1. Camilla Sørensen says

    Facing the truth in my writing – to put my soul into words – my honest feelings for others to see – my growth – my apreciation of what must come – to dare to change – to dare to be myself through my words – to be visible – to be out there – to come into my native land in my writing – to grow like a little seed into a beautiful flower – to see the sunrise for the first time with all its colors – to put that into writing with my own words – to say the truth about my life -to touch – to change – to grow – to be who I am – to become whole through my words – that is the change it want to feel – to finally find my voice!

    • Debbie says

      Camilla – This is truly an inspirational piece! “to say the truth about my life – to touch – to change – to grow – to be whom I am” – resonates so much within me. Thanks for sharing your voice with us!

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Camilla, Thank you for sharing about facing the truth and finally finding your voice. I am finding my voice and am putting myself out there in order to help myself and others in spite of the struggle and pain.

  2. Bobbie Anne says

    I write this today with a bruise on my right arm that isn’t pretty and it hurts. My husband hurt me. Its not the first time. Other family members have hurt me too. I stood up to some of them with great dificulty on my part. I put my poems and artwork in an exhibit with other surviviors in the fall of last year. That helped in finding my voice. Even though it is dangerous to write about it, I used my name. I’m not the one who should be ashamed. So I’m sharing this with all of you!

    He’s up all night working on the
    domestic violence unit he has
    to teach to the other police instructors
    while his wife attends a church support
    group dealing with abusive relationships

    He’s the instructor of the month
    attired just so in a crisp uniform
    wearing perfectly polished shoes
    wanting evrything in precise order

    He says he never beat her
    he’d never do that
    he’s not someone you’d
    think would hurt a woman
    in that unspeakable way

    He says he never hit her
    there’s no proof of that
    he can always deny it
    what a master of deception
    he’ll tell you how he
    always does the right thing

    After you’ve met him
    you’d want to believe him
    I know that she did
    I’m grateful for having a safe place to express myself and share my poem.

    • Laura Davis says

      Bobbie Anne, I applaud your courage in breaking this silence and sharing this piece with us. It’s an important first step in breaking the cycle. And I personally feel honored you felt safe enough to post it here.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Thank you Laura. Its hard to find the courage to stand up for myself at this time, but your support and all of the wonderful woman here are helping me to do so. I cried when I read all the comments and felt maybe I touched something similar in others. Abuse is never right.

    • Ilana says

      Bobbie Anne- I am honored that you shared with us, sad for your struggle and awed by your courage. I hope that soon you will write without any bruises. The writing itself is beautiful and teaches so much. I hope that one day your writing gets published in a place where it can educate people to spot an abusive situation from the outside. Though perhaps it is already helping people as you said that you did put it in an exhibit. Keep writing! IM

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Ilana, Thank you for your support. That was so touching when you mentioned that you hoped I write without any bruises. The bruise on my arm is still there, but it is fading. I showed it to my physical therapist, who sympathized, and to my doctor. One was sympathtic, and one blamed me. Interesting.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Bobbie Anne, I’m also so glad you wrote this and put the shame where it belongs. It certainly wasn’t and isn’t yours to bear. I love that you put this out there in other ways prior to this. Together in healing, we are. Sister survivors.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Terry, thank you for saying that the shame wasn’t mine to bear. When my doctor saw my bruise, he made me feel as if it were. Blaming the victim is so old fashioned and it isn’t right. Thanks for mentioning that you love how I am putting it out there in other ways such as exhibiting my poetry and artwork. I found my voice and I want to share it with others so maybe someone might be helped by it. I love that you say we are sister survivors. Together In healing. And yes, we are.

    • Debbie says

      Bobbie Anne – Thanks for courageous posting of this poem into this smaller community – and the larger one. Abuse is one of those issues that we like to think always happens to “others”. Realizing that both the abuser and abused could be a part of your circle of acquaintances – unknown to anyone – is an important realization for us all. Sometimes the bruises don’t show……

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Debbie, Thanks for pointing out that sometimes the bruises don’t show. So it’s more of a reason to stand your ground if you can.

  3. Ana says

    Bobbie Anne – I stand and applaud your courage. What a way to find your voice and heal your-self, than by posting your poems and exhibiting your artwork. I noticed something wonderful after reading the replies to your post: Each person started by declaring your name, Bobbie Anne. To me it sounded like a symphony of women cheering and strongly marching in support of your name and your voice. In this safe space of openness and truth, as a survivor of many gross indecencies perpetrated against me, I support you in continuing to turn one “S” word (shame) into another “S” word — STRENGTH.

    • Terry Gibson says

      What a beautiful way to put it, Ana. I’m going to remember the same. See? We’re with you, Bobbie Anne. You’ve connected us more deeply by your writing. Thanks so much!

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Terry, thanks for being with me. I’m glad I shared this with you, although I was a bit apprehensive at first, but then I decided to write it down here. I’m glad I did.

