Category Archives: Outcry: Sexual Assault Awareness/Child Abuse Prevention Month 2011 Poem Series

“Walk a Moment with Me” with cmottenwess625


A poem from your new admin: “#blamingthevictim”

Good day, readers,

 

My name is Särah Nour and I have the honor of being the new manager of “Writing for Recovery.” I intend to continue furthering Sarah Ann Henderson’s cause of spreading awareness and providing a safe, open forum for those recovering from mental illness, abuse, sexual violence, and eating disorders.

 

I’d like to start off with a poem I wrote a while back, when I was repulsed by the victim-blaming, slut-shaming reactions to the Steubenville rape case. All my anger, revulsion, and horror had to be channeled in a healthy manner, so I choose to copy and paste the appalling quotes found on Twitter and use them to my advantage.

child-rapist1

#blamingthevictim

 

Twitter deems her a cautionary tale:

“Remember kids, if you’re drink/slutty at a party,

and embarrassed later, just say you got raped!”

#Steubenville

Who would ask for it?

 

Twitter has a firm grasp on her situation:

“So you got drunk at a party

and two people take advantage of you,

that’s not rape that’s just a loose drunk slut”

#BiasedResults

Who would ask for it?

 

Underage drinking is the bigger crime here:

“These guys that are in this rape case

should be charged if guilty.

But it’s the girl’s fault too.

She is 16 and got drunk until she passed out.”

#dontdrink

Who would ask for it?

 

Who would ask to be blamed

For not following the dress code,

For drinking too much,

For being taken against her will?

 

“I’m not saying what they did isn’t wrong

but it’s not rape… It’s the girl’s fault.”

#justice

“I’m not blaming the victim here

but how do you get that drunk in the first place?”

#Steubenville

 

Who would ask to be judged nationwide

For a night that will haunt her dreams

For years to come?

 

No one would ask to be

Violated, dehumanized, objectified;

No one would ask to be

Raped.

 

To be the prey

First of two young men

Then of the media

Then of strangers on the Internet

Who know nothing about her

Yet hold her responsible—

Who would ask for it?


Outcry: “Honorable Woman”

So, after four weeks, we have come to the final poem in our series. The first six poems I posted dealt specifically with rape, sexual assault, and child sexual abuse from a victim’s point of view, recognizing the difficulties people who endure these crimes suffer with as victims. This week I wanted to change that, so I posted the piece about letting go of my past with my father; a poem dealing with the issue as a survivor.

For the last piece, I don’t want to be either. This poem is not about being a victim, it is not about being a survivor- it’s about being a person. A woman, specifically. When I wrote this poem, it was more of a wish list than anything else. These are all qualities I aspire to have, qualities that I try to live up to everyday, qualities I see in others around me that I admire. This is the woman I want to be, beyond the victim, beyond the survivor, beyond who my trauma made me. This is the woman I made, and no one can take her away from me because I am her.

I hope someday every single one of you gets to know the power of that.

(Note: I mostly talk about women and female victims here because they are the majority of victims and because I am female. I of course recognize that men are raped and abused and I don’t want anyone to feel ignored or disenfranchised; I know you are there and I am fighting for you too!)

Thank you to everyone who read these poems, whether just one or the whole series. It means so much to be able to share these pieces and help put a voice behind the silence of sexually violent crimes.

6/17/10

Honorable Woman

I am an honorable woman

I live in an authentic way

Honesty suits me well

You can trust that I mean what I say

I am an honorable woman

I know when to walk away

To not take less than I deserve

If it’s not right than I won’t stay

I am an honorable woman

I am loyal to those close to my heart

Love is what gives life its meaning

Even when we are apart

I am an honorable woman

I hold myself in respect

I treat others how I wish to be treated

I never abuse or neglect

I am an honorable woman

I’m accountable for my actions

I’m responsible for my part

Of my personal interactions

I am an honorable woman

I stand up for what I believe

I want to change the world

And I don’t think that is naive

I am an honorable woman

I have faith that things will work out

I believe that God’s on my side

Even when I am in doubt

I am an honorable woman

I work as hard as I can

To maintain the standards I hold

I will not be controlled by a man

I am an honorable woman

I have a powerful voice

I use it without holding back

To proclaim my freedom of choice

I am an honorable woman

My love is both tender and fierce

I will love through pain and desire

I will love through laughter and tears

I am an honorable woman

Who continues to learn and to grow

I am an honorable woman

And should be regarded as so

© Sarah Henderson 2010


“Outcry”: My Father, My Perpetrator: An Epitaph

Welcome to the last week of WfR’s “Outcry” poetry series honoring Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month. This week I’d like to change things up a bit and end on a really positive, empowering note.

