You Didn't Deserve What Happened to You.

By: Kristi Thielen,
Communications Director

The Fem Dems of Sacramento, an organization I have been on the board of since 2016, had just won the award of Chapter of the Year from the county Democratic Party. It was awesome that a feminist organization was recognized for going above and beyond to empower women and help other Democratic organizations make strides in the right direction.

We accepted the award at the Democratic Party’s annual dinner and I did my standard mix and mingling after the program. Coming off a high of hard work and acknowledgement, I decided to leave a little early and walk to my car, a block away from the event. This was a part of town I am very familiar with: my old office was in sight and I stood at this very crosswalk every day for 2 years. As I was standing on the corner of 12th and J, feet away from my car, I felt a hard slap on my ass.

At first, I totally thought it was one of my friends also leaving the event. Why else would that happen?

In shock, I saw a man on a bike riding quickly away. I suddenly realized that it wasn’t any of my friends, but that a random guy sexually assaulted me on the street.

I screamed, “FUCK YOU,” then I started to shake. Mind you, this was around 8:30pm, on a busy intersection and no one walking near me even acknowledged that it happened.

In shock, I quickly called my boyfriend, not sure what to do. My mind was in twelve different places: I knew I needed to quickly get to safety, then I tried to minimize the situation – no need to call the police for something like this right? As I was driving home, I had a panic attack as I called my mom. I suddenly realized, no, this isn’t normal and no, I shouldn’t minimize my experience of street harassment/sexual assault.

My next thought was, it could have been worse. But this is exactly the problem.

Sexual assault is defined as “unwanted touching of another person’s intimate parts.” This includes “buttock”. All sexual assault is wrong – No matter the severity.

I was fortunate nothing else happened, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that I felt violated – It was an incredibly degrading experience. The audacity of that man to think he had the right to do something like that is beyond unacceptable; it’s unlawful.

To think, I was walking home, enjoying my evening and acknowledgement for all the strides I believed we were making, just to be degraded and assaulted minutes later on the street. When does it stop?

As advised by a close friend, I filed a police report. I was bruised both physically and emotionally – The adrenaline kept me from feeling the physical pain.

You should always report these instances of sexual assault. Even if you don’t think it’s that big of a deal, you could prevent it from happening to someone else.

Unfortunately, there’s an unfair burden for women or victims of these crimes to act in order to get justice. And with the #MeToo letter surfacing, it’s clear there’s a war on women on many fronts, in countless industries and enough is enough.

Let’s face it: we’ve all experiences instances of degradation. Almost all of us have experienced being catcalled and harassed on the street. But it goes further than that. This was not the first time I was sexually assaulted and I fear it won’t be my last.

I asked the rest of the Fem Dems E-board totaling nine women how many of them have experienced these examples of violence against women:

Three of us said we’ve been sexually assaulted.

One of us said we’ve experienced domestic violence.

Five of us said we’ve experienced sexual harassment.

Two of us said we’ve been stalked.

Three of us said we’ve been “upskirted”, a term for when you’ve been photographed without consent.

One of us said we’ve experienced intimate partner abuse.

And this is pretty on par, if not high, compared to the national percentages. What’s clear is that violence against women needs to stop.

To that asshole who assaulted me: Your day will come.

To all the other women who have experienced this kind of violence: I’m so sorry. You are strong, you are resilient and it’s ok to ask for help and support. You didn’t deserve what happened to you.

I decided to share my story because I hope it will change the way we think about sexual assault and violence against women. It makes it personal.

We as Fem Dems are committed to fight for the equal right to walk and the streets and feel safe. Share your story, report these instances of sexual assault and know that you are not alone.


