Category Archives: The Purple Ribbon Poem Series: A Dedication for Victims of Domestic Violence

Purple Ribbon Poems: In Conclusion

First of all, thank you to those of you who took the time to read even one poem in this series; sharing these meant a lot to me. I wrote these poems at a different time in my life. I wrote them when I was going through intensive therapy, trying to process the trauma of growing up in a house where domestic and sexual violence were a daily occurrence.

Violence of this nature knows no boundaries. It crosses every racial, ethnic, gender, class, and socioeconomic border imaginable. This was so in my case– my father was not the “typical” batterer. He was a well-respected surgeon. White, upper-middle class, with advanced degrees and an IQ to match. But he had bipolar, he binge drank and injected steroids. He liberally prescribed narcotics for himself (that’s illegal now) and he was your basic narcissistic sociopath. I’m not being hyperbolic– he was a literal sociopath, diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. This was not documented until I was in my twenties, but you can only imagine how stunningly anticlimactic that was. He has no conscience? Really? Hmm, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I saw a glimmer of guilt when he was holding a handgun to my six-year-old head.

So he was a bad guy. I struggle even now to put into words everything that he put my mother, my sister, and me through. I could tell you countless stories, examples of his malevolence; I could paint a picture of the cold-hearted bastard that he was, and take pages to list every form his abuse took.

Instead, I think I’ll let the poetry speak for itself. In truth, it’s always been the best way I articulate and express myself.
I will say one last thing though– my family is living an entirely different life now. It is possible to get out of a violent situation and re-create yourself into something better, something stronger. My mother is my biggest inspiration, my biggest support, and pretty much my hero, for everything she has overcome and how she had re-made her self. She’s an incredible woman. I am so deeply proud of her, my sister, and myself, for how far we have come from that dark time.

You are worthy of happiness, whatever you’ve been told. Fight for your life– it’s worth it.

My older sister and me.© Sarah Ann Henderson 2010

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Purple Ribbon Poem: Blind Fury

The final poem in the series.
8/13/03

Blind Fury

What was that omnipotent power he had
To control your emotions while driving you mad

Then somehow make you feel that you were at fault
For every abandonment, wound, and assault

So slight that you couldn’t articulate it
A snake in the grass that suddenly bit

With no way to explain just how low you feel
And no one to believe that his harm is real

You naively try to block out the world
As you switch back and forth from woman to girl

Pretending so hard that nothing is wrong
Telling yourself you have to be strong

While watching your mother continue to fade
Losing life and love slowly, shade by shade

Seeing the small deaths he inflicted on her
Wondering how much more she could endure

And again you are struck by the weight of his word
When you think about everything that has occurred

How he was able to slowly destroy
Every last bit of our innocent joy

Simply by looking at us with disdain
Casually triggering torrents of pain

While knowing that no one would stand up to tell
He imprisoned us all in invisible hell

© Sarah Henderson 2003


Purple Ribbon Poem: I Remember

8/26/03

I Remember

The screams and the whispers, the pounding of hearts
Your taciturn violence that tore us apart

The burden of secrets we carried within
The incessant feeling of unconfessed sins

Unstable, chaotic, the torturous threat:
Don’t say a word that you might regret

You might yank the thread that held us in place
Our entire life simply could be erased

It was all about power, your need to control
And I still remember the things I was told:

“You’re worthless and helpless, a pain in the ass
I’m paying for you, so you’d better grow fast

I’m not in the mood for your childish games
But later we’ll try something I like to play”

I remember the twisted, maniacal grin
Your sick satisfaction at the repulsive end

And the lesson I learned from those little games:
I am the problem, I carry the shame

I remember the gradual losing of hope
The extremes that I went to merely to cope

How you never noticed, in my every breath
My aching desire for the comfort of death

I remember how small I had to become
How you made us beg for every crumb

And somehow you brainwashed us to believe
That we didn’t have the power to leave

But no matter how much damage you’ve done
I’ll always remember that I was the one