For the final two poems, I’ve selected pieces that were written just this past year. This one in particular, My Father, My Perpetrator, is about a process that was extremely painful and yet in the end, possibly the most freeing thing I’ve ever done for myself.

A little background here: My father was my perpetrator throughout my childhood; my mother did not know this. He left when I was sixteen and my parents divorced a few years later. He left my mom virtually broke after the divorce- she chose to go back to school and complete her nursing degree while working other jobs- so I was in a position where if he didn’t pay for my medical and psychiatric care I was screwed. At the time I was on the verge of death from anorexia and desperately needed hospitalization, etc, so was forced to take his money. The therapy and inpatient care saved my life, but he made stipulations that I had to have contact with him and he was allowed to have contact with my treatment providers otherwise he would not pay. This went on for almost ten years, until finally I got to a position where I was well and recovered and financially secure enough to be able to refuse. He had me very confused by saying that he was concerned for my health and he cared enough to pay for my treatment, all the while denying any abuse or neglect or mistreatment of my mother and sister. One final phone call last summer, and that was the end. He is dead now, in all but a physical sense. And I have never felt more free. So here’s to you, dad, and all your lies and manipulations and crap that you pulled over the years. And by the way? I’m keeping your last name, so when I publish my writing everyone knows who I’m talking about when I refer to my abusive father.

7/2/10

My Father, My Perpetrator: An Epitaph

Bits of reality, torn from time

Which version is yours, which version is mine?

I know what’s real, but then, so do you

Who gets to decide whose truth is true?

Is it in the middle, a mix of the two?

I don’t want to compromise my truth for you

I thought I had settled this, thought I was done

Thought we’d get to this point and be mutually shunned

But you planted this seed of tortuous doubt

And I couldn’t let go if I didn’t find out:

Who the hell are you? Who were you then?

Do you really love me? If so, since when?

How can you deny the things that you did?

The abuse that I suffered and dutifully hid

You speak to me now as if you weren’t that man

Like you don’t hold the phone with the very same hand

That put a gun to my six-year-old head

That slipped under the covers of my childhood bed

You seem to think that because we’re polite

That you have a point or you could be right

But when you mentioned Mom everything became clear:

I will never find love or nurturance here

I have only one parent, an incredible mother

Never again will I wish for another

She’s all that you aren’t, all I could need

I’m no longer willing to bow to your greed

To pretend like you care, to fake-like your wife

To pretend like you know anything of my life

God Himself could tell Mom to leave me and she wouldn’t

Tell her to stop caring for me and she couldn’t

This is the woman that I’m a part of

You can’t imagine the force of her love

You never got it and you never will

The love between father and daughter you killed

You may not be dead but all hope and doubt are

I’m not letting you cause me anymore scars

This is it, you’re no more, at last there’s an end

There are some things for which there’s no making amends

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2010


Outcry: “Mouthing the Words”

Here we are at the third child abuse poem in our series. This poem was written to describe what it’s like to live with the burden of secret abuse; to harbor the shame, guilt, rage, and terror of experiencing constant trauma and being totally alone with it. Often the perpetrator has threatened you to keep you silent; other times it is strictly fear and shame and confusion that stop you from reaching out for help. There’s the idea that you were somehow at fault for what’s happening and you are afraid to be punished. Sometimes, the abuse is the only attention you receive from someone who is supposed to love you and you don’t want to lose that. Whatever the reason, as a victim you are still utterly alone with this secret and it weighs on your soul until you share it with someone. This poem is about that experience.