    • Ilana says

      Bobbie Anne- I second what Ana and Terry said and am proud to be included in the symphony. Please count me among your sister survivors, supporters or whatever you want to call us. We are all here for you. IM

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Ilana, I’m glad you are all are my sister survivors and supporters. When I read all your comments I cried but I felt as if I were loved and it was such a positive feeling. Thank you.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Ana, Thank you for your support. The bruise is fading but I found my voice and am so glad that you joined in standing up to abuse and the many gross indecencies against yourself. I love what you said about turning the s word shame into strength. When my doctor saw the bruise, he tried to make me feel ashamed. I wasn’t the one who should feel that way. I didn’t do anything to warrant such abuse. Stay Strong!

    • Debbie says

      Ana – I also loved turning the S word from Shame into Strength!! Thanks for sharing that concept – I needed it, too.

  4. Ilana says

    Dangerous writing

    “…that would be a ‘life ruiner;’ for my entire family.” It was the first time I had ever heard the phrase. I’m sure that she coined it herself but I knew the feeling so well that it sounded like something anyone would say at any time, like “deal breaker” or “final straw”. The term was used by a member of my incest survivors support group. She is a woman I learn from, admire, feel badly for, depend on, worry about, support, accept support from and love. She was talking about what would happen if someone reported her brother for things he was forced, by their mutual abuser, to do to her.

    My situation is slightly different. Everything my brother did to me was of his own free will. He was the abuser. He was the perpetrator. I am still not willing to ruin his life. My parents should have stopped it. I hold them responsible. I hate them for it. I am still not willing to ruin their lives.

    This is the only place I speak freely, yet none of you know who I truly am. I don’t dare share with you my real name because this is dangerous writing. Under this cloak of anonymity I can pour out the truth. I like to say “All names are changed to protect the guilty.” And that is exactly what I mean.
    Sometimes I do not want to “protect the guilty.” That’s why it is so important to me that you know ‘Ilana’ is not my real name. It’s as close as I dare come to telling you who I really am. You know one thing for sure. I am not “Ilana M.”

    My brother is an attorney in a big city which is not Los Angeles, California. He is married to a lovely woman whose name is not Molly. She hates me now because of what I believe her husband did to me when we were children. You want to know the kicker? He’s a civil rights attorney, specializing in sexual harassment. He prides himself on his ability to answer the phone from a dead sleep and sound like he’s been awake, waiting for your call. This is because he was a rape victim advocate in college and he wanted the victim to be unaware he was sleeping. That way she wouldn’t feel guilty for waking him up. He fancies himself the kind hearted, gallant hero who saves innocent victims from the big bad perpetrators of our world.

    Sometimes I fanaticize telling you my real name. Sometimes I dream of going to the big city, that is not LA, and screaming from the rooftops that this man is a fraud. Sometimes I imagine telling my dear aunts who watched me grow up scared of my own shadow, the real reason why I was so messed up. I want to tell them what was happening to me, right under their noses; what they didn’t notice, what they didn’t stop. Sometimes I want to show them what an awful mother their sister really was. I want to show them what they should have saved me from.

    I’ll never do it, though. If one of you were to take this information and figure out who my family is, I would consider that a betrayal of epic proportions. These are my secrets and though I often long to publish them in all the major news papers, I am choosing to keep them secrets.

    I don’t want to ruin anyone’s life and that’s exactly what would happen. But you could do that. A little creativity, a little research and you could figure out exactly who this attorney is. I’ve most likely given you enough information. This is very dangerous writing, indeed. Every time I ‘put pen to paper’, so to speak, and share anything about myself with you, it is dangerous writing. I’ll have to trust you. I can’t contain it anymore. I can’t keep these secrets to myself any longer.

    So, under a pseudonym I pour my pain out onto the page and each week I am blessed with your support, your understanding and your kindness. This blog has become an integral part of my healing process. It is a safe place for me to shout of the injustice. It is a place to be heard and find support; more than anything I ever dared ask for.

    It would be a “life ruiner”, though I’ll never do it. What an amazing thought, that the powerless little girl who walked into her own bat mitzvah having been assaulted just that morning is engaging in “dangerous writing.”

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I’m so glad you wrote this. You share more of your life and stress the extreme importance of confidentiality. I’m glad you did on both counts. I also feel safe here, trust others, and you. I hope you don’t feel unsettled tonight from doing this. Feel safe and be gentle with yourself. Trust me, I’ll never try to find out who you are. I’m content with the boundaries you need.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Ilana, Remember that you are safe here. We are supportive of each other. I agree with Terry that you might want to be gentle with yourself. I respect your boundaries. So feel free to be you.

    • Laura Davis says

      Ilana, just remember that deciding whether or not to ever confront your brother and how–is your choice. And not a deal-breaker in your healing. You can heal without it. You get to decide. The choice is yours. The timing is yours. This was a brilliant way to “telling” without “telling.” You kept the control. Bravlo!

