Tag Archives: rage

Representative Akin, Every Rape is Legitimate: An Open Letter

Hello Recovery Writers,

Rarely am I so angry about an issue that I feel I need to take it on in this manner, but when I read about this…well, you know how I am. This is not one I was just going to let go. I tried to stay dignified in my response, and I’m sending this letter onto his office. I encourage you all to write your own congressmen, as well as Rep. Akin himself if you feel as strongly about this as I do. I’ll include his contact information at the end of this article. As always, thanks for reading.

Update: In my zeal to get this letter written and out there, I originally called Todd Akin a senator; this is incorrect. He is a state representative who is running for senator in Missouri. My apologies for any confusion.

Also: There are now several petitions going around demanding sanctions for Rep. Akin. Here is a link to one of them if you’d like to sign (I already have, of course!):

CREDO Action: Tell Rep. Todd Akin: Stop lying about rape

Missouri Republican claims ‘legitimate rape’ rarely results in pregnancy 

Dear Representative Akin,

This is an open letter addressing your unbelievably idiotic and insensitive statements in the article above. How dare you attempt to qualify whether or not rape is “legitimate”. Until you have personally experienced rape, personally experienced unfathomable shock and trauma and shattering of your life and bodily integrity, you don’t get to say word one about the legitimacy of rape. And as far as the rate of pregnancy goes, if you’re going to have the nerve to try and use that as a factor to illegitimize rape, then at least have the decency to have actual science on your side. Despite what some pro-life witch doctor with a medical degree from Sally Struthers may have told you, pregnancy can actually happen without a woman’s consent. It happened to a friend of mine. For the majority of the time I was being repeatedly raped, I was “lucky” enough to have been a child, incapable of conceiving. The last time I was raped, I was severely anorexic and not menstruating, also making it highly unlikely. I didn’t get pregnant from any of the times I was raped, but I think about it sometimes: what would I have done if I had? I honestly don’t know. Back then, the morning after pill wasn’t available. Now, I would certainly do that first. And, by the way, the morning-after pill IS NOT a form of abortion! It PREVENTS pregnancy from ever happening, actually making abortions less likely to occur. If you’re really all about protecting life, supporting birth control is really the way to go. Keeping those pregnancies from occurring in the first place will stop abortions from happening. And if your interest is truly in stopping abortions- as opposed to simply controlling women’s lives and bodies- then really, you might want to jump aboard. Men like you who think that they have any right to legislate the choices available to women who have been raped truly terrify me. Like I said, you have not experienced this. You can’t IMAGINE what it is to be raped, much less to experience a pregnancy from rape. How dare you try to limit a woman’s options in that situation. As if it isn’t hard enough. The rapist should be punished. But the victim shouldn’t be. And that is exactly what you’re doing when you limit her ability to make decisions about what’s right for her body and her life.

Sarah Henderson

Contact Representative Todd Akin


Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Abusive Behaviors

There are all different types of abusive behaviors: physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial, using children, and more. It can still be abuse if you are not being hit. You can still be raped, even if you are married. Being forced to have an abortion or carry a child you don’t want is abusive. Being isolated and having no control over the family finances, given an allowance like a child is abusive. Being told you are worthless is abusive. Women can be abusers. Knowledge is power; the more we know about domestic violence the more powerful we are to prevent and treat it. 

The following list is taken from the “Abusive Behavior Checklist” created by Central DuPage Hospital

Emotional Abuse 

  • Frequently blames or criticizes you
  • Calls you names
  • Ridicules your beliefs, religion, race class or sexual preference
  • Blames you for “causing” the abuse
  • Ridicules/makes bad remarks about your gender
  • Criticizes or threatens to hurt your family or friends
  • Isolates you from your family and friends
  • Abuses animals
  • Tries to keep you from doing something you wanted to do
  • Is angry if you pay too much attention to someone or something else (children, friends, school, etc.)
  • Withholds approval, appreciation or affection
  • Humiliates you
  • Becomes angry if meals or housework are not done to his/her liking
  • Makes contradictory demands
  • Does not include you in important decisions
  • Does not allow you to sleep
  • Repeatedly harasses you about things you did in the past
  • Takes away car keys, money or credit cards
  • Threatens to leave or told you to leave.
  • Checks up on you (listens to your phone calls, looks at phone bills, checks the mileage on the car, etc.)
  • Tells people you suffer from a mental illness
  • Threatens to commit suicide
  • Interferes with your work or school (provokes a fight in the morning, calls to harass you at work, etc.)
  • Minimizes or denies being abusive
  • Abuses your children
  • Breaks dates and cancels plans without reason
  • Uses drugs or alcohol to excuse their behavior
  • Uses phrases like “I’ll show you who is boss,” or “I’ll put you in line”
  • Uses loud or intimidating tone of voice
  • Comes home at late hours refusing an explanation