4/11/08

Mouthing the Words

 

Dying to speak, but I’m not allowed

Not that they’d listen– they don’t know how

I have been silenced, my voice of no use

My throat has been slit by this nameless abuse

Secrets and lies build up in my chest

My body absorbs them, never confessed

I wonder and hope that there might be a day

When someone will see me, hear something I say

But most of me knows that’s some childish dream

I’m resigned to put up with the internal screams

For I have to be normal, I have to be good

I have to be quiet and do what I should

Because I’m the glue that holds us as one

I am the girl that gets everything done

So I’ll keep the secrets, Pandora’s Box closed

I’ll make sure that nothing and no one’s exposed

But wait– watch as her scarred body grows

Careful, she’s letting some hidden things show

Triumphant, she feels that she’s finally spoken

Though for this divulgence, her family has broken

Today it still takes all I have to say “No”

To set my own limits, let that drama go

But it’s getting easier year after year

I’m working hard to conquer my fears

And find other ways for my voice to be heard

No more must I lay, just mouthing the words

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2008


Outcry: “Touch”

Here is third sexual assault poem in the series. This poem has less to do with sexual assault itself and more to do with the effects that one lives with afterwards; particularly the effects on the body. This is based on my own experience and may or may not be true for others, but from most sexual assault and abuse victims I have known, this describes at least one stage that most of use went through on the way to healing.

2/17/05

Touch

 

Her body’s a war zone, it’s ravaged and razed

Old violence still lives there; she’s damaged and dazed

Oh God, there’s a hand, it’s touching my face

Now it thinks it can penetrate me anyplace

He pulses beneath, his lap under her back

She feels his arousal, a silent attack

She can’t wriggle free, her would has gone black

And now one friendly gesture can cause a flashback

I learned very well: “safe touch” doesn’t exist

But part of me feels that I should be pissed

That he stole that away, made closeness a threat

Just one more human need I’ve had to forget

A wound that I haven’t reconciled yet

A vital heart-need that I can’t have met

A mother’s warm lap, a sister’s embrace

The want for these things was always replaced

With the need to not need, a fierce, frantic quest

A desperate marathon from which I could not rest

Running from kindness and comforting hands

Fearing that touch came with other demands

He made innocent contact connected to sex

And I’m always afraid that’s what one will expect

So I try not to feel, close my heart up once more

Quickly slam it shut and lock up that door

Knowing the longer that I keep it caged

The more work it will take to break loose as I age

How could he do that, make me so afraid?

That every reach toward me is meant to invade?

His torture created a unique form of dread

Where each touch is a sign that says “DANGER AHEAD”

But I’m tired of running, of feeling the fear

Of shying away from a touch that’s sincere

Fuck him and all of the pain he instilled

I want to fight now; I can and I will

© Sarah Henderson 2005


Outcry: “Tamar Pleads Insanity”

Here is the second poem in the series dedicated to the issue of child abuse. This poem is about the tragic assumptions that children can make when they’re being sexually abused, particularly by a family member. Almost all children in that situation will assume it’s their fault, something they did wrong, either because the perpetrator is flat-out telling them that, or because it’s easier than believing that the person they love and are supposed to be able to trust is a monster. If the abuse is my fault, they think, then there’s some way to control it. I can be better. I can be a sweet girl. I can be a strong boy. If I just don’t cry. If I just don’t tell. Maybe then it will stop. If you’re not the one to blame, on the other hand, then there is no control and you are completely at the mercy of this person. They have all the power, and you have no hope. Taking on the guilt, in a weird way, gives you hope that you have the power to change the situation. That’s the best way I can explain it when people ask why a child- who is obviously totally blameless- would take the blame for these crimes. Because no matter what, children just want to have hope.

Also, just to note, I wrote this when I really believed that the abuse I suffered was my fault. Thankfully, I have decided conclusively that this is not the case, and never was.

3/30/02

Tamar Pleads Insanity

When love means possession, a choice must be made

One has to decide what she’s willing to trade

 

How about innocence? That can’t be worth much

A valuable would be respected as such

 

So slip on the veil, prepare to pretend

Just don’t let your role and reality blend

 

It’s clear what he wants, so before he can ask

You play along and hop to the task

 

Who knows when you mutated, became a whore

Decided that you wouldn’t fight anymore

 

The entire world dimmed and this became love

A hard iron fist in a red velvet glove

 

The only attention you could guarantee

From Father, a person you wanted to see

 

So desperate for him to notice you there

You knew what would happen but just didn’t care

 

Questioning, Daddy, is it time to play?

Stupid to ask, you know what he’ll say

 

He leads you inside, pray with all your might

Please let Daddy be different tonight

 

But he never is, you idiot child

For the one millionth time you trusted that smile

 

And now you must own the decision you made

The amount that you bet, the price that you paid

 

© Sarah Henderson 2002


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