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry and Laura- Yes. I did feel unsettled after posting. That happens to me a lot. Often after posting here I have a rough night in response to looking at my own truths and sharing them. I am learning to be patient with discomfort, though. It is the only way to survive this carriage to hell. I have confronted my brother a few times. It always ends badly for me. I’ll have to find another way to heal. Thank you, Laura, for honoring that choice. Thank you Terry, for honoring my boundaries.

    • Ana says

      I’ve been home all week with a terrible flue (as if there is a different kind), away from a job that I dislike and makes me sick…and yet at times I slip into worrying about not being there. Go figure. Wednesday I thought I was getting better, only to have a cough attack and be completely weakened by doing too much…like walking ten paces. Being on the computer was taxing too, but I poked my head in here a couple of times anyway. This blog has contributed greatly to my getting better. My flue pales in comparison to the topics I’ve read. Each word I read reminded me of where I’ve been, how far I’ve come and where I am today. Each word I’m allowed to write, reminds me what a wonderful creative courageous woman I am. Thank you, today I am much better.

      And thank you Ilana.

      Your post reminded me of my half-brother, Porfirio. When he was a boy he was perpetrated by a family friend. In turn, my brother perpetrated against me. I told my mother, but it fell on deaf ears. I don’t think when I first told people, people I trusted and healed with, that I would ever reach a day where I would refer to it as something someone reminded me of. It was a fact I painfully lived with on a daily basis. It is still part of the fabric that makes Ana, Ana…but I don’t live today with that constant pain. I healed by witnessing other people’s journeys, women AND men..those who told, and those who didn’t tell but healed regardless. Their courage&healing gave me a constant gift…sometimes even without knowing it: hope. As Laura said, the choice and time, whether to or not, is yours. If you think about it, by writing and sending the post, you told…and in the spirit of that person who told I leave you with this poem by Mary Oliver:

      The Journey

      One day you finally knew
      what you had to do, and began,
      though the voices around you
      kept shouting
      their bad advice–
      though the whole house
      began to tremble
      and you felt the old tug
      at your ankles.
      “Mend my life!”
      each voice cried.
      But you didn’t stop.
      You knew what you had to do,
      though the wind pried
      with its stiff fingers
      at the very foundations,
      though their melancholy
      was terrible.
      It was already late
      enough, and a wild night,
      and the road full of fallen
      branches and stones.
      But little by little,
      as you left their voices behind,
      the stars began to burn
      through the sheets of clouds,
      and there was a new voice
      which you slowly
      recognized as your own,
      that kept you company
      as you strode deeper and deeper
      into the world,
      determined to do
      the only thing you could do–
      determined to save
      the only life you could save.

      • Ilana says

        Wow, that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me and for pointing out that although this is a difficult journey it is a journey. There is an end. I just won’t know what it will look like until I get there.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Ana, Thanks for sharing the poem with me. It reminds me that the life you save may be your own. And yes, you make the choice. I spoke to one of my abusers today. She yelled at me and made me so sad. She told me to stand up for myself as I was doing just that. She stole something valuable from me and gave it to someone else. How rude. When I asked her to give it back, she told me I had to ask that person. Why? She is the one who stole it from me in the first place. I have the choice to have contact with her or not. Hope you feel better.

    • Ilana says

      I just want to thank you all one more time. I have drawn such strength and comfort from your posts and responses to my post. It seems every time I think I am accepting Laura’s invitation to post even if it’s “crap” someone responds and they make me see the value in my own writing. I am truly grateful to have found this community and to be connected to all of you.

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – I never told anyone all of it until May of 2011. Bravo to you for attempts to face the abuser. I never did. He haunted me for decades, impacted my relationships and eroded my sense of self. For many years after the divorce, I lived in fear that he would find me and tell all the “new” people in my life all that had transpired in the past. At his hands, but as Bobbie Anne indicated earlier, blame lands in strange places. Shame always landed with me. Your piece reminded of my previous fear of discovery. But the life I feared would be destroyed was my own – the new life I had built without him. Except I was still carrying him around in my mind. Recently, though, I realized he has moved out! Finally evicted from my biography, one less voice of mayhem and discontent. This is a safe place as the others have said. I don’t think the drive is to discover more about those that post here than they chose to share. My passion is to be sure I have really understood the exquisite nature of the truths everyone gives so freely.

      • Ilana says

        Debbie- When I think of the times I have confronted my brother I am ashamed and embarrassed. It always came out in a panicked, “Please believe me” kind of voice. This last time I asked for no response. I simply told him what he did to me and explained that for that reason he, and his wife were to have no further contact me, my children or my husband. This came from a place of strength but also felt hollow because although he left me alone, I never said it to his face. It was an e-mail. Thank you for honoring those attempts. As painful and dissatisfying as they were, all three of them took great courage and strength. You made me remember that.

