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.


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


About writingforrecovery

Sarah is a writer and poet who speaks out about issues that make people uncomfortable. Sarah advocates for causes such a sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and mental illness, and often speaks openly about her own experiences. She is determined to abolish the stigma associated with these issues and believes that it starts with people telling their stories, so she started a blog called Writing for Recovery where people can do just that. She is the author of three volumes of poetry and is currently at work on her fourth. She is convinced that there's a novel somewhere in her, and occasionally picks at the chapters so far. View all posts by writingforrecovery

2 responses to “Outcry: “Tamar Pleads Insanity”

  • michelle schraer hudson

    I am replying with part of a chapter in a book I am writing. This is about my brother. There was much more than this going on in my home, including physical and sexual abuse of me by my Mother. But as I see this is referring to Tamar ‘pleading gulity’ I thought this was a perfect correlation to your poem. which is great by the way…so to the heart of the matter!

    “Where can I get rid of my disgrace?” That is the question Tamar asks in 2 Samuel 13 when she was raped by her Brother Amnon. This too is the question I have asked ever since my Brother abused me. How can I get rid of MY DISGRACE? Is there any way to escape the way the I feel? Tamar is told by her Brother Absalom, “Don’t take this thing to heart!” But take it to heart is just naturally what she SHOULD have done! And take it to heart is exactly what I did! And in my heart is where it has remained, deeply imbedded for years. My heart, my feminine heart, was badly wounded by what my Brother did to me. And the damage to my soul was irreversible. It left me empty and colored my relationship with God. And it robbed me of the joy of loving and being loved by others.

    Don’t take this THING to heart? Impossible! The imprint left on my heart forever changed me! And so I promised myself that I would never again allow anyone to hurt me like my Brother had. And I held that vow deep in my heart, which only made me more susceptible to being hurt, over and over again. And the vow which I thought would protect me from pain, only brought more pain. And when the pain inevitably came, which it does for us ALL by the way, it was that much more intense because I was already holding so much pain deep within my heart from what happened with Mark. And all I wanted was for that pain to just go away! And I tried everything to make that happen. But nothing I did would soothe the monster within!

    And so I simpy shut down. And in my shutting down, and ‘shutting out’, I became vulnerable to further abuse. And I WAS abused many times over and over by several different people in the years that followed. And those events on top of what had already happened in my home, led me to shut down even more, and to being committed to depend upon myself rather than reaching out to others…self sufficiency at any cost…and believe me the cost was high! The determination to make it on my own, and the pain from the abuse thus far in my life, began the cycle of shame and self hatred in me. I blamed myself for what had happened and I hated ME because of it, and yet I completely depended on ME to make it on my own…ME and ME ALONE. Go figure! It was a confusing cycle to be sure, and one that was extremely destructive! The shame over the abuse was intense . “What had I done to ‘invite’ this thing?” I asked myself. “I am definitely flawed! There must be something seriously wrong with me!” I told myself. The shame ate me up inside!

    And then there was SIN…it moved in and created a wall between me and God. He hadn’t, I thought, been there to protect me , so I kept Him at a distance. And the sin of my Brother became my sin also. As I said, I blamed myself for what had happened. Surely I had done something to ‘invite’ it. I was bad! I was no good! I had sinned against God with what I had been involved in! And all of these thoughts only led me back to the shame. It bound my heart and my soul, and it told me every day, “You are no good!”, “You are not enough and you never will be!”, “You are damaged goods and no one will ever love you now!” The shame was all consuming and life altering! It was like a hungry, insatiable monster! It seemed to just reach in and swallow me whole, consuming every part of me…all that I was, and all that I ever would be, or could be for that matter!

    Don’t take this thing to heart? The betrayal of the abuse was devastating, and it seemed my heart was broken beyond repair! But, the betrayal wasn’t just the abuse. It was also my parents not protecting me. Even though I was almost positive they didn’t know what was happening when it occurred, I still felt so hurt that they had not been able to stop it! And this crushed me! So I pretty much walled my heart off in a sort of cocoon which I felt would protect it…And that is how I would live my life…tentative, fearful, suspicious, turned off, tuned out, and just plain numb…NOT REALLY LIVING AT ALL! I have lived my life on and endless rollercoaster within, which has terrified me and yet excited me, as it has taken me both to life and death at the same time…dead inside, but trying all I could to FEEL ALIVE…especially in my heart.

    • writingforrecovery

      I hear what you’re saying about shame and how it consumes you feel blackened to the core, like an apple that’s shiny on the outside but rotten beneath the peel. Shame is the worm that’s eaten through the flesh, taking away any sweetness, turning it into an item one would look at and throw away. No good. You throw yourself away over and over because you believe that you’re worthless. Who will want me after everything that’s happened? Fuck it. Damage the body, damage the soul, damage the life; not like anyone cares, not like it really matters. The only way to get out of that is to make your SELF care. To start to give a shit about yourself and let go of the shame, to realize that you are not the damaged one, and that no one is going to do it for you. 🙂

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