Religious Freedom through Tolerance

By: Laura Fitzgerald
Fem Dems Contributing Writer

Just last week, President Trump revealed his intentions to act upon yet another one of his many campaign promises: to repeal large provisions in the Affordable Care Act. After multiple failed attempts at creating a brand new nationwide policy for health care coverage, this Republican administration has resorted to cherry picking specific provisions of the ACA to repeal. Hence, representatives of this current administration indicated that access to birth control and contraceptives through employment is on the chopping block. The new rules released by the Health and Human Services Department create more avenues for employers to obtain an exemption from the contraceptive mandate that existed under the Affordable Care Act.

Shortly after the creation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, President Obama added a mandate to the law that required female contraceptives to be covered by new insurance plans starting in 2012. Birth control medication and contraceptive devices were categorized as preventive care necessities that would be provided to patients without co-payments. An exemption from this contraceptive mandate existed for churches and houses of worship, although Christian hospitals, charities, and universities were still subjected to the requirement. While this drew criticism from Republican representatives, the Obama administration argued that covering such medications and devices were necessary preventive measures to lower the rates of unintended pregnancies and that specifically excluding birth control medications when other prescriptions are provided to employees is a form of discrimination based upon sex and religion.

The rules newly proposed by the Trump administration augment the types of employers that are eligible for an exemption from the contraceptive mandate on the basis of religious conscience. More nonprofit, for-profit, and higher educational institutions will be able to legally seek exemption, not to mention any individual employer who claims a religious conflict. By broadly widening the options for employer exemption, these new rules will significantly weaken the intent of the original mandate under the Obama administration, rolling back the protections and access to health care that President Obama granted female employees nationwide.

Spokespeople for President Trump have declared this a valiant action in the name of preserving the first amendment, more specifically, the freedom of religion. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis) even declared last Friday “a landmark day for religious liberty”. This administration has been clear that its intention is to protect the religious beliefs of employers through this decision. Allowing employers the discretion of whether or not to cover a widely used medication will not act as a preservative of freedom, but rather as a free permit for discrimination.

It would behoove the decision-makers of this current administration to consider whether an employer identifying as a Christian Scientist has the right to deny health care benefits entirely to employees on the basis that it is contrary to his or her religious beliefs. Or perhaps if an employee is in need of a blood transfusion after an accident, would it be appropriate for their employer who identifies as a Jehovah’s Witness to deny medical coverage for the treatment? While some may view these examples as extreme, they are serious possibilities that could result from the current administration’s interpretation of religious freedom.

Our nation’s health care practices have historically lacked investment in preventive care, taking on a reactionary role rather than nipping medical conditions in the bud. America has a collective interest in health care for all; each and every citizen benefits from a society with less sickness. This vision is only possible if our physicians and insurance companies facilitate preventive care practices. Contraception absolutely falls under this category of care. By decreasing the amount of unintended pregnancies, access to birth control also contributes to more financial stability for families and healthier relationships for many. These medications also help remedy hormone imbalances and ovary irregularities, both of which can evolve into serious medical conditions if they go untreated.

Proponents of these new rules on employee health coverage may argue that female employees can simply go elsewhere for their contraceptive needs. Women, they argue, will still have the ability to take birth control medication if they pay out of pocket. While it is true that some women may still have the ability to afford this medication and continue to use it for its many functions, this will not be the case for all women that lose coverage. Employers who refuse to cover contraceptive medication through their provided health benefits are placing an undue burden on the shoulders of their female employees simply on the grounds that it would be on their religious conscious.

Freedom is the beacon often used to characterize American life, but our freedom is only possible in the presence of compromise and tolerance. Once one’s civil liberties are prioritized over others’, the integrity of this promise to freedom is squashed. Our first amendment is not only a protection, but a duty as well. In addition to enjoying the protection from persecution, Americans are obligated to respect the views of our friends, neighbors, and employees. Religious morals cannot possibly serve as factual information on which to create health care policies for the entire population of the United States. Enabling employers to place limitations on their employee’s access to health care on the grounds of religion is a serious overreach of the first amendment.

*I’ve written this piece as a reflection of my own opinion. It is not affiliated with my work for the California State Legislature.

