washington crossing the Delaware, waving that offer to cheers from my female coworkers.

Life then got immeasurably better. I was able to own a home. I bought a car that wasn’t rusty, dangerous, and unreliable. My children were able to attend good public schools. We were never society’s down-and-outers ever again. I know I was one of the lucky few. Most of those women dog-paddling along with me in the secretarial pool never made it out.

Without the social welfare programs that our opposition despises, I’d be just another impoverished woman raising a generation of impoverished grandchildren. Instead, I became a prosperous professional in the middle class. I contributed something to the gross national product. My children grew up to be productive and sober. I have paid a boatload of taxes that I hope have purchased the ropes that rescued some of the other women and children who were drowning alongside us.

This election is another watershed moment in my life. We must get it right.

I vote on behalf of the young battered me who didn’t have a prayer. I vote for the me I am today who feels the responsibility and has the opportunity to change a broken world. I cast my vote for the one person who can and will do it — — I so proudly vote for Hillary Clinton.

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