Trigger up: Out of the House

06/05/2012

Strong trigger warning for: emotional and physical abuse, incest, sexual assault. Please take care of yourself! Click away to pictures of adorable kittens here.

editorially: this poem is several years old at this point, but today i submitted it as a performance piece for a Take Back the Night rally. unsure about certain elements of the final stanza but i <feelings>. thinking a lot about how different my personal narrative is from many other folks, and especially thinking of CeCe today. -RD

I came out of the house of rape, abuse, and neglect.

It was not my home, but I lived there for a time.

They kept me under no lock and key, I was bonded by the state to my father’s house.

Threats straddled the doorways, booby-trapped the exits with their sinister and invisible promises.

“You belong to me,” he said.
“I can do anything I want with you.”
“You are my daughter.”
He didn’t say “You will submit to me,” but he should have.
Echoes steal their way back as echoes will, a sensation as simple as a wet kiss and a brush of stubble on my cheek can trigger me to panic.
I give warning to those with whom I will share a bed, “If I cry or fight in my sleep, don’t touch me, just use your voice to call me back from the nightmare. I’ll tell you when it’s safe to touch me again.”
Bruises in the shape of his hands have healed, but the stain of being treated as chattel does not, nor can it wash away.
But I am wearing it down, like sanding a label off of a steel frame.
My self-worth, my integrity, and my boundaries remain intact.
I am borne up, out of the house of rape, abuse, and neglect.
I am lucky.
My mother has lived her whole life in the shadow, fearful.

My early childhood bedtime stories were of bogey-men who would put their hands on me at the slightest provocation, a short skirt or a late night walk or the simple appearance of vulnerability.

Working late one evening, my only other company is a male co-worker who is, in my experience, incredibly kind and friendly. But as I walk to the bathroom, I am terrified he will follow me there and force himself on me, where no one will find me huddled until the morning.
You see, it is not the strangers that I fear the most, it is my acquaintances. It is my lovers, my friends, the people closest to me.
If my consent was so ill-regarded by someone who was supposed to love me best and most of all, then what is my consent to all the others closest me?
I can not remember all of his trespasses, though they come to me in the night.
I am not always sure of truth or fiction, because I have tried to separate myself from the devastating nature of truth.
But I do remember, concretely, words and blows, boundary-crossing, abject fear, threats.

In the light I look like some one, but I know the truth of how tenuous my circumstances are.

If I fall, it will be without a net.

But if I succeed, I have arrived on my own two feet, at the pace and on the path that I have chosen, and that is the greatest achievement of my life, beyond any epic art or activism, that I have arrived here of my own accord.
By my choice, by my words, by my deeds, I am borne up, and out of the house of rape, abuse, and neglect.

-RD

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One Response to “Trigger up: Out of the House”

  1. […] (for me, at least) sometimes accompanies surviving violence, and so I responded to the call with a few pieces. One of the organizers responded enthusiastically and said they’d be glad to have me […]

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