Preyed

 

Whispers penetrate flesh walls,
secrets resound like a melody
within the temple of mind.

A church choir of boys
sing Latin,
a tongue they never understood,
yet made beautiful in spite.

An angelic host of innocence,
perched in perfect rows;
perverse men licking dry lips
conduct harmony, as
chorus echoes in rounds
confined by marble stone
laid by hypocritical hands.

In time holy walls stand,
coffers full and overflowing
while souls remain empty.

Yet pride crumbles the benevolent,
corrupt tongues stumble awkwardly
over the dulled ivory teeth of time.

Stained glass fragments let in truth,
rays of light stream through darkness
reflecting a shattered faith sanctuary
built upon broken bones of man.

 

©Sabrina Escorcio
September 2017

Photo Credit, Sam Webber illustration for “the Priest That Preyed” – New York Times

 

What Every Woman Knows- Christine Ray

I originally wrote this piece in October of 2016.   A friend reminded me today of it, stating, ‘it is as wrenching, heartbreaking, and infuriating today.’  Its a long but an important read.  Even if you have read it before, read it again.  It holds new resonance this month.


Social media has been buzzing this morning with the reveal of Donald Trump’s misogynistic and vulgar comments about women in 2005. They are appalling, but for most women, negotiating these types of attitudes and behaviors is business as usual.

A few months ago after yet another shooting of an unarmed African American by the police, I was working out a possible blog post in my head. I wanted to try to articulate the analogy between how African American parents are forced to prepare their children for our racist culture with how women must prepare their girl children for American rape culture and had the revelation that I take this culture so much for granted that I rarely bother to have direct conversations about this with the men in my life. I don’t know if they are even aware of what most girls and women experience on a daily basis. It just is.

I actually cannot remember a time in my life that I was not aware that there will always be some boys and some men who will see girls and women, see me, as an object, as less than human, as a potential source of their gratification regardless of my wishes or consent. Did this awareness start the first time I was told by a teacher that the grade-school boy who pulled my braid so hard that it brought tears to my eyes was just doing that because he “liked” me?! Was it the first time spin the bottle was played at a middle school party and the girls were expected to be “good sports” and kiss boys they didn’t like, who might even repulse them, because they agreed to play in the first place? Was it the first time a friend showed up in high school English class with a black eye from her boyfriend and instead of offering her support, classmates whispered behind her back wondering what she had done to “deserve” it? Was it the first time I saw a fashion magazine ad where a vacant eyed woman in gorgeous clothes passively endured being groped by an equally gorgeous and well-dressed man? Or was posed kneeling prostrate in front of him, her head level with his crotch? Or maybe it was the first time I saw a Robert Palmer video on MTV.

Perhaps it was the first time an adult man paid a little too much attention to my pre-adolescent developing body and when I complained to my mother about it, saying it made me feel “gross,” I was basically told this is “just the way things are. Please don’t rock the boat by protesting or causing a scene. Just try to stay out of his way.”

Girls are taught from an incredibly early age that we are responsible not only for our own sexuality but for the sexuality of boys and men. That birth control is our responsibility. That being a sexual tease (i.e. making out with a boy and then deciding we don’t want to go any further) is the worst thing that a girl can be. Or maybe that is being a slut– that’s always been a little bit confusing to me. Although the amount of sexism and body shaming that today’s girls are subject to in out-of-control school dress code policies that hold girls to different standards and blame them for “distracting” their male classmates is getting much-needed press, this is not a new story. We have always been told not to wear our skirts too short, our tops too low, not to be too loud and flashy lest we attract the “wrong” kind of attention while also being told to smile more, not to dress like a sexless librarian or god forbid, do not dress like a boy or you will be mistaken for a lesbian. I am sure my mother’s generation and my grandmother’s generation were also told to be modest, keep their legs crossed, not wear their skirts too short and to be “good” girls too.

The reality is, no matter what length we wear our skirts, no matter how buttoned up our shirts are, how good we try—how good I try– to be, I simply do not know a woman who has not been subject to unwanted, unwelcome sexual attention from boys and men. I actually don’t know how many times I have ridden public transportation and not known if the man standing next to me was jostled into me or deliberately fondled me. Some of this is subtle and I have questioned my own interpretation, calling myself paranoid. Some of this is blatant and unrepentant. I have had to change seats more than once on trains and buses because of this. I have talked politely to men on trains when I would have much rather been reading my book at the end of a long day because I was worried that if I ignored his attention, he could escalate and I could get hurt.