When A Bump In The Belly Turns Into A Bump In The Road

A brief discussion about statistics, grief support, and the reproductive injustices surrounding pregnancy loss

By: Mary McCune
Pipeline Program Director


I remember the day I finally got a positive pregnancy test. I swear I must have peed on over 50 tests throughout this year before getting the magical positive one. I had to eventually switch to the cheap tests that look like pH test strips for pools because it got expensive pretty fast. The day it happened, we splurged and bought a digital pregnancy test that boldly displayed the word "pregnant" on the screen to eliminate any doubt my husband and I had.  

Getting pregnant was frustrating. Each month was a painful week-long reminder that I wasn’t there yet. And each month when I ended my cycle, I felt like my newsfeed always displayed a friend’s pregnancy or birth announcement. Since we started to try, these announcements meant more to me – a potential glimpse into the future and deeper empathy for the excitement my friends’ families were feeling.

I decided to tell friends, family, and even coworkers about my pregnancy quite early, around 6 weeks, for a couple of reasons. First, my morning sickness was oftentimes hard to hide. But secondly, I felt comfortable sharing my experiences with others, no matter the ultimate outcome.

I worked at Planned Parenthood for many years and had become familiar with the statistics related to U.S. pregnancies. I already knew that approximately 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. The instance of miscarriage with black women is even higher due to several reasons, including lack of prenatal care. That means approximately one out of every four pregnant women experience pregnancy loss.

Sharing the news was exciting. We spent hours with friends and family discussing baby names. We would peruse Pinterest looking at nursery decor and search Yelp and Nextdoor for neighborhood daycares. We couldn’t wait to meet our little one and counted the days until our first ultrasound. When I woke up on the morning of the appointment, I picked out the magnet I would use to pin up the ultrasound picture on the fridge.  

The silence was deafening. I stared at the ceiling for an eternity as the doctor squirted more and more gel, trying different angles, and digging deeper into my abdomen to try and find signs of life. The ultrasound appointment was the opposite of what I expected. I left the appointment with a diagnosed UTI, a surprise pap smear, and an everlasting memory. I went back two days later for another hour of continued silent ultrasounds and a call later that evening confirming my fear.


I was given three treatment options: expectant management (sit and wait), medical management (induced through misoprostol pills), or surgical evacuation. There was no clear option for me, as each option had their own pros and cons. Ultimately, I chose medical management because I did not want to spend hours in hospital triage waiting for a surgery room on a Friday night.

However, I ended up waiting almost an hour at the hospital pharmacy. Misoprostol, more commonly known as the “abortion pill,” is sometimes hard to obtain at commercial pharmacies because under California law, pharmacists can refuse to fill these prescriptions based on their own ethical, moral, or religious objections.

I went home and took my medication that evening. I saw medical management as a way of closing a chapter and a conclusive end to the pregnancy. I had pizza ordered, ice cream in the freezer, and my favorite TV shows queued up. A couple of hours later, I started feeling contractions and eventually started to pass a majority of the tissue. The most painful part of the process lasted approximately 12 hours, although extreme cramping, tissue passage, and bleeding can last up to two weeks.

Grief manifests itself differently in everyone. What worked for me might not be helpful for others. I found that the following types of support from friends were helpful in my own grieving and recovery processes:

Sharing personal stories

I was shocked by the number of women I knew who had experienced similar procedures and miscarriages. Hearing their stories was therapeutic, normalized my experience, and made me feel less alone.

Serving as a sounding board

Depending on the person, spouting off statistics might not be the best way to heal. While many of my friends tried to comfort me (with the best of intentions) by reassuring me statistically “next time it will be fine,” or “at least you weren’t further along,” other women might find those comments to be minimizing their experience. Sometimes, simply letting your grieving friend talk it out can be helpful.

Helping to find resources

If you have not personally experienced a miscarriage, asking if your grieving friend is able to connect with others with similar experiences is a thoughtful way to provide support. If she doesn’t feel comfortable or doesn’t know anyone with these shared experiences, there are plenty of support groups in Sacramento for grieving women and families like Sharing Parents or local Meetup groups.

