You got out

(Part of a new series of poems about people whom I have met, who profoundly moved me).

They said

no it’s not a person, it’s a trash bag, or wad of clothing

as I turned the car around

knowing it was a girl, curled into herself

it was for her, the end of a long night

for me, an early morning drive

into rising sun

indigo girl

her limbs thin enough, to resemble twigs

hair colored black, face still-water of a child

she waved us off

no, no, no, I’m fine here

in the fetal position, on the cement

lying by the side of road exhaust

as predator number 10, idles his car and asks

do you want me to take you home

baby?

I press myself to the window glass

no, don’t get in the car!

he looks angry when she says

I’m just taking a nap, goodnight

his lust drives off, leaving fuel staining like road kill

I wonder

what he would have done if

all 90 pounds of her, in tiny shorts and torn top

had accepted his bearly, concealed hunger

how many predators comb

early morning side walks, hoping

to pick up lost girls?

she’s got sense and she also, doesn’t know

but I do

I was her once

crawling out of an abandoned warehouse

knife wounds, waltzing on my throat

cold semen in my belly

clawmarks designating, my survival

bearly

the car that stopped then

a light in darkness

they took me away, from near death

when so easily

I could have been picked up, a second time

a third,

by hands with bad intention

when you are fallen

people often crowd in, to help you

fall again

like wolves who smell

the coming of blood and

vulnerabilities, we think we hide

I told her

don’t get into a car with a lone man, or group of men

they may not show their fangs but

you are a little piece of goodness

sometimes people who prowl, want to hurt

that shining within you

we drove

she was looking out the window

with her unslept eyes and the residue of last night

still high on her pain

and for the first time in my life

I no longer felt a victim

but one of the imaginary horses, I used to ride

speeding away from slick, sales-man, cough

of curb-side prowler

I wanted to make her better

but sometimes you can only

patch and release

to maybe nothing safer than hope

with a few words

wishing, that when she’s sober

waking without assault

she remembers

you were her once

and you got out

 

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Mental Health Month #Day 7 “Rape”

Rape isn’t a subject people talk about very often. Sadly it’s a subject people joke about quite a bit.

The first time I heard a rape-joke I didn’t get it. It was too disgusting to ‘get’ and I am glad I didn’t. Everyone else did though and they all laughed. At the time I didn’t think how someone sitting there who had been raped would feel, but statistics tell us, that likelihood is quite high considering that 80 percent of rape goes unreported and even the reported numbers are staggering.

How a rape joke could hope to be funny, baffles me, but it maybe is more telling of our society as a whole, that we can laugh at true misfortune and tragedy. That’s not gallows humor, that’s just sick.

Rape is never funny. Rape is never something that doesn’t matter. Perhaps if we acted like it mattered more, those who were rape survivors would not be more subject to a plethora of mental illness.

That’s why rape is a subject this Mental Health Month. Because the link between rape and mental illness exists. Rape can among other things, be a cause or contributing cause or exacerbation of; PTSD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Depression, Phobias, Suicidality and Suicide, Cutting/Self-Harm and many other conditions.

We’ve talked in earlier posts about how that doesn’t diminish the very real and medical ‘illness’ of mental disorders, and just because an act pushes someone toward feeling a certain way, does not decrease the legitimacy of the illness part of any mental disease. Illness can and is caused by trauma, and there are few things more traumatic to a girl or woman (or boy or man) than rape.

Perhaps though there is one thing worse and that is not being believed, or the act of rape being diminished or ignored.

I hope most of you have watched The Hunting Ground, a documentary on Campus rapes here in America, but if you have not yet, and you have children, know college age kids, or people who work on campuses, it is compulsory viewing not to be missed.

Ultimately the numbers of rapes committed in any situation are underreported, under prosecuted, and not punished. Some judges do not believe a rapist should go to jail. It is often said ‘but he’s such a good boy and he has his entire life ahead of him’ and this stands as a perfectly reasonable explanation for not giving a rapist a harsher sentence.

The other big let-down as far as rape in the legal system goes, is that rape has a statute of limitations and thus, if five years pass and you do not report your rape you are not protected under the law anymore and cannot prosecute your rapist. This is not true for many other crimes including murder, and financial embezzlement. In other words, you can prosecute someone for stealing from you years later, but you cannot prosecute someone for raping you after a certain time period. Great message you’re giving the survivor!