When I was a young social worker, I had male clients flirt with me, ask for my phone number, ask about my boyfriend, my home life, and my sex life during sessions and on one memorable occasion, masturbate during a session (for the record, I told him I would only keep talking to him if both his hands were on the desk.) I was 24 years old. Social work school did not prepare me for days like that.

Nor did it prepare me for the new middle-age male outpatient clinic manager who always seemed to have his hand in the small of my back when we walked down the hall. It just felt “wrong,” too “intimate” and when the administrative staff came to me and told me that he was being even more sexually inappropriate with them, I became the whistle blower who reported him to management, who fortunately had our backs and fired him the same day. What sticks with me is that despite me knowing that he had to go, that there was no place for a person in a position of power making any staff member feel unsafe in an agency that treated traumatized and abused children, I still felt guilty about getting him fired.

I have personally had to fire a male temp employee who was doing mental health intakes for my unit at a community mental health center who made arrangements to meet one of our fragile new female clients in a bar and then asked her to go out with him. She was brave enough to report him. Both he and his temp agency were puzzled about why he had to go and had to go immediately.

I have lost my shit with a male emergency room doctor and female nurse when I took a teenage client for evaluation after she was sexually assaulted by a car full of teenage boys. The hospital staff treated her– and me–  with visible contempt because of the way she was dressed and because she kept laughing nervously during examination, which was simply how she was dealing with the trauma. She was 16 years old. I was 22 and in sweatpants, flip flops and a T-shirt and hope that they remembered me for the rest of their careers yelling at them loudly enough for the entire ER staff to hear that if I was ever unlucky enough to be sexually assaulted in Boston, I prayed that I would be taken to a hospital where the staff would treat me with the kindness and compassion I deserved, with the kindness and compassion this young woman, no matter how she was dressed, had deserved.

I have been in a freshman dorm room where a drunk, entitled college football player would not take ‘no’ for an answer when my roommate allowed him to stay in the room as a favor for a floor mate after a party. I made a lot of noise to make it clear that I was awake and he stopped and eventually passed out. Apparently he was not nearly as bothered by my roommates resistance to his advances as he was by an audience. My roommate had a black belt in karate and just froze. He was a friend of friend and we were so socialized to be “nice” that my roommate was almost date raped with me in the room. I can’t even remember if we ever told our floor mate about it or whether we just avoided her boyfriend and his cocky teammate going forward.

I have been catcalled when I dressed nicely– but appropriately- for work by construction workers and cars full of men. I wonder how many women reading this still feel their stomachs clench up EVERY time they have to walk by a construction site in preparation for the catcalling. I can’t believe that I am the only one. I have been angrily called a “fucking dyke” or a “stuck-up bitch” on more than one occasion when I refused to make eye contact, refused to smile, refused to say “thank you” to some random man trying to get my attention and/or making inappropriate comments about my body and what he would like to do to it, when I just wanted to get where I am going.

What almost feels worse about these experiences is not that they happen, but how I have learned to just shrug them off because “that’s the way it is.” It is painful for me to have the kind of conversations mothers feel are their responsibility with my own children, to try to give them a little bit of armor against this type of pervasive and casual sexual harassment, with this rape culture. It starts young with books like “It’s My Body” and progresses to conversations about if they are going to drink or experiment with drugs to please, only do that with people they know well and trust, don’t ever accept an open drink at a party, to always go out in a group when going out at night. To look out for each other. I am angry and sad about these conversations, about the fact that I am now training the next generation of girls and women to feel responsible for someone else’s behavior. For some boy or man’s sexuality.

I realize that the many people, mostly men, who point out that potential harassers and rapists should remember that a girl or woman is someone else’s mother/sister/wife truly mean well but this really pisses me off. It should not matter if I am some man’s wife, some man’s daughter, or some boy’s sister. The fact that I am should be enough. I am a human being, not an object. I am complete and entire on my own, regardless of my relationship to others. Regardless of my relationship to a boy or a man. I deserve to have my wishes, boundaries and personal integrity respected because I am a thinking, breathing human being in this world.