        • Debbie says

          Ilana – here was my secret plan for the longest time. I was saving my money to pay for a billboard. One that thousands of people drove by every day. On it I was gong to put his name in big letters and just a few of the things he had done. His name would have been recognized in this city – and a terrible scandal would have ensued. I never did it – but it was fun to think about.

          • Bobbie Anne says

            Debbie, I love the idea about the billboards! Even though you didn’t do it, if it made you feel better, then that makes a difference.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Ilana, It did take courage and strength to confront your brother by what ever way you did. It doesn’t matter if it was an e-mail or face to face. My brother tried to abuse me sexually, but he was abused himself. He just thought that was what you did. I felt sorry that he was in so much pain. Yet, I was hurting too.

  5. T.D. says

    Dangerous Words

    I feel like a fraud. I don’t have any answers for people; I don’t even know how to answer for my own pain. Of course, I don’t tell anyone I have answers. I just emphasis my joys over sorrow, I guess. I’m just feeling my way through a maze in my work. I don’t know what in hell I’m doing.

    Years ago I learned that life was not meant for me. I was one of the girls nothing good could happen to.

    Many years ago, I was so terrified of people, yet needed them because I am a social animal. When things got too close, I was so shaken that they’d get to know me, and the real scumbag I was, I’d walk away forever. This was a painful thing for me but it had to be done just the same.

    I don’t know if I can escape suicide. I’ve tried so hard. But still feel it dragging me down. The pain I feel is so exhausting. I just want it to stop. I’m trying to believe in a bright future but my hope is waning again.

    If my relationship ended because of my sexual confusion — which is what it’s looking like — I would have nowhere to go. No money. No job. I can’t return to school. There would be nothing but emptiness. My health isn’t like it was twenty years ago and, within the shortest amount of time, I’ll be forced to live in a drug-infested area of the city with no hope, help or even a God I believe in to lean on.

    Starting anew can be an exciting thing. But personally, I don’t really care to. I can’t make friends because of my lack of confidence and confusion about life. I try but then it falls apart. Also, it simply costs too much to live. Am I afraid of hard work? Hardly. I love to work. I just couldn’t make enough to live on and I was never enough reason to live for before.

    Maybe I am crazy. If I am, I got it honestly.

    I wish I had had children. I no longer can. I lost my baby the only time I was pregnant. I can’t even relate to women on the most vital part of being female. Something I wanted in my life so badly. Before my brother was diagnosed with HIV, he and my partner were going to try to get pregnant by turkey baster. All three of us were excited! Two Moms and a fantastic father, this child could have real chances. And then we got the call that broke my heart. He was very sick and had been murdered. He was purposely infected by a so-called friend.

    I’m attracted to men but with a woman whom I love dearly. We are both sex abuse survivors so our sex life has never been what I would like it to be. There are things I need to tell her but can’t. I can’t hurt her anymore. It tears me a part. From the beginning, I tried to tell her that being involved with me would be a negative in her life. We are more in crisis everyday.

    I stopped dating men because it was too dangerous for me. It made me hurt myself. I didn’t want to do that because it took me closer and closer to the edge of madness. So, I fashioned a way to stay alive (just until I figured out a better way). I never really discovered that, yes, I was supposed to be with women. Maybe at my age now, I’m supposed to just forget about sex and just grow more unhappy. But that’s not what I want to do. I’m a passionate woman in all areas of life.

    Finally, I need to say that I have so much rage for my sister Penny right now, I feel like I could explode. We don’t speak and not from my lack of work at doing so. Here’s where I need feedback from other women. If you were told by your sister that she was raped, would you have compassion, be kind? Or would you–especially upon learning the name of the two men–staunchly deny that it ever happened? Or say that because you ‘liked’ rapist #1, he could not have possibly done such a thing?

    This is an old wound. A fresher one is how she abused my terminally-ill brother, stole money from him (and got nursing staff to accuse me of it), mocked him (as he became more profoundly disabled), and used him.

    Lastly, it makes me sad when women change toward me when they know I am involved with a woman. It hurts me. It always has. I think it always will. That’s why I don’t say usually.

    • says

      Dear TD, Thanks for sharing such raw, uncensored pain and emotions with us. I want to urge you to live. No matter how much pain and suffering you are in, don’t give the bastards the satisfaction of getting your life, too. You need help and support. And if the first help isn’t useful, find different help. We want you here to keep sharing your words and your life on this blog. Stay with us.