Financial Abuse

  • Makes all the decisions about money
  • Takes care of all financial matters without your input
  • Criticizes the way or amounts of money you spend
  • Places you on a budget that is unrealistic
  • Prohibits your access to bank accounts and credit cards
  • Refuses to put your name on joint assets
  • Controls your paycheck
  • Refuses you access to money
  • Refuses to let you work
  • Refuses to get a job
  • Refuses to pay bills
  • Causes you to lose your job

Sexual Abuse

  • Pressures you to have sex
  • Pressures you to perform sexual acts that make you uncomfortable or hurt you
  • Directs physical injury toward sexual areas of your body
  • Puts you at risk for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Withholds sex or affection
  • Calls you sexual names (“whore”, “bitch”, etc.)
  • Tells anti-woman jokes or demeans women verbally/attacks your femininity or masculinity
  • Accuses you of having or wanting sex with others
  • Forces you to have sex with others
  • Threatens to disclose your relationship when you did not want it known
  • Forces you to view pornography
  • Pressures you to dress in a certain way
  • Disregards your sexual needs and feelings about sex
  • Accuses you of being gay if you refused sex (for heterosexual relationships)
  • Spreads rumors about your sexual behaviors
  • Forces you or refuses to let you use birth control
  • Makes unwanted public sexual advances
  • Makes remarks about your sexual abilities in private or in front of others
  • Rapes and sexually assaults you

Using Children

  • Makes you feel guilty about your children
  • Uses children to relay negative messages
  • Uses children to report on your activities
  • Uses visitation to harass you
  • Threatens to take custody of your children
  • Threatens to kidnap your children

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes, grabs or shoves you
  • Slaps you
  • Punches you
  • Kicks you
  • Chokes you
  • Pinches you
  • Pulls your hair
  • Burns you
  • Bites you
  • Ties you up
  • Forces you to share needles with others
  • Threatens you with a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Uses a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Prevents you from leaving an area/physically restrains you
  • Throws objects
  • Destroys property or your possessions
  • Drives recklessly to frighten you
  • Disregards your needs when you are ill, injured or pregnant
  • Abuses you while you are pregnant
  • Forces you to abort or carry a pregnancy

Issues for Immigrants

  • Lies about your immigration status
  • Tells you that they have the ability to have your immigration status changed
  • Threatens to withdraw/not file the petition to legalize your immigration status
  • Tells you that the U.S. will award the children to them
  • Tells you that you have abandoned your culture and become “white” or “American”
  • Stops subscriptions or destroys newspapers and magazines in your language
  • Tells you that U.S. law allows abuse as long as it is in private
  • Threatens to report you to INS if you work without a permit
  • Takes money you send to your family
  • Forces you to sign papers written in a language you do not understand
  • Forbids you to learn English or communicate in your native language
  • Harasses you at the only job you can work at legally in the U.S. so that you will be forced to work illegally
  • Calls you a “mail order bride”
  • Alleges you had a history of prostitution on legal papers
  • Tells you that U.S. law requires you to have sex whenever he/she wants it

Voices: “Battle Fatigue”

Here we are in the third week of the “Voices” series honoring Mental Health Month. This fifth poem is about a feeling I think many of those with mental illness can relate to. Sometimes when you’re waiting for something to happen with your treatment- the chance to go to inpatient hospitalization, for instance, or for a new medication to begin working, or for your insurance to approve a new therapy- you sit there and you’re just barely hanging on. It’s an excruciating feeling, being miserable, wondering if you’re going to feel better anytime soon, not knowing what’s going to happen or if what you’re trying is going to help. It’s frustrating and it’s not like you were full of hope to begin with. This poem is about that lag time between now and “better”- whatever that means for you.