Who first had the courage to stand up and say:
“Your reign of terror is ending today”

© Sarah Henderson 2003


Purple Ribbon Poem: Unspoken

9/23/02

Unspoken

To live in fear, you and I must
Create some harsh ways to adjust

I’ll go deaf if you’ll go blind
And we just won’t exist behind

The masks we wear for people’s sake
Perhaps we’ll just forget it’s fake

And you’ll keep building up that wall
As I stand by to take the fall

When all your needs and fears collide
And there is no place left to hide

The family’s pain made manifest
The silent child’s final protest

Will break the terms of our little deal
So these old wounds may finally heal

© Sarah Henderson 2002


Purple Ribbon Poems: Family Values

7/21/02

Family Values

Denial carves deep, the truth betrayed
As she watches her soul drip off the blade

Pain becomes comfort, trust becomes threat
She’s beginning to break, but they’re not finished yet

Love is divided: dominion/defeat
With no middle ground in which to retreat

Again and again they annihilate her soul
Splitting her brain, wanting total control

“Snap out of it now, it isn’t that bad
Nothing is wrong, stop looking so sad

Now, this might hurt, but it’s for your own good
Stop sulking as if you’re so misunderstood

It’s all out of love that I invade this space,
Erase your reality, leaving no trace

I’m saving you, trust me, you don’t want to know
Perhaps this won’t effect you if it doesn’t show”

Shadows and secrets, the family’s domain
A prison of dread in which she remained

Blinded, noiseless, bound by fear and shame
Awaiting rejection, assumption of blame

We blocked the scenes, smiled, waved to the crowd
Each taking up no more space than was allowed

The lesson was learned: you should be what you’re  not
One child submitted, the other one fought

Needing was selfish, a luxury shunned
“You may BE a child but stop ACTING like one

For crying out loud, I’m doing my best
Your father’s a bastard, I can’t ever rest

Sweetheart, can you help me in all of my strife?
It’s not asking much– all I want is your life”

© Sarah Henderson 2002


Purple Ribbon Poem: Quality Time

3/15/03

Quality Time

Now shut your mouth, take it like a man
Why are you whining, you know that you can

You have to act as the adult here
No one else will, don’t give into fear

Thank God you are able to close up your ears
Pray for quick peace and bury those tears

Ready to go, it’s time to assess
Sort people out and clean up the mess

Hope neighbors won’t hear the screams in the hall
Maybe no one will see the holes punched in the wall

Pick up the shards from a glass that was smashed
Wipe up the blood from a wrist that was slashed

Don’t think about how you’re all on your own
Kid yourself that you could pick up the phone

When really you have to forget about help
No one can know, so just do it yourself

Hold mother’s hand as she cries and predicts
This one will be the apocalypse

Coax sister to give you that knife from the drawer
Talk to her while she sobs on the floor

Watch father decide that he should disappear
Avoid and it and run, as he’s done for years

And you realize just how alone you are
The second you hear him starting the car

Luckily you have this system ingrained
A storehouse of highly honed skills to thwart pain

So reality always blurs in your mind
And when someone asks, you say everything’s fine

© Sarah Henderson 2003


Purple Ribbon Poem: Home

10/2/04

Home

I never knew what would occur when I left
Or what I’d see when I returned

I tried to run but I always came back
I just couldn’t quell my concern

I feared that my mother might be in distress
Or worse, that I’d find someone dead

That thought wasn’t baseless in my childhood home
There was no escaping that dread

The tension would build up between them for days
Until it burst out in a storm

Of course, you may never have lived with violence
But in our house it was the norm

Screams would rip through the veil of the night
Despair would emerge in a brawl

I searched for a cause but I never could tell
What the hell was wrong with us all

Our home looked so perfect, too good to be true
But no one saw through the facade

They were too busy saying how precious we were
To notice that we were a fraud

© Sarah Henderson 2004