    • Ilana says

      T.D.- First let me say that I am awed by your strength and courage. I truly hope that they will hold out and pull you to a safer time. You ask for feedback regarding your sister. All I can say is I know how I would respond and I never understood the people I trusted who sided with the perpetrator, against me. I also wanted to respond to the line, “I cannot even relate to women on the most vital part of being female.” I don’t, honestly, know what the most vital part of being female is but I felt I could relate to what you wrote on so many levels. We are different from men. There is so much they will never understand. My husband is my best friend. He knows me better than anyone else in the world and yet there are many things that, just from this post, I know you would understand that he doesn’t. You’re not crazy. You are in pain. Sometimes, in the thick of it, those two things get confused. I truly hope to see your post next week. Wishing you peace, IM

    • Debbie says

      T.D. – I used to make my friends uncomfortable when I would refer to life as a choice. But that has always been my perspective. In my late 20’s I had to make a choice; take my life to end the pain or go on living – and heal the pain. One I could imagine much more easily than the other. So I made bargain with myself – why not try the most dramatic changes I could imagine – what did I have to lose? Life was still a choice. I could always change my mind later. That was almost 30 years ago, and to be honest I have faced that crossroad more than once since then. I found love with a most wonderful woman, and gradually found Joy within my life again. What I realized on that fateful day – and many since then – is when you turn toward life, you leave the options open …. Please return to this safe place and continue to share your dangerous words.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Debbie, thanks for letting us know that we have a choice. Sometimes it is so difficult and hard to see that while living with the pain. That is probably the last thing one might want to hear, but to come out on the other side of all the sorrow is truly amazing.

    • Rachel Staples says

      TD~ Love is the answer my friend. Love of yourself and who you are. As hard as they may be to achieve, it would be much harder if you were no longer here. Standing at the edge of darkness deserves a medal of honor once you walk away. So when you come across the medal, you will know that you made the right decision regardless of the pain.

  6. Debbie says

    She is going to die.

    I don’t mean eventually or in the normal course of things. I mean she is going to die prematurely, barely to retirement age – living a “normal” life less than 9 months ago.

    I mean my brother is going to lose his wife of forty-two years to, not the cancer, but the relentless assault of infections creeping into her lung from the open fistula carelessly missed by the surgeon or cruelly rendered by the cancer. We will never know.

    None of us have wanted to face this possibility head on, sifting through the facts and medical reports for those tiny tidbits of hope and improvement. Last week, her children and grandchildren gathered to celebrate the holiday with her. Over the internet flashed pictures of sun, smiles, images of normalcy from an impromptu trip to the beach.

    I sobbed as I looked at those pictures – so bittersweet. Full of admiration for them all for being able to stay in the moment and smile. Knowing that I have encouraged families of dying patients to do this very same thing hundreds of times. Still not wanting to face the fact that she was at that stage so quickly.

    The cancer has been spreading throughout her body while she has fought infection after infection. No suspension of that fulminating terror, no “time outs” for good behavior.

    Here are the other terrifying words; I don’t know what to pray for tonight.

    I read and reread my brother’s note beseeching us all to continue to pray for Lynne’s strength and recovery from the surgery. But I find I can’t join in anymore. I can’t hope for her to recover from the surgery only to have to turn to face the cancer that has resisted treatment and now invaded other organs.

    Through my tears, I am sending energy for her highest and best good. I hope that is enough. I hope my brother will understand.

    • Ilana says

      Oh Debbie, I am so sorry.

      It is amazing to me how we share our pain so openly, so raw, even at the time it is happening. The effect is that women we have never met are there for us right through the actual event. You have mentioned Lynne in the past so I knew who you were talking about. I am here with you, holding your hand over the miles in what direction, I do not know. I went through the same thing when we lost my cousin to Leukemia in April of 1998. I didn’t want to pray for her to survive one assault only to be cut down by the next. The rabbi I went to suggested I pray for her comfort in whatever form it would take. He thereby released me of the responsibility to decide what was right to ask for. I hope that his words can bring you the comfort they brought me. Thank you for sharing your writing, for sharing your pain and for allowing me to share mine with you. Your presence in my life has certainly lightened my load. I wish you and your family peace. Fondly, IM

      • Debbie says

        Ilana –

        I woke early this morning with that sense of “something’s wrong” still lingering at the edge of my senses. As my mind slowly cleared, I remembered – Lynne. I made a cup of coffee, moving around a little lost as I am in a hotel room at dawn today. I felt myself searching for something familiar, a touchstone to ground me, and found it with Writer’s Journey Roadmap. There I found your words of a similar time and the wise counsel of your Rabbi. Thank you – I do find a great sense of relief in using the wish, hope, prayer for her comfort – and including my brother as well.

        • Ilana says

          Debbie- Thank you for allowing me to be a comfort to you. With your permission I will include you and your family in my prayers as well. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, as you support your loved ones.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Debbie, Thank you for sharing what you and your brother are going thru. I am praying for Lynne. I am sending love and energy as well.