Spending time on distractions

Sometimes I didn’t want to talk. The night the doctor confirmed the miscarriage, my best friend came over with sushi and we drank wine for the entire night without barely mentioning the miscarriage. It was a needed respite from the previous three days of limbo.

Despite everything, I consider myself fortunate. I have supportive family, friends, and coworkers. I also have a doctor that educated me on all of my options with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, other women are not afforded this type of care. Some states, including Indiana and Georgia, have laws requiring burial or cremation for abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths. Other states, like Iowa, have debated laws eliminating medical options for women experiencing miscarriages, forcing them to either carry to term or experience expectant management. Similar barriers on access to care for women seeking abortions can be seen across the country. These discussions and decisions should always be left to a woman and her medical provider, not the legislature.   

Why am I sharing my story? I want to help change our whisper culture surrounding pregnancy loss. I want my girlfriends who experience this type of loss to know to come to me for support if they need it. I want to share appropriate support strategies to friends of women who experience miscarriage. And I want to shed light on the reproductive injustices and barriers to care women experience based on their race or where they live.

Because after all, I am one in four.



FEM DEMS CONTRIBUTOR: Thoughts on Title IX Rollbacks

By: Laura Fitzgerald
Fem Dems Contributing Writer

As a recent UC Davis undergraduate, I along with a handful of my friends experienced instances of sexual assault during our four years on campus. While the experiences are in every way disturbing, the truly unacceptable fact is that there is nothing unique about a female student who suffers inappropriate sexual conduct - it has and will continue to happen to millions of women at universities throughout the nation for years to come. One in five female and one in 16 male college students are sexually assaulted. Additionally, 90 percent of sexual assault victims choose not to report the occurrence according to the National Sexual Violence Center. We know that cases of sexual assault are not in any way uncommon, particularly for women on college campuses.

These are disheartening facts, especially when just last week The U.S. Department of Education announced in a “Dear Colleague” letter that it will be rescinding Title IX protections from the Obama administration. Title IX is the law that requires equality between male and female students in educational programs that receive federal funding. While Title IX regulates equal treatment of boys and girls in school-related programs, it also plays a large role in guiding how school campuses address cases of sexual assault.

A 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter written by the Office for Civil Rights argues that the “preponderance of evidence” standard is the most appropriate threshold of evidence to use when investigating cases of  alleged sexual assault and violence. Schools throughout the nation have adopted this standard of evidence when assessing sexual assault allegations rather than a “clear and convincing evidence” or “beyond reasonable doubt” standard under the Obama administration. Moving forward, however, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been clear that she believes in raising the standard for evidence and protecting the rights of those that have been accused.

While every individual is entitled to due process, this regression of Title IX protections for students will place an undue hurdle in the path of sexual assault victims that report their experiences. The rollbacks proposed by the current leadership of the U.S. Department of Education disregard a critical aspect of sexual assault cases: they often happen behind closed doors, void of witnesses and documentation. The majority of victims only have their word if they do decide to come forward to report their assault. What options will these victims have in addressing their cases if they only have their side of the story? Not many. Increasing the threshold for what constitutes as evidence and moving away from the “preponderance of evidence” standard will mean that a sexual assault victim’s word may not qualify as enough evidence when these cases are addressed on school campuses.

This raises a serious question as to how victims of sexual assault will be able to seek justice. A victim’s decision of whether or not to bring light to the fact they were assaulted is not an easy one. Confusion, fear, shame, all haunt those who have been assaulted. Reporting requires them to relive the painful details of when and how they were senselessly violated by another. These victims need protections. These individuals deserve for their stories to be heard and given appropriate consideration when they are forced to carry the burden of their assault for years to come.