 

Image from The Odyssey Online

Original post: © 2016 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

Revision: © 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

Raped — One Pamela Pusumane

The air is bit heavier today.

Smiling is a cross — heavier than the last one

And I am not ready to fall.

I don’t think I have the energy to get up for another swing.

My heart is heavy today.

Great-grandmother told me God is up there somewhere

But I now know for sure, God never did anything to help me.

She just sat there, still and unmoved.

As if She had roared and the earth waited on Her next instruction

But for now, everything remains still, up there.

I scream till my lungs vibrate, my throat dries

As my voice screeches and claws its way out.

I don’t know who wants to escape more.

My voice. My soul. My mind. Or the whole of me.

But for now, let me try to be visible, be a body, be worthy being noticed.

Time doesn’t exist. Seconds become ions and nothing ends.

I wait under the shower, waiting to disappear with the water.

To embraced the drain, to be welcomed with open arms and feel not like a prisoner.

I want the water to notice me, for my past lover to remember it’s not his fault

That I confuse him for the monsters in my dreams sometimes.

I wonder if God flinched when they came for me.

She could have warned me in time with parables and prophecies.

I paid my dues in church, gave all I have to everyone up there

But still that wasn’t enough. Is there anyone even listening up there?

To my cries, to the imprints I try to scrub off everyday.

Is anyone watching up there? How I jump from stanza to the stanza?

Because getting myself to jump off rooftops is a task I haven’t gotten up to yet.

Does God notice when I drown in liquids till my vision becomes blurry

Because that’s when the red flags become invisible and the monsters go to sleep.

Only then can I crawl into bed with past lovers and not have my body be an every-day apology.

© One Pamela Pusumane

Bio: One Pamela Pusumane is a young creative writer an poet from Botswana who is passionate about writing pieces that push the boundaries and get people talking about the things we tend to shy away from in our daily lives. She is currently pursuing her BA(Hon) Social Sciences undergraduate degree at the African Leadership University in Mauritius. You can also find her work on Instagram, Facebook, and Hello Poetry.

Kali- mahish.asur-mar.dini

He painted me dark like the goddess on
the wall, and in grandma’s locket.
Then, he pinned me against glass; Hands
apart, wide-eyed, coffee-skinned; My arms
covered with copper bangles, fingers bore
silver rings, golden chains in my neck,
along with a rope that also held my feet, to
tie me upside-down, to bind my leg to the
fan if I screamed aloud for help one more
time.
I pulled my tongue out and roared, he
sniffed my tears and hit me hard to make
me feel like a balloon of hot air, like his
drugs did at the start.
I recalled my tiger skins that I had
stopped wearing because enough tigers
had been killed; And, my chain of skulls
had been snatched away when I was
younger; They called me insane for
fancying heads ripped apart from their
bodies. I told them it was my hunger to kill
men in this way, for men had murdered

me; men had sneaked underneath my
hides, every day of my life.
Men had scratched my soft skins with their
claws so that I bled in their arms.
Arms, that I only wanted to tie around my
waist and dance.
My weapons, they’d all been banned. I still
command, my worth is spit upon.
“Do I need to ride a lion to prove that I am
strong?”
He ended his devotion and chanted,
“waah,” as he set me free.
I should have walked away, but I stood
there, a tree.
Until, I flexed my branches as if I had four
arms, shook my head in courage, picked
up a sword, waved, and brushed open his
neck, his face lay at his feet;
I now had a new locket.
– not all girls are happy wearing diamonds
© mahish.asur-mar.dini

Bio: mahish.asur-mar.dini: I gave myself this title a short time ago. I have always felt it in me; I am meant to cleanse the world of its neck-gripping flaws that suppress women. mahish.asur-mar.dini – it’s a Sanskrit word that means ‘killer of monsters’. I hope to kill them in my poems. I hope to kill the monsters in the minds of people.  I am change; I am breaking every glass ceiling I see. I will make this world better.  You can also check out my work on Instagram: @nidhie_saini

From #metoo You- Roz Weaver

 

There is an anger that sits in the pit of your stomach

a sorrow that weighs down your bones

some days you bang your head against that brick wall and barely see a crack

you feel sick

your heart is tired

there is a before you and an after you and you don’t want to be you anymore.

