Not long ago five women came along to a drop-in group where the facilitator led them in a collaborative poetry exercise. Through a series of prompts, the group considered what it means to have experienced sexual violence, how they see themselves and how they feel others see them.
The result is a really powerful piece, which they have chosen to share.
When You See Me
A collective poem by five OSARCC service users
When you see me, you see
Jumpy and hyperalert.
Timid and shy and wanting to be alone.
You see me defensive, working hard not to be seen.
You see a trouble maker
Someone who probably can’t speak up for herself.
You think I’m strange. Over-analytical.
Or you see strength. A fighter. A warrior
With injuries you can see and some you cannot.
You see an attention-seeker
You see but you don’t understand.
You’re offended I didn’t tell you sooner
But scared to ask me how I’m doing.
Unwilling to talk about it.
You want to bury it
Because you don’t know what to say.
You see the damage but don’t know how to help.
You tell me I’m brave, but I feel lost and broken.
You tell me I’m strong. I tell you I had no other choice.
Statistics; #metoo in the news.
I’m not alone but it feels so, so lonely.
I see how common it is, as a woman, to experience this
And I see no convictions. No prosecutions.
I see women take 100% of the blame
And keep it secret, hidden away.
You must have been drunk
Been up for it.
Asked for it.
Done something to cause it.
Let it happen.
Why were you there?
At that time of night?
With that person?
What were you wearing?
He was such a loving father.
I’ve known his dad for years.
He seems like such a nice guy.
They never touched me
But she was so quiet and anyway girls don’t do that.
That’s just what men are like, and boys will be boys.
You must have imagined it.
You were too young; it couldn’t have happened that way.
Why didn’t you just walk away?
Why didn’t you tell someone?
Why did you stay with him?
Why did you go back?
You say: you must have got something out of it.
He loved me, didn’t he?
This is normal, isn’t it?
And so I think
I am naughty and dirty and disgusting.
I must have let it happen.
I should have spoken out sooner.
It was just something about me.
This has been too much for too long.
Too long being in therapy because of people who should be in therapy.
Is harder than when it actually happened.
I wasn’t strong enough to speak about it before.
But I will be stronger than my sadness.
Is it possible that you and I could look again?
Could we see
Resilience and positivity?
That I am alive? Survived?
Is it possible to not have it with me all the time?
To build a different kind of life?
Can I take strength from adversity
And appreciate the small beauty in the world?
Right now, I’m a bit like an alarm clock
That keeps going off at the wrong time.
A little girl who’s learning to walk and keeps falling down.
And when I’m not a caffeinated squirrel,
I’m a battery that’s recharging: and that’s OK.
I’m not Wonder Woman, because that’s not helpful.
Wonder Women can’t be vulnerable.
And then I can go to my bubble and be safe there.
If it was safe to be seen,
I would want you to see me.
Standing tall and strong.
To see that it’s complicated.
That I am at once shaped by the past, but more
So much more than what happened to me.
If it was safe to be heard
I would want you to hear me.
The glorious noise of my voice
Sometimes raised in anger
Sometimes soft with grief.
If it was safe to be known, I would want you to know
The whole me
Strong and weak.
To know that I don’t need sympathy.
And to know that I am