Society has been exposed to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses with a handful of cases that have received national media attention in recent years including Emma Sulkowicz and her visual art performance “Carry That Weight” at Columbia University in 2014 and the case of Brock Turner at Stanford University in 2015. However, our community is not free from similarly dire situations. The Sacramento region is home to thousands of college students with UC Davis and Sacramento State on either side of the causeway. The recent actions of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will tangibly affect our friends and neighbors that are sexual assault survivors, hindering them from seeking justice during their most vulnerable time.

Since President Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, many California lawmakers have dug their heels in, responding to this administration’s rhetoric and advocating for protections for immigrants, the environment, accessible health care, and more. California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, introduced SB 169 earlier this year to protect California’s students from, at that time, potential Title IX rollbacks. If signed by Governor Brown, the bill will maintain Title IX standards from the Obama era for schools throughout California. Given the recent action taken by the U.S. Department of Education, this could be one of the most important bills pending the Governor’s approval for students throughout the state, particularly female college students.

Indeed, every student deserves a learning environment free from the threat of sexual harassment, assault, and violence, but we know that no campus can guarantee this protection. For this reason, it is essential that educational institutions recognize their responsibility of ensuring that comprehensive protections are in place to guard the voices of sexual assault victims everywhere. Without justice, horrifying instances of sexual assault will continue to occur. Our nation’s policies must encourage victims to come forward so that our society can better address this rampant issue. Sadly, this action taken by Secretary Betsy DeVos is an unbearably large step in the wrong direction.

*I’ve written this piece as a reflection of my own opinion. It is not affiliated with my work for the California State Legislature.


Fem Dems Statement on Trump's Decision to Terminate DACA

September 6, 2017
Nicole Norton


SACRAMENTO – The Fem Dems of Sacramento strongly and unequivocally condemn the decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"DACAmented folks are Americans, full stop. They are a part of our community, and we stand with them," said Fem Dems President Denise Tugade. "The decision to end the DACA program is a cynical move meant to capitalize on misplaced hatred and outdated xenophobia. It is despicable that the Trump Administration is playing politics with the lives of some 800,000 innocent young people."

The Fem Dems of Sacramento are strongly opposed to exclusionary laws, programs, or messages being perpetrated by the Trump Administration, including the recent announcement to terminate DACA. Our families, friends and fellow members are personally connected to this and we will not rest until our DREAMers are protected.

Call your member of congress, along with Senators Feinstein and Harris, to urge your support for DACA. The U.S. Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121.


9 Immigration Organizations To Donate To If You Want To Support DACA Recipients

Be A Good Ally: Don’t Get Your Undocumented Friends in Trouble: A How-To

Attend and share a Know Your Rights Event: McGeorge School of Law is conducting a preliminary event on September 13 where they will provide free consultations and explain what steps are needed to complete applications regarding DACA and Naturalization.  If you know members of the community who would be interested in applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Naturalization please have them contact Community Legal Services at 916-340-6080

City of Sacramento DACA Resources


The mission of the Fem Dems is to promote the feminist principles of political, economic and social equality between the sexes. We are committed to promoting feminist ideals through a combination of volunteerism, community outreach, fundraising and political activism. We do this by building leadership skills, engaging community leaders, and discussing current events impacting gender equality and our local community.

From a Male Ally Perspective: Feminism in the Resistance

By Johnny Villavicencio, Political Vice-Chair of Organize Win Legislate (OWL)

On Saturday June 17th, Organize Win Legislate-Sacramento (OWLS) hosted it's second phone bank to turn out the vote for a congressional race happening on the other side of the country. Over 40 people donated their Saturday afternoons in support of a movement that has seen previously non-politically minded people turning out in droves; feeling the necessity to step up and fight for the rights of not just themselves, but for their friends and loved ones, neighbors, and total strangers. At one point, I took stock of the room, inspired and humbled by the turnout, and I noticed something that has become par for the course since the election; the majority of the room was female.