  7. says

    I just wanted to tell all of you how incredibly moved I am by what I read here every week. When I created this Roadmap blog it was an idea, an insubstantial wisp of smoke. I hoped that people would post here and that people would find an outlet for their writing, but this community is developing into a supportive community way beyond my expectations. You are all so kind and caring and gentle with each other. And wise. I’m truly blown away. And very moved by who you are and what each of you bring to this virtual space. Thank you for trusting me and each other to show up here, week after week.

    • Debbie says

      Laura – in the past nine months my life has cracked apart in many painful ways. Without this forum for sharing, learning and feeling connected to others – who for the first time in my life might really understand how the scars of the past can haunt us yet today – without this space, I likely would have cracked up right along with my life. Instead, most days, I hold a space of hope about my future and toy with the possibility I might really “deserve” happiness. My thanks goes out to you for providing this place for us to share and for your ongoing encouragement. I will be forever grateful.

  8. Terry Gibson says

    Debbie, I am so sorry to hear about Lynne as well. It’s quite a different thing to change what you’re praying for with sick relatives or friends. I’ll also remember a general prayer for her and your whole family. Please take care.

  9. Paula Hill says

    Dangerous Journey

    Life ain’t a “bowl of cherries”;
    alas through treacherous, ancient heritage,
    the mountains have majesty;
    the Sea, colossal power; Lakes, tranquility;
    the Sky, a beauteous mood;
    and the Land teams with voluptuous bounty.

    The prowess of a Seed,
    innate and lucky
    without thought
    can grow into it’s ordained imprint…
    a red beet,
    or a tall Redwood tree…

    Was it thought?
    Innate purpose?…
    when one evening, my father’s passionate spasm
    (out of how many in his lifetime? Whew!)
    brought forth one winner out of 300,000,000 swimming, fighting sperm
    to meet just one of my mother’s lifetime bounty of 300,000 to 500,000 ovum,
    ripened perfectly in that moment,
    to unite within
    a mysterious, mighty, physical, cellular attraction that reached the winning prize…
    …blanketed under Moon’s reign..
    …forming ME….

    And, within ME….my ancestors…
    lost in the millennium of time
    but, as well
    those held in recent memory…
    Ones who survived potato blight
    Economic starvation
    Political atrocities
    Religious oppressions
    …..(ohhhh, how many other, long lost unspoken terrors and delights…..?)
    And then a ship passage across the seas, harboring scurvy,
    upon reaching the shores which they sailed to meet
    survived the deaths of one in four, a few years after getting here.

    The seed of which I began,
    the survival of Darwin’s fittest
    The lucky
    The strong
    The passionate
    The enduring….
    is reason alone to grab with all my own soul
    this gifted inheritance,
    my own miraculous preciousness…
    …a chosen one.
    I’m lured to follow the truth of heart…
    Whether naked in rising flood waters,
    or with feet embedded in rugged shoes,
    clothing fit to pass through briars
    and armor for to dissuade the weapons….
    my senses,
    sword in hand,
    discerns what’s mine and isn’t….
    seeking unheeded fortunes,
    I go hither…
    open and alert,
    into the mysterious wilderlands,
    the thrilling, quivering, unnerving, bone chilling ride of a life
    ….fully lived…..
    trying to remember who I was at my first breath
    ……THE huge, infinite unspoken……
    and trusting I’ll know in my last…

    • Debbie says

      Paula – I so enjoyed your beautiful “voice” sharing the dangerous journey “into the mysterious wilderlands”. Your poetic style is full of strong images. I enjoyed reading it immensely! Thanks!

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Paula, I like the way you wrote about your armor and with your sword in hand that you would fight undistracted. Good poetry! It is a long journey, but you will meet those who will help you along the way.

  10. Rachel Staples says

    The dangerous I face in my writing would be the self truths that linger just behind a story line and creep in and out of the creative process for someone to enjoy not knowing that somewhere in the deep dark crevices I lay with a ball cap and sunglasses watching and waiting for someone I know to recognize a sentence, a word or an emotion. Then it all blows up. I believe that it will happen for me and my writing will be there for all to see, bare and beautiful. So what happens when the explosion rings through my ears and the smoke settles? I continue writing and my sword will be my pen…

    • Debbie says

      Rachel – I think I understand that you are writing about the risk of writing honestly. I really like the image you evoke with this line
      ” I lay with a ball cap and sunglasses watching and waiting for someone I know to recognize a sentence, a word or an emotion”. And yet you still write, and share it with us. Thank you!

  11. Terry Gibson says

    These are my Dangerous Words with all names changed to protect the Guilty. This is a letter to one of the men who raped me before I got far enough away from the town I grew up in. This was a second gang rape.

    Dear Tom,

    I’m sure you remember me. We both lived in the same town at one time and you and I were in the same grade school. You know my family. You remember me.

    But, of course, I know you know me because you were one of several guys who orchestrated a gang rape when I was about seventeen or eighteen.
    Given that you are married and have a daughter, I figured it is about time you heard from me. Consider some guy doing to your daughter what you did to me.