 

Your recovery does not depend on

telling the police

telling anybody

other people’s responses

being believed

a police investigation

a CPS decision

a court finding

the length of a prison sentence

legal justice

whether you fought back

how many times you said no

or if you felt able to say it

what you were wearing

what you were doing before

what you did after

if you know them

if you still see them

how many times it happened

if it still happens

how long it took to sink in

what you did with any evidence

how much you remember

or what you do to forget

how you feel about yourself today

how you slept last night

and how many nightmares you have

what you ate today

being comfortable with physical contact

if your body feels like your own again yet

how often you cry

or feel any feelings at all

when you last had a panic attack

when you last hurt yourself

whether you feel like giving up today

how many times you have already tried to

any words shared about what happened to you

unless those words are yours.

 

Your recovery is yours

this they cannot take away from you

it depends on you alone

it is poetic

it cannot be compared or measured or judged

it happens at your pace

in your time

when you are ready

there is no way to fail.

So take that anger and take that sorrow

and you make this life beautiful anyway

stand with us

you are not alone.


I am a poet from the North of England and began writing in 2017 and performing my work in 2018. I have been published in ‘A Catalogue of Failure’ and in ‘Further Within Darkness and Light’ (out June 2018, published by Nothing Books).

I write at Under Compulsion Poetry. You can also follow me on Instagram @undercompulsionpoetry.

Bad Touch – mahish.asur-mar.dini.

At eight, I used to read the newspaper aloud.

I read, “A GIRL OF 3 RAPED BY 7.

My aunt, horrified, said, “Who puts such news in the newspaper, people don’t have sense.”

I searched for the word in the dictionary: dominance / conquest.

I asked my mother to divide my hair into six plates and braid them into two. I was gonna make a fake path at the center of my head, “Lest a bad king with his army might attack my boundaries and break open the gates to poke his flag into my grounds, I may not be dead.”

Later that day, I wept when uncle waved at me his flag, again, and my fake path didn’t work. He knew secret tunnels.

I was the queen of another castle and I couldn’t rescue my grounds. So, now my kingdom must accept or else, the kingdom in my legs would be burned with cigarettes and their harsh smoke;

If I told my mother, my head would be cut off and stuck on a pole at his lands.

I saved my life. I kept quiet.

Another game of hide-and-seek,

Another blame of eye-spy-cheat arrived even when I disguised myself under an ugly face, a dead body fumed up with high fever, I showed him a 105° point thermometer.

Years passed by, one day, uncle left the world.

I was the happiest girl on earth.

My demon left, so did abuse, pain, conquerors, and theft.

My family had their lament.

I spent a week on my bed.

I had started a cemetery in my scalp and his tombstone stood tallest.

Now, my hair grew wild, a freedom flag. Now, I was a blood-feasting goddess. Now, I awoke my unrest, and a lot of power. Now that my demon was gone, I fell in love with graveyards for they could call upon all the bad in people and all the bad kings and their armies.

.

At eighteen,

I used to teach little children. My cemetery now held numerous buried flags, hands, and heads. Many bad kings were dead.

I taught my kids about #BADTOUCH. “We don’t need any more #METOOs,” I said.

 

Bio: mahish.asur-mar.dini: I gave myself this title a short time ago. I have always felt it in me; I am meant to cleanse the world of its neck-gripping flaws that suppress women. mahish.asur-mar.dini – it’s a Sanskrit word that means ‘killer of monsters’. I hope to kill them in my poems. I hope to kill the monsters in the minds of people.  I am change; I am breaking every glass ceiling I see. I will make this world better.  You can also check out my work on Instagram: @nidhie_saini

Twenty Months- Roz Weaver

 

It’s been twenty months

but at least once a week

I still discredit my mind’s version of that night

interrogate memories like they owe me answers

‘Why didn’t you fight back’

‘Maybe it wasn’t rape after all, just really bad sex’

‘You probably could have escaped if you tried’

It’s been twenty months

but at least once a week

I wish someone else would tell me

they still think like this too.


I am a poet from the North of England and began writing in 2017 and performing my work in 2018. I have been published in ‘A Catalogue of Failure’ and in ‘Further Within Darkness and Light’ (out June 2018, published by Nothing Books).

I write at Under Compulsion Poetry. You can also follow me on Instagram @undercompulsionpoetry.