Read Michelle's piece on LancasterOnline here.
Lancaster is my home, and I love it dearly. I was raised in a comfortable home on Strawberry Lane in West Lampeter Township. I grew up playing in the surrounding cow pasture, creeks and cornfields with my neighborhood friends.
My grandfather was a detective and captain with the Lancaster City Bureau of Police; my grandmother one of the first cashiers at Darrenkamp’s; and my mother a courier for Lancaster General Hospital. My grandparents took my mother, sister and me into their home when I was 2 years old. My parents had divorced, and we were struggling financially. My grandparents made sure we never wanted for anything.
Still, sometimes bad things just happen. From the ages of 2 to 5, I was the victim of childhood sexual assault. I told my mother when I was 5, and she fought with everything she had to protect me and make me safe. My mother is my hero, and I am forever grateful to her and my grandparents. They taught me to be empathetic, resilient and strong.
It wasn’t until I was 12 that I fully understood what had happened to me. A friend confided in me that one of her family members had molested her. Immediately, everything came rushing back. I struggled to cope. I started using drugs and self-harming. Middle school is difficult for most kids, but it was an especially difficult time for me.
These details are embarrassing to share. I have never spoken publicly about these things and never wished to. But I know that my story is not uncommon for young girls. Neither are the shame and fear we face when the time comes to be vulnerable and brave.
In the end, my loving family helped me overcome all of this and more. I went to Millersville University and graduated with honors with a degree in molecular biology and biochemistry. I worked in my field for two years before the election of Donald Trump uprooted my life and caused me to re-evaluate my priorities.
I was heartbroken, depressed and in utter shock to see a man who disrespected and debased women rise to the highest position of power in America. I felt powerless all over again and deeply fearful for my future. The day after the election, I went to a vigil held by faith and community leaders. I learned that an emergency community meeting was going to be held, and I looked to that meeting as a beacon of hope in a time of darkness. Out of that meeting, Lancaster Stands Up was born.
I suddenly met hundreds of people who felt like I did. Powerless. Devastated. Hopeless. These hundreds became thousands. Over the next year, this community of people reclaimed our power together. We believed that government should work for the people, not for corporate interests whose only motive was profit at the expense of all else. Before getting involved in this community, I disliked both the Republican and Democratic leadership. It felt like it didn’t matter much who I voted for. All politicians were playing the same ugly game, and we were the pawns.https://lancasteronline.com/opinion/columnists/i-am-lancaster-stands-up/article_d31ecaba-c5a6-11e8-b8c1-5f7110ac8734.html