    You raped me. You are a rapist. No matter how old you were, are, or will be. You raped me.

    As you recall, I went to a small gathering with Matt, whom I thought liked me as a person. I was really happy to have a date with him, though I wasn’t in love or anything. It made me feel like I might be okay after all.

    I remember a few guys sitting on the sofa and how you all got up so Matt and I could sit down. I accepted one beer. I remember several of you going in the kitchen to mix drinks and I, stupidly, accepted one. I didn’t drink, given my mom taught us to loathe everything booze-related (in other words, my bio Dad), but I said ‘yes’ so I didn’t look juvenile.

    The next thing I remember is lots of laughing. I remember standing up facing the sofa for some reason and someone walking up behind me. I have a vague recollection of being caught by that person as my knees buckled.

    I know you put something in my drink because I was never hungover or sick after that night. Like I said, I didn’t drink. If I’d been really drunk, I would’ve been vomiting and sick for days. Then I would’ve had memories filtering back in pieces.

    This was very different. To this day, other than what I already said, I still have only ONE other memory–waking up in broad day in bed with you on top of me, raping me. I heard another ex-classmate ask if you were leaving with them and you saying, “No. It feels pretty good right now.” Laugh. Laugh.

    I was awake for only that moment and then was gone again. I don’t remember how long I was there, nor how I got home. I remembered nothing all through therapy a year later and ever since. I have had memories when I was three come through, yet this one, absolutely nothing! The rest is dead memory. It’s just gone.

    Make no mistake, you bastard. I am very clear about YOU! I remember what you said, did, and you raping me. While unconscious, a woman can NOT give consent. Even if you’re mauling her just before she blanks out. And any man who strips that woman down and jumps on top of her is a rapist. You are a rapist. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one you did this to.

    As you tell your daughter about yourself, teach her what values to have, and instruct her in what is NOT acceptable behavior from a guy (when she’s old enough to date), will you tell her this story? I don’t think so. Even if she loves her daddy, how do you think she’d feel about you if she knew that you’re the kind of guy who believes it’s okay to force yourself on an unconscious woman? (Or was that the point? If you didn’t have to ‘force’ me in the traditional way, was it rape at all?)

    What if your daughter came home in her early teens and tells you about her date that evening. She remembers next-to-nothing but does know she did NOT CONSENT to anything. “How could I, Dad?” she’d say. “I have no memory, except for this guy who WASN’T there when I was just fine.”

    What would you say to her? “It’s okay honey, guys do that. I know it makes you feel like a worthless piece of crap, but that’s just what guys do; even I did it when I was a teenager. You see honey, women aren’t worth much in this world. In fact, they’re only for sex. Relax honey, soon you’ll come to like it and all will be okay again.”

    Is that what you’d say? Or would you say: “Who did it? Why, I’ll kill that bastard. Nobody does that kind of thing to MY daughter and gets away with it. I’ll kill them all! Even that bastard who set it up … planned it.

    You see, Tom, all the guys in those small towns, which were close in proximity, KNEW, beyond doubt, that Terry had NOBODY to protect her. I was on my own and in danger. And guys like you had my father’s blessing to kill me, if they liked–whatever heightened your sexual pleasure and humiliated me the most.

    I ran away because I was having the crap beaten out of me at home and I had been an incest victim. I got the police involved when I was finally getting out of there and this embarrassed and enraged my parents.

    While threatening regularly, over breakfast or dinner, to have me raped, I didn’t know how to take it. I knew how violent and crazy they were but had no idea they would go so far to ‘get back’ at me.

    But they meant business. I was Catholic and wanted to follow the virgin-until-marriage thing. I was in the midst of deciding if I wanted to be a nun. My religion meant a lot to me. Obviously, Dad’s didn’t mean anything to him.

    He had two guys who worked with him at a local store attack me one month after I ran away. I was brutalized and went into shock and hemorrhaged for weeks after. But then you knew about that first crime, didn’t you? That’s another reason why you guys knew to come after me.

    I was suicidal after this event, and in a much worse state after what you and your friends did. For one thing, I couldn’t name it. I didn’t click in to what really happened until I saw shows on tv where other women had experienced the same dead space in their memories. They’d discover bruises on their bodies and be in terrible pain the next day. I was horrified when I knew! It still makes me sick.
    I didn’t finish this letter years ago because it was too much for me. I did want to add something here however. The other day as I was flipping through the channels, I heard Dr. Phil say that the most dangerous time for a domestic abuse victim–which I extend to cover kids who are harmed by anyone including bad parents–is when they first get away. I used to lie awake at night in my boarding home, only one block from my so-called home. I was so in terror that they’d come to my door and overpower my landlady (who was elderly and a bit deaf) and head straight up the stairs to get me. My hands shook and I was the most jumpy person you’d ever meet. I’m still on edge most of the time, even decades later.
    Thanks everyone for reading this and for being this wonderful community of women who make my life enriched in such a big way.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- This piece is evocative, alarming and downright horrifying. Since I began reading your posts I knew you were a strong person who had been through a lot but… Holy Cow, woman! Survivor, active and fierce survivor. It made me feel icky to think of this man having a daughter. My brother becoming a father was what pushed me over the edge and forced me to deal with what he did to me. I hope you are not offended by the comparison but you remind me of something I read in my studies of the Holocaust. The prisoners of Auschwitz considered everyday that they survived a triumph over their tormentors. I would posit that every smile, every laugh, every moment of pleasure you experience and give to others is a triumph over those who hurt you. Keep on Keepin’ on, my hero-friend! I applaud you! IM