In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out this exists because the likelihood of having proof after five years is diminished and it is to protect those falsely accused many years later. But that relies upon a significant swath of false accusations and assumes that proof must exist to punish a rape rather than taking the word of the survivor. Therein lies the rub. It is a difficult subject to prosecute when it’s one person’s word against another and historically women have not been believed over men who were upstanding and respected in the community. So if you’re a prostitute and you are raped by a politician, don’t expect anyone to believe you.

Maybe we cannot do enough about this to change it entirely, but speeding up the rate of prosecution cases, ensuring all rape kits are tested (when so many lie untested due to lack of funding) ensuring the survivors are not ‘blamed’ during their legal ordeal, and educating everyone about the low figures of false reporting, may make some difference.

As with anything we can find examples of those who cried wolf, but that is literally true of anything human. It is singular to rape survivors that they are accused of ‘making it up’ as if everyone involved knows of 1000 x cases of liars who pretended they were raped for whatever gain. We should as we do with ‘innocent until proven guilty’ assume someone is likely to be telling the truth when they pluck up the courage and report being raped. If nothing else, something is wrong.

No more so than on campuses across America today, where so many young people are raped and do not report it knowing it will not go anywhere, or do report it and find those who raped them are not penalized sufficiently because they are a star football player. This inequality of punishment needs to be eliminated because what you are effectively saying is, you are not worth as much as the rapist or we do not believe your rape mattered enough to punish this person.

Sometimes I have heard people say ‘she’s too ugly to be raped she must be lying’ and awful things like that. I had one person told by a police officer that because she admitted she was gay, she had obviously chosen to ‘try the other side’ for the night when she was dragged along the street at night and raped by a stranger in an abandoned warehouse. Sure. She wanted it.

Seeing why people who survive rape, are at high risk for some kind of short-term mental illness or at high risk for exacerbating a pre-existing one, is obvious when you look at the details of what someone really goes through. The aftermath of rape is nearly always the worst part. We need to bring our ability to empathize and our compassion to the table and treat all rape cries seriously.

I have worked in two Rape Crisis Centers and the second one I worked in, only prosecuted a handful of cases via the authorities, due to the enormous back-log of DNA testing (rape kits) and the desire of the authorities to plea deal rather than prosecute. Let us not forget a plea deal is often a free pass for a rapist and his offense is often knocked down to a smaller crime that will not indicate to someone looking at his record, that he is a serial rapist. Typically those who rape do so again and again, so if we do not incarcerate them, reeducate them and rehabilitate them if possible they will go out and do it again.

Likewise those who are beyond our help are still let out onto the streets along with paedophiles whom they know will re-offend it’s just a matter of time. How does this happen? How can we justify this?

For those survivors who tell others that they were raped, it is on our shoulders to be as supportive and gentle as possible with someone who confides in us. So often rape is a subject of humor and fun making and there is literally, nothing funny about rape.SAAMP2017 (SM)7

https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/

https://www.rainn.org/

National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 800-656-HOPE

How to respond to a survivor: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

 

https://mirrorwithoutglass.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/mental-health-month-day-7-rape/

Stigmata

 

093c3ac60161fdab3e0a048f7e5ccf6cThe day they pricked paint into her back

permanent and violet

she grew a lotus mandala

lending a little stigmata wisdom

to the thin bones of her grow

for she didn’t know that year

whether to follow sharp train tracks and disappear

into the woods not to be discovered

or walk into winter blizzard

feeling her way through to

imposing red bricked hospital

sagging against its frame like

an auburn flame caught in globe

shaken from foothold

placing her wet gloves on chaffing radiator

tell the patient man behind his mahogany desk

littered with prescriptives for disease of the mind

I am not well I am not well I am not well

you must take me from my freedom and tie me up

in a satin bow atop a new gift of hope

somewhere I cannot think or pass

in my mouth the marble and coinage

of my jailer

 

if she had let herself fall then

with his regard whiskering her lament

and plummet like a fire consumed comet

for the first time without control just

the ember of her flaming skirt searing

a series of interrupted tap dances

spanning shortened  life

in the direction of diminishing

sticky mouthfuls of sweet jam taken in dark

tap tap tap tap

braille, wittled cane, white and wooden

hers was the fear of generations

her grandmother, her grandfather

laid to rest in sweet meadow of

Mont-Ventoux, beyond lavender fields

where their metallurgic table of elements

could rest from unquenched desire to end

take your medicine

euthanize the unrest

let the sleep of the dead

usher silence in prayer robe

when he died

holding his dry paintbrush

when she died

clutching her wet scripture

when their loss mixed in formula

writing her DNA prophecy

she learned to lace up her unease

absenting breath needing not to breathe

not today doctor

not ever

these houses for the poor of heart

medicated, inviscerated, shuffle in

do not come out

 

