This author’s powerful essay about sexual harassment is part of a valuable conversation.

Author Bonnie Nadzam spent years not talking publicly about the sexual harassment and assault she experienced in graduate school.

As is common among survivors of sexual abuse, Nadzam felt shame and regret that kept her quiet. What’s more, the men she reports harassed her were well-known authors and her professors — men with significant influence over her career as a writer.

Talking openly about her experiences, though, is exactly what Nadzam chose to do in a recent essay published online.


Bonnie Nadzam. Photo by Jeremy Chignell, used with permission.

In it, Nadzam not only details the specifics of her experiences with harassment and assault by two separate men at two separate universities in two separate degree programs, she also makes clear her reason for sharing her story now, which has nothing to do with forgiveness or revenge. Instead, it has to do with shedding a light on something so often kept in the dark:

"These are men who abused and disrespected me, who took advantage of their positions to exploit me, in institutions of higher learning where their gender and power let them control the narrative ... and where they were allowed to respond to my own resistance with dismissiveness. I wish to feel free to share my experience in the hopes that it will protect someone else from having to be debased through the same exploitative humiliations. And perhaps most of all, I’m sharing because some of you have similar stories eating you alive."

As Nadzam quickly learned, she was right.

Nadzam’s story is not an isolated incident in the literary world. Far from it.

Just weeks after Nadzam’s essay was published, a follow-up post appeared in which 11 other women, also writers, discussed similar instances of sexual harassment they either witnessed or experienced firsthand.

Writer and critic Roxane Gay shared that Nadzam’s essay reminded her of “all the stories I’ve heard about men in the literary community over the years ... who proposition women at book parties and readings and conferences, who offer ‘mentorship’ by way of seduction, who commit a range of sexual assaults and who are rarely named publicly because everyone is, understandably, too scared of the repercussions to their careers and their personal lives and their peace of mind.”

Author Roxane Gay. Image via AP.

Poet Erin Coughlin Hollowell commented on the pervasiveness of the issue: “If you gather a handful of women together and one of them speaks of abuse at the hands of mentor, boss, or partner, it is like opening a tap. The stories come out slowly at first but with an increasing pressure that floods the room. Most women have at least one of these stories.”

And author Porochista Khakpour echoed Nadzam’s sentiment that stories like this need to be brought out of hiding: “As hard as it is, we need to share these stories and we need to put them out there. If not for ourselves, for the women who inherit all this from us.”

Beyond the public responses from these other writers, Nadzam received an outpouring of messages and emails from women who had similar experiences.

Nadzam says what struck her most about these responses was "the repeated description of each person’s physical experience while reaching out." The women wrote of shaking hands and pounding hearts, even when writing about abuse that happened years and years ago, showing the lasting and detrimental effects sexual harassment and assault can have.

Of course, it’s not just the literary industry where this happens.

Image via iStock.

According to a 2015 study by Cosmopolitan, 1 in 3 women have been sexually harassed at work. And instances of sexual harassment and assault happen in a variety of industries.

In October 2016, actress Rose McGowan shared on Twitter her experience being raped by a powerful Hollywood executive. And earlier this year, Susan J. Fowler wrote a blog post detailing her multiple experiences with sexual harassment during the year she worked as an engineer at Uber — a move that’s helping to expose the darkest side of a pervasive sexist culture affecting women in STEM fields.

Sadly, it makes sense that these incidents are occurring in workplaces and institutions of higher education where power structures are so keenly defined.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are about power. Students are beholden to instructors and mentors for guidance and education. Employees depend on supervisors and managers for performance reviews and raises.

These power dynamics automatically put one person in a more disadvantageous position and allows exploitation to, at times, go unchecked. We see examples of it from celebrities, politicians, and even the current president of the United States.

But women can challenge that power dynamic by refusing to remain silent. Just like Nadzam did.

A victim’s silence is one of the greatest powers a perpetrator can have. But the more vocal survivors of harassment and assault become, the more that power dynamic shifts, which is why women like Nadzam and so many others — women brave enough to make their stories known — are so very important.

As Nadzam said in her original essay:

"What I really want to say is that all of these things happened to me, that none of it was okay, that I didn’t deserve any of it, and that I have nothing to be ashamed of. … We know that men, especially those in positions of power, try to hurt, tame and control what they fear, and cannot or will not try to understand. … If ever there was a time to disregard those who won’t believe our stories, now is the time to speak very plainly about the behavior of those men who assume we’ll be swept away by their poetry, or politics, before we understand what’s happened."
Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

Usually when we share a story of a couple having been married for nearly five decades, it's a sweet story of lasting love. Usually when we share a story of a long-time married couple dying within minutes of each other, it's a touching story of not wanting to part from one another at the end of their lives.

The story of Patricia and Leslie "LD" McWaters dying together might have both of those elements, but it is also tragic because they died of a preventable disease in a pandemic that hasn't been handled well. The Michigan couple, who had been married for 47 years, both died of COVID-19 complications on November 24th. Since they died less than a minute apart, their deaths were recorded with the exact same time—4:23pm.

Patricia, who was 78 at her passing, had made her career as a nurse. LD, who would have turned 76 next month, had been a truck driver. Patricia was "no nonsense" while LD was "fun-loving," and the couple did almost everything together, according to their joint obituary.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

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Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

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via Elliot Page / Instagram

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