It’s not like us to talk about politics. But it’s important to reflect on the times we live in and how we believe they must change.

The upcoming 2020 Presidential election is extremely important. For the last two years, we have been suffering as a nation. I’m not talking about the hiccupping economy or weakened international relations. I’m talking about how we Americans feel, emotionally.

Most of it isn’t good. Words that come to mind are unsafe, afraid, unprotected, shameful, and vulnerable. And yes, these words are the same ones we often use to describe how child abuse victims and adult survivors feel.

Speaking for myself, those are the words that describe what it’s like living as an American under the governance of our current President. After a while, it just gets to be too much.

Survivors of child abuse know exactly what I’m talking about, but so do many adults living in this country. The lies, bullying, misogyny, angry unexpected outbursts, sulking, and gaslighting. They are the same behaviors that children living with an abusive parent are forced to suffer.

He’s like the parent who never gives you a break, who’s devoid of empathy. Instead, he makes you feel small so he can feel powerful. And so I feel as though he is abusing me. Abusing all of us.

There are many different kinds of criteria to consider when deciding whom to send to the White House. There’s experience, temperament, policies, and electability. But in 2020, I’m also going to look for the candidate who makes me feel cared for and safe.

We must vote not just with our heads, but with our hearts. We must elect for President the person we believe would be the best parent for America.

We must vote for someone who is interested in having a healthy relationship with us, not an adversarial one. A good parent-leader for our country should make fostering unity a priority and possess the skills to do it. (Think about the parent who pits siblings against each other versus helping children understand how each is better served when they support each other.)

We want someone who will care for us for who we are and not disparage us based on whom we love, what we look like, what we believe, or what disabilities or mental illnesses we struggle with. And if we disagree with her or him, we want to know that we’re still accepted and loved.

This best candidate will be an authoritative parent, not an authoritarian one. Someone who makes us feel protected and safe and signs off on appropriate laws. She or he would recognize our rights and be able to clearly explains what behaviors are unacceptable. It would be a person who never lets us forget that we’re important and worthy. A candidate who can wrap us up in strong, loving arms and tell us it’s going to be okay.

What about you? Do you feel these last two years have led you to feel lifted up? Or are you angry at having been robbed of control over your life? Perhaps you’ve been shamed into silence.

Either way, as you make up your mind about who you’ll vote for in 2020, look at the candidates through the eyes of a child. Then decide . . . which individual do you believe will make you feel cared for, protected, and safe?

That’s what I’ll be thinking about. It’s what I need to heal and feel hopeful again.

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Janet Heimlich is an award-winning journalist and the author of "Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment," the first book to fully examine the issue of child abuse and neglect enabled by religious belief. In 2012, Janet founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project whose mission is to share knowledge and build community around the issue of religious child maltreatment (RCM) and advocate for and empower those whose lives are impacted by RCM. She also sits on the board of directors of Foundation Beyond Belief and co-hosts the podcast, "Parenting Beyond Belief." Prior to becoming a child advocate, Janet was a freelance reporter for National Public Radio, work for which she won numerous journalism awards; she has also written nonfiction articles for such publications as Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer.


  1. Rev. Anna Shouse
    August 21, 2019

    Thank you so much Jan. What you have written is spot on and expresses exactly my experience of this administration and also my desire and vision for our future. I believe there is enough sanity and goodness and integrity in our country to elect such a person as you describe. We are learning through this exhausting time what clearly does not work – something those of us in recovery from abuse have known for a long time. The good news is that we know how to handle ourselves and be a catalyst for transformation – and that a great many people are now coming to realize the importance of healthy and safe relationships. Thank you for CFFP and for all you do!
    In the Love and Light of Goodness,
    Rev. Anna Shouse
    P.S. I also recommend highly Steven Hassan’s website – he is a leading expert on mind control. His new book on the cult-like actions of the current administration is coming out soon. I have followed Hassan’s work for years. I was re-introduced to it at the 2014 CFFP Conference in Austin TX where he was a presenter. Here is his website –

  2. Stacy Youst
    August 21, 2019

    I went to a discussion on Demagoguery and Populism and Authoritarian politics. Two of the three speakers and a teacher in the audience referenced tips in the book by Timothy Snyder; On Tyranny; 20 lessons from the 20th century. Highlighted were; * Defend Institutions, * Remember professional ethics, * Be kind to our language, * Make eye contact and small talk, * Listen for dangerous words. As I was listening, I thought of Marianne Williamson’s talking points. I believe she’s spreading a similar message. I’ve been trying to conduct my little facebook page. I dislike ‘blocking’ people. I encourage respectful discussions. Can we come together? Can we find common ground? Can we learn from one another, maybe even change our own minds? I don’t have a tribe exactly; I am dismayed to read hateful cutting and dehumanizing comments written by liberal Democrats as well as Republicans as they attack one another and sometimes, me.

    • August 21, 2019

      You raise a good point, Stacy. A good parent-leader for our country should make fostering unity a big priority and possess the skills to do it. After all, what parent is better, the one who pits siblings against each other or helps them understand how each is better served when they support each other?

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