she left her gloves on the radiator

followed her tracks back through virgin snow

easier when you cannot really see where you go

somehow standing amidst the roar

sea on dry land, oceans in desert flowers

it might take defying your legacy to survive

it might take not wishing to be the next pin to escape

bowled over by shared cross-stitched disease

even the empty

even the weak

 

she got a tattoo of a lotus

on the small of her back

where men had whispered hot and slow

you are slender like a branch

I want to bend you in two as green willow

will not snap

supple in bow, play me never

this girl has forged her symphony war

out of rising in morning, ready to give up

she survived percolating tendency

and the ones who thought her lean

pressing her against shiny coffee tables

unbuckling their murmuring distaste

for respect

thinking her a orfice, a receptacle, alabaster secret

and not a girl capable of swallowing fire

 

they did not believe in signs and wonders

nor warriors who wear no armor

she stands in her diluted ink

she is the beginning, the circular, the ending

of ways we are forced to be

a stain lies on her skin

it feels like an angels imprint

lending courage for the quiet

of soul, who gathers the leftovers

surviving beyond her welt

she is merciful to the meek

as a storm gathering in force, swells against

shore, building momentum

turning the raw belly of sky

monochrome

The waves

12523897_1631510570443424_1060343369498657444_nAll the trees looked away

on raw knees

shingle and sand castles

wet newspaper of old stories

yellow fag butts, half empty cider cans

containing sweet succor

one last piece of chocolate give the child

before she loses herself

her best toy clean from wash

smelling of home and tulips

sea makes ghosts of us

running brine like hot semen

searching fruitless loins

kicking against tin cans

bricks do not prize apart

one wet wall from another

we clamor against ageing need

spill the first glass

pour the benediction

here we leave our umbilical chords for advent

what came to be in deserted fair grounds

gold paint flaking against scarlet mouths

wooden horses rolling their eyes

softly dancing on platforms with scratched song

walk out as far as the pier takes you

he watches from his metal bed

strung with his spot lit horror

thin muscles tight with longing

hips like razors privately digging into

your flailing conception

it’s the price

bed sheets left to rinse out your scream

don’t cut your hair don’t spare your wrists

his was a sharp entry into your sleep

run on water-logged deadened feet

past the chip shop hording its quiet fat

where veiled women stare at first light

breaking over cracked lips the train

crying past in low throated whistle

down damp cobbled steps emptied of market

into space without endings or slow buttons

the sea is white with fury

her mouth mounts your need

swallowing the bitter salt of ragged release

beneath stains we see the outline

here lay the girl who caught a bus

carrying her clean underwear like a flag

climbed into her part as a glove

here she is pinched by her starvation

horror painting her eyes purple

ebbing on tide with scissored legs fighting

their eventual knot a violin played in fire

she opened her flute to high ceilings

reedy sound echoing off salvaged walls

fast fury unzipping protest

be a good child bow your head

stay still when flame chews

stroke the boy who demands

fist around your throat starving

paper ghosts fall into obedient rows

feel the rush of angels in her touch

he said I hope you give decent head

I’ve been waiting to break your alabaster

like new buildings devour old

never knew what stood before

leaving thin pockets full of stones

better swim with indigo weeds

hair imprinting shadows on hot breath

goodbye is hello

you learned hard on scalding youth

taking a straw from a tall glass

sucking it dry

my child is the color of clouds

meeting at the point of horizon

where storms gather to make glass

he indented himself like a tattoo

when she climbed out she could not feel

where he pricked her empty sadness

leaving a colander of spilt torch-light

pent-up boys with dusty souls

touching warm radiators, hanging

apologies on skinny shoulders

sounding against sagging mattresses

one two-three is all it took

a sharp knife cutting the choir

freedom twists at a price

he rose like the swell, filling her

the first time you never forget

they whispered behind sticky fingers

girl pull down your hems

cover your spindle chest

close your legs to the roar

hear the waves

hear the waves overtake you