A few days ago, I got a call from an unknown number.
“Is this Lauren?” a man said.
“Yes,” I said. “Who is this?”
“How are your chills?” he purred.
Those of you who have found your way here likely know the origin of this story, but if not, here’s a primer.
I’ve spent two decades in journalism or press freedom advocacy. Along the way, I reported some pretty difficult stories — on rape in Syria or in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. People would always ask me: “How can you do these stories and not fall apart?” I didn’t know. I just held it together. (Until that time I landed in the hospital from thinking I’d gotten one of my sources killed. Or that other time I lay down on my mosquito-netted bed in Congo and started crying and pretty much never stopped.)
I was fired from my only straight news job I’ve ever had last week — because I expressed emotion publicly on something I should not have, according to the publication. (Ahem, The New York Times.) The lashing I got from the right (including creepy sexual death threats) was equally met with outrage on the left, and even from people in the middle who didn’t think journalists should be robots.
None of the incredible journalists I worked with at the Times are robots. Most are smart, feeling people. But when I worked there, I felt like my whole body was in a shoe that was just a little too tight.
I needed to feel what I feel during these crazy, awful times, and I needed to express those feelings, sometimes in writing, because that’s what I do. When I feel, I write. When I am angry, I write. When I see injustice, I write.
So this is my new writing place. I’ll be telling stories that make your heart hurt, that may be hard to read, that will hopefully make you think and (yes) possibly chill you to the bone.
I write this comment as a survivor of sexual assault, as a little girl and an adult woman. My truth never aligned with the larger dialogue, until recently. That disconnect harmed me for years in ways I’m only beginning to understand.
In the last few years, bold women began speaking their truth about sexual abuse, publicly, and now my experience aligns with a national dialogue- finally. I’ve also received violent threats from men in online threads, usually referencing rape of some form. Their online behavior is reflective of the horrifying statistics that reveal just how common sexual violence is against little girls and women.
I think it’s critical that journalists, like yourself, continue this national dialogue. This violence against women must be called out every time it happens. It’s not acceptable and it won’t be tolerated. Thank you for your courage.
I’m am excited to support you and read every painful and/or happy word you write. The NYT should be ashamed of themselves. Journalism should not be politicized like it has been. But we cannot change what has happened, only move forward. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason (good and bad) and we always end up stronger! You are strong. You are talented and I have a feeling this will be the best thing that’s ever happened to you! I support you fully! Go Lauren!!! Show them what a badass you are.