November 8th, 2016 was a bleak day for many of us. My perception of who we are as a country was shattered. I spent November 9th commiserating with friends and coworkers, alternating between tears and numbness, and I know I was not the only one. While some of us were wallowing in grief, the leadership of Fem Dems was already hard at work, organizing the way forward. Due to their efforts, on November 11th, over 200 angry and frustrated people gathered to talk about what had happened, and what we could do in response. This meeting was a microcosm of what has happened across the country since the election. New local grassroots organizations have been created, existing ones have seen their membership swell, and the story is the same from coast to coast; not content to simply talk about what values our country should project, women are showing up to do the work that is needed to bring that vision to fruition.

Being the Political Vice Chair of Organize Win Legislate, and heavily involved with Sacramento County Young Democrats, has afforded me the opportunity to see what the best of Sacramento has to offer. As I take stock of the work that OWLS’s committees have done so far (all chaired by women), and as I participate in educational and volunteer events created, staffed, and hosted by the members and leaders of Fem Dems and SCYD, one thing is abundantly clear; women across the country are finding their voices and refusing to accept being silenced. The future is female, and it's in good hands.

Advocacy Academy: Advocacy 101 Download

Mary McCune, Pipeline Program Director

Last weekend, the Fem Dems in collaboration with the Sacramento County Young Democrats (SCYD) hosted the first of four Advocacy Academies at McGeorge School of Law.  Attendees from Midtown, Folsom, Antelope, Citrus Heights, Oak Park, and other neighboring communities came together to learn how to be more effective agents of change.  The Academy consisted of three panels focused on various areas of advocacy.

In the first panel, the Academy invited three local powerhouse women with unique experiences with constituent relations to speak about their experiences advancing their careers in politics, balancing life, and tips for reaching out to elected member offices.

Left to right: Stephanie Nguyen (Executive Director, Asian Resources, Inc./Elk Grove City Council Member), Omega Brewer (Political Director, SEIU 2015), Aubrie Fong (District Director, Asm. Kevin McCarty)

In the second panel, we invited staff from Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s office to discuss the City’s new e-comment feature, effective ways to keep up with local and city politics, and effective channels to communicate with city officials through calls, letters, community events, and public comment.

Left: Jaycob Bytel (Deputy Communications Director, Office of Mayor Darrell Steinberg)
Right: Kelly Fong Rivas (Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Mayor Darrell Steinberg)

We topped of our day by inviting three social media mavens to explore the elements of an effective press release, tips on how to get picked up by social media outlets, and controlling your message using online social media platforms.  

Top: Kristi K. Thielen (Legislative Aide, Asm. Rob Bonta)
Middle: Sami Gallegos (Content Producer, ABC10)
Bottom: Kevin Liao (Press Secretary, Asm. Speaker Anthony Rendon

To learn more about Advocacy Academy, one of our many Pipeline Programming Initiatives, click here or contact Mary McCune, Fem Dems Pipeline Programming Director at

Fem Dems Convention Event Guide 2017

Fem Dems Convention Event Guide 2017

Are you planning on going to Convention this year? Whether this is your first time or you are a seasoned delegate, there is always a myriad of events on the docket that can make scheduling your convention weekend a little overwhelming. Not to worry, the Fem Dems are here to help!

Fem Dems Family Caregiver Strategic Plan

Fem Dems Family Caregiver Strategic Plan

In March 2016, the Fem Dems of Sacramento released a family caregiver survey to its membership and community supporters in order to learn more about the various commitments of our members and to better shape our future programming and events to those diverse schedules. From these responses the Fem Dems have developed a strategic plan to be more inclusive of members with family caregiver needs with 3 concrete actions under one thematic goal – variety

Tampon Tax Bill 2.0 Continues to Face Uphill Battle

Tampon Tax Bill 2.0 Continues to Face Uphill Battle

Authored  by Mary McCune & Kristi Thielen

In 2016, the Fem Dems rallied for AB 1561 (Garcia), most commonly known as the “Tampon Tax.” As the name implies, the bill would remove the tax on feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary more to find out what's happening now and how you can get involved!