My Time As A Woman & Assault Survivor in the Andrew Yang Campaign
[Ed. note this was first published on Medium. Warning: this blog contains references to sexual assault and trauma]
“Regardless of whatever happens, you now have my phone number — and a friend for life.” — the last thing Andrew Yang said after a half hour phone call, a day after I was let go from the campaign. I was an Iowa staffer — and Iowa was over and as we knew would happen — we were all let go. I then put Andrew on speaker, and he spoke to my son: “Thank you for letting us have your mom these last several months. She’s been invaluable and I know you missed her.”
It was late June of 2019 when I came across a mis-targeted Facebook ad. The Yang campaign was clearly trying to hit Iowa, but they got me instead, in South Dakota. I started to hit the mute button and scroll down, but I wasn’t quick enough. Whatever Andrew was saying in the video, which I don’t recall now, was just enough to give me pause. I listened, and then spent the next several hours reading and watching anything I could about Yang.
It was barely two months later, after a mess up with financial aid with college, that I did what any normal person would do, and had giant Yang2020 decals applied to my Jeep Renegade — and I headed to Iowa.
The tricky part here, is I am a PTSD veteran. No, not combat PTSD. Multiple physical and sexual assaults in the service kind of PTSD rounded out with never ending sexual harassment and degradation. This isn’t something I tell people. The fact that I’m telling you now is a testament to what being part of this campaign has done for me.
I did what a woman afraid of men could do — I went to well lit places, and chalked “Google Andrew Yang” on sidewalks, at the entrances of McDonalds and WalMarts. I put business cards featuring Yang’s major policies in the windows of every car in the lot. I put up flyers on bulletin boards. I traveled with my pitbull mix who helped me feel safe. And I chronicled it all on Twitter. All over Iowa, people stopped me to ask what I was doing — and I told them about the man who believed we needed to decouple human value from economic value; who wanted to give them $1,000/mo as a right of citizenship in the richest economy in history. Talking to total strangers was not something I’ve been able to do in a long time. Talking to them about this campaign and these ideas was natural. My Jeep was a mobile advertisement for Yang — at many a red light, someone jumped out of their vehicle and ran to mine and asked for a bumper sticker or other swag. Or rolled down their window and yelled, “Who’s Andrew Yang?”
One day in September, I took my Yangmobile to a venue in Pella, IA where Andrew was holding a townhall. After spotting it, the Iowa chair asked me if I wanted to introduce Andrew. I swallowed a full dose of xanax, and I did.
Shortly thereafter, Andrew himself asked me to work for him.
But there was a problem: I had been literally unable to work for or with men since leaving the service. After struggling with this for many years, I was finally flagged at my VA for PTSD due to MST (military sexual trauma). I had an answer as to why I was always the hardest working and most capable employee who would eventually self destruct. After the diagnosis, I was hopeful. I finally had a name for what plagued me, and a plan to move forward. However, that plan was never to materialize. Shortly after starting therapy, I was re-traumatized in an elevator at my VA. I never returned again.
Flash forward to November of 2019. Andrew Yang himself asked me to work for him, but I knew myself, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was to fail again, especially for a cause so important — working for the candidate who ends abject poverty.
So I disclosed my mental health diagnosis, a diagnosis that the last time I disclosed to a potential employer, immediately ended the hiring process.
And I was hired with the campaign’s full knowledge.
To say that this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done is an understatement. Just because I believed in this cause and campaign and wanted to do everything I could to get Andrew elected, didn’t mean I was magically cured. Hope and passion are powerful drugs, but my days were still filled with anxiety and panic attacks — but still, I persevered.
Until one week before the Iowa caucus, while in a bathroom stall at a library in Indiana where I’d been sent to gather ballot signatures, I had the biggest panic attack I’d had in 10 years and I texted my supervisor — I quit. I’d managed to drive 30,000 miles, speak to thousands of Iowans in person and ON STAGE AT RALLIES, do things I’d never thought I’d be capable of again, and then I cracked.
What might another campaign have done with me? The PTSD veteran who finally cracked? Every employers worse nightmare?
Having now been a part of this movement for a while, I knew Andrew Yang often spoke of a very real truth, that employers are often hesitant to hire veterans for fear that we are broken. And here I was, proving that to the man himself.
Any other campaign would have said “good luck” and happily filed my resignation papers.
But not the Yang campaign.
My not- official- supervisor but another woman in the campaign, Amy Dorra, quickly called me. I screened her call as I was still in the bathroom crying.
Then my boss tried to call me.
Finally, when I got it together again, I called Amy back. She told me if I wanted to quit, it was fine, but they wanted me to stay. And to go home, rest for a couple of days, get my pup, who I had kenneled just a few days before for this trip, and to come back to Iowa and finish it out.
And I did.
And I will never see another employer treat me so kindly, just as I haven’t before.
This campaign is the single most human thing I’ve ever been involved in.