Battle Fatigue

Oh my God, the exhaustion

I can’t tolerate this for much longer

I’m wearing down to my limit

When right now I need to be stronger

It’s so hard to hang on through this time

I’m just here by the skin of my teeth

I feel Death’s presence with such a force

With Life buried so far beneath

How can I feel so alone

When deep down I know that I’m not?

Why can’t I take in this love,

This warmth, and this requiescat?

When will I finally feel worthy?

Will there be an end to this grief?

Will I soon find a place I can heal?

Will I finally find some relief?

I know that there’s hope in the future

But right now I’m blinded by pain

I cannot see through my depression,

My rage at the stress and the strain

That’s been unduly placed upon me

By my family and my disease

I’m struggling for some way to cope

I’m turning to God to say Please


Just let me push through my doubt

Strengthen my faith against fear

For if I become dead set on dying

Then I won’t have the strength to stay here

© Sarah Henderson 2006

Here in the Mirror: Finding Beauty Beyond Body Image

So, unexpectedly tonight I had an article pour out of me. You never know when the muse is going to show up, so I tend to go with it! I hope you enjoy it.

Here in the Mirror: Finding Beauty Beyond Body Image

Tonight, I looked at my body. I have not done this in a long time, not intently anyway. As I was undressing to shower, I caught my reflection in in the bathroom mirror and for some reason it stopped me. For some reason, I felt there was something I needed to see.

As I stood there staring at my naked reflection it occurred to me that I did not have the instinct to turn away in fear, as I had for many years. I was able to look solemnly and appreciate this image, this form that encompassed my physical being.

This is what I saw.

At first, I had old memories appear. I could see every place that I was ever touched in cruelty, every place on my body that I was violated by someone I should have been able to trust. I used to feel those touches repeat themselves over and over in my body, like a record endlessly skipping.

Then I saw the way I coped with this. I blamed my body for accepting those violations without putting up more of a fight. I blamed those places for attracting the violations, as if I had a choice, as if it was really my fault. So I punished my flesh. I split my skin open with razor blades and knives and scissors countless times- arms, legs, breasts, stomach- I cut everywhere I could. I saw the scars all over my body from those punishments and did not feel shame, only compassion. I remembered flashes of other mirrors, other bodily inspections, only then I was counting my bones. I punished by flesh was by trying to get rid of it altogether. I starved and puked and ran until I weighed practically nothing and was nearly dead; and yet I was proud. I felt safe in that body- excuse me, that skeleton. I felt strong and invincible which was ironic because I could hardly walk. I see now a body so far from that time. Healthy, capable, brave in its softness. I accept the shape that I am because it means that I am no longer in danger of dying. I accept it because I have enough respect for myself to not care what other people think, and to put what is best for my health and recovery before anything else.

When I turned I saw the eleven inch scar that curves down my back from my left shoulder blade to beneath my arm. I see four oval shaped scars each the size of a nickel; two beneath my left arm and two lower down on my side. These scars remind me how resilient the body is. After all, at twenty-three years old I had my chest cracked open and part of my lung removed; my heart stopped in surgery, I was in a coma for two days, I had four huge tubes coming out of my chest, an unidentified raging infection, and I still managed to fully recover. I am proud of these scars, because they make me remember how strong I really am, to have been able to survive that.

When I turned back around, I took one last look and realized that all of those things my body held were like a little history of my life. My body was a tablet that my story had been written on; each mark and scar and tattoo has a story, and those stories make up my life so far. And what I see in that, finally, is beauty. My body is beautiful. Mostly, because I am beautiful, and because I have survived and recovered and accepted and developed compassion for my experiences. This is the way I believe we can find beauty in ourselves: by removing the blame and fear and guilt and shame and rage that has been wrongly pinned on the body, and finding compassion for exactly where we are.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011

Purple Ribbon Poem: I Remember


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 Poems: Family Values


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


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