      • Terry Gibson says

        What can I say, Ilana? You bring tears to my eyes. Your words are so meaningful to me. I was just about to crawl in bed after about a week of really bad sleep. Tonight I will sleep deeply. Thank you so much! PS: I would never be offended by what you said about your Holocaust studies. I just think what I went through could never ever do justice to the horrors of Auschwitz. But I thank you for your great insight, kindness, and compassion.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Ilana, I wanted to say that I missed your real point about the Holocaust last night. I got it today after a few hours sleep and I agree completely. Every laugh, retreat, kindness I can give myself or share with others, is revenge. Not giving them my life too. Thank you again, one of my favourite sisters.

          • Ilana says

            Terri- Yes. Now you understand my point. Perhaps “comparison” was and ill-chosen word. I am honored to be called your sister-survivor. Thank you for that. You don’t know how much strength it has given me in the tougher moments; knowing that I am not alone, that my struggles mean as much as anyone else’s. Be well, my friend. IM

    • says

      Terry, I’ve heard some of this story from you last year, at Commonweal, but I find it moving and powerful and I want to find that bastard and kill him. I have two sons and a daughter, and your story made my blood run cold. (in a good way, not a bad way).

  12. Terry Gibson says

    Laura, Thanks to you too. I am so sorry to put out such an awful story. I hate upsetting my loving sisters with disturbing pieces like this; my only thought is that it might help someone and it is cathartic for me to write it. As everyone knows, I didn’t choose this path. It chose me and like any good Canadian, I go with the flow–as long as it isn’t snow and ice. Love to everyone here. (I needed a little mood lightener with the snow thing.) Points on parenthood understood. It comforts me to know that there are some amazing mothers and fathers out there like you, and others I know.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – please don’t feel you have to apologize for telling the truth – unvarnished, not edited to minimize the awfulness. Let it flow, out of you, onto these “pages” where we can metaphorically “kick ass” of the offenders while still offer caring and acceptance to each other. We don’t need to carry these burdens alone, locked up inside us anymore. You are incredibly brave and resilient. Thank you for honoring us with your story.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks for your words. I don’t know how to emphasize how much it means to me to tell this story to people who aren’t digging for my every supposed motive and move I made. I’ve got four hours of police interrogation videotape here and, though I don’t watch it, when I did, I loathed myself. As I told the story, I was almost laughing it off: I might as well have said out loud, Stupid Stupid, Terry. She didn’t even learn from the first time? That aside, being believed is so great! For the record, I am not the kind of person who can just Make Up a story which could mean prison for the perpetrator. How anyone, especially so-called ‘family’ could think I’d be capable of such a thing, used to bother me a lot. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s life. That wouldn’t make me feel better. However, these men are responsible for their behavior against a child. They knew what they were doing. One last thing, I re-read a statement Police made to one of my family members. It said that if anything legal happens, the first rapist would ‘slit his wrists.’ Isn’t that pathetic? What about the shambles that he made my life? I wonder who has more scars. Are we really responsible for their actions? Depending on what we do or don’t do legally?

        • Ilana says

          Terry- Ugh! Another dose of ‘icky’. If I’m reading this correctly somebody (the police?) said that you should not take legal action because it would destroy the rapist. I think I may have actual smoke coming out of my ears. I second Debbie’s thoughts. Don’t carry your burdens alone. Come here to a safe place and share it with us.

          • Terry Gibson says

            Yes. It’s true. After the case was over, through Freedom of Information I got my videotapes, transcripts of interviews, etc. It’s all right there. Anyway, please never feel alone, Ilana. I worry about you sometimes; sending you a huge hug.

  13. Ilana says

    Thank you, Terry (and everyone who has offered me support here)- I can’t tell you how much that means to me. At first I was going to say “Don’t worry about me.” but the truth is it’s nice to know that you care. As a child I thought that no one stopped it because no one cared and no one cared because I wasn’t worth caring about. Now I have an amazing woman who has never laid eyes on me, offering herself as someone I can call “sister” and telling me that she does care. I am so grateful… to all of you.


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