“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.


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


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

9 responses to ““Outcry”: My Father, My Perpetrator: An Epitaph

  • informationforager

    It sounds like you’re working your issues. Good. It’s hard for me to understand it all so I realize that I can’t. Still I’ll pray for you if you want and hope things will work. I think that talking about it helps. I’m a great believer in therapy. My friends kind of make fun of me for it because I told them that “If I had my way I would shut down every factory, office and operation everyday at noon so EVERYBODY could go to two hours of therapy.” The GDP would soar. Thanks for being real. Keep Blogging. Keep Writing.

    • writingforrecovery

      Haha, I’m totally down with that! Unfortunately, I don’t know if there are enough good psychotherapists out there to meet the need. 🙂 Yes I would say that I have worked on my issues; more past tense though. I don’t feel that I’m really carrying any of that stuff around with me anymore. Therapy and meds saved my life, which is why I advocate for it everyday. I don’t plan to stop writing anytime soon- and I’ll never stop being real. Best of wishes on your journey! Be well. -Sarah

  • A Friend

    Somehow I just found your blog. There is an amazing poem by a young woman that I have on my blog right now. I am going to make sure she knows about your blog so maybe she can submit it here.

  • spawokiepoet

    Bless you, it’s a life long road back. Thankyou for walking it with me. Rest Gently Please.

  • CJ

    I love your poem. It is beautifully written. I felt the emotion behind the words. I am also a victim. I was six. My dad. I think it was just once. I forgot until i was thirteen after being in a deep depression for a year, year and a half.

  • CJ

    I relate well to your poem and just love it. Keep writing! I don’t feel the need for me to call my father out like you do. i am NOT saying you are wrong, I just feel differently. I actually want to change my last name to my mother’s maiden name since it was my mom who raised me (and my maternal grandparents)
    Not too long ago i forgave my father for the abuse. It set me free. It still hurts but life is really different.

    • writingforrecovery

      I actually wrote that poem well over a year ago. I have let go of those feelings, and moved on. I really feel nothing about him anymore, and I have peace. I suppose you could call that a form of forgiveness, though not forgiveness in the traditional way we use it. I thought about changing my name, and still do sometimes but I don’t know. You’re right; life is different after letting go.

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