I am a writer, speaker, mountain and trail seeker, and activist in the movement to end sexual violence. I’m the author of the memoir – Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience.
I have a thing for altitude, an unexplainable and unquenchable pull to be high (no, the other kind of Colorado “high”).
My fascination with the sky started when I was a teenager, when I often rode my bike to a vacant cul-de-sac in the middle of a Missouri forest. I’d lie down on the gravel and watch planes and their contrails crisscross overhead. I was in love with the vibrant blue and fantasizing about the lives of the pilots inside the planes. Those afternoons spent dreamily looking to the heavens set the course of my life.
Though I became a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I never became the pilot of my dreams. Sexual abuse and rape led to an infection, meningitis, that would prevent me from graduating from the Academy and earning my commission in the Air Force. A chronic daily headache disorder secondary to the infection would impact my life indefinitely.
Just as my love of altitude led me to the military, it gave me the pathway to heal from the trauma I experienced as a young adult. Today I am a mountaineer who has climbed all fifty-eight of Colorado’s highest 14,000-foot peaks. I’m also an ultra-runner who loves routes through and over Colorado’s mountain trails. Since 2015, I’ve finished five 100-mile trail ultras. In January 2017, I successfully summited Mt. Aconcagua – 22,841 feet – the highest peak outside of Asia. In 2021, my team was weathered off of Denali, but we will be back…
When I was selected for the Medtronic Global Heroes Team, I was united with a group of athletes who also have life-saving medical implants. My device, an occipital nerve stimulator, helps manage my ongoing chronic daily headache disorder. Becoming part of the Medtronic Team helped teach me that having a disability – or being bionic in our cases! – doesn’t mean we aren’t capable. On that team I met a whole group of people who also use movement as medicine, just like me.
I write about how the mountains and trail life help me cope with and overcome PTSD and my chronic pain, as in this essay “Blue is the Color of Hope” in Hippocampus Magazine.
Many years ago, I was an advocate for survivors of sexual assault and abuse at a rape crisis center and then a counselor at a treatment center for children who experienced severe trauma. Today I serve on the Advisory Board for Protect our Defenders, a national non-profit leading the fight to end the epidemic of rape within the military.
After the 2003 scandal at the Air Force Academy in which several of my peers – women who had also been raped as cadets – went public with their stories, it seemed like the public still didn’t understand the military dynamics we were up against. Most misunderstood how culture impacted our personal stories – both within the military and outside of it. I wrote my first memoir so that I could illustrate how my own experiences intersected with culture, the true culprit. After ten years of healing, writing, and gaining insight into sexual violence Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience released from Beacon Press in February 2017.
I’m currently working on a second memoir, the follow-up story to Caged Eyes. The narrative is centered around my journey to climb Colorado’s fifty-eight highest 14,000-foot peaks, and it is the story of how I learned to cope with chronic pain I developed during the ordeal I wrote about in Caged Eyes.
I’d love to connect with you, so find me on Instagram.
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