Two days ago, I wrote a poem. That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, seeing as I have been writing poetry for almost forty years. And yet it was a shock to my own person. And that statement begs an explanation. So, here goes:
I am a former abuse victim, both psychological, as well as physical and sexual. That might not be news for many of you who have read my stuff in the past. But what I want to write about today is the reality of the long term affects of being such a victim. Yes, I am a survivor, but I am also very human. Which means I was conditioned to accept that kind of treatment, and learned some ways to deal with that reality. The main one was to silence myself. I have to be very clear here: I didn’t understand that I was silencing myself, I thought I was keeping me safe.
When anger or violence came into my present moments, I became the deer frozen in the headlights of any oncoming vehicle. I would still myself, because to do otherwise was to make myself the focus of that oncoming rage.
But then I went to college and found words and writing, but especially poetry. It was really difficult to allow myself a voice of any kind. I had to constantly fight my own ingrained response to whatever was happening around me. Eventually, the words won out and I accepted my new role as a writer. And after that, as an advocate for other survivors. It wasn’t easy, life never is.
College is a sheltered environment, meant to create an opportunity for discovery and growth. I flourished there and was scared silly when it ended. But the writing stood me in good stead, brought me awards and acknowledgement that eased the fear, and allowed me to continue. Until recently.
I leapt to join the #Me Too movement. It was something I’d unknowingly waited for almost my entire life. Why wouldn’t I? It was empowering to see and hear all these women speaking their truth. But, then came the Larry Nassar trial. I began shutting down, receding into my quiet, and mostly silent self. The enormity of what this one man did, and was allowed to do over decades, was too much to absorb. And disguising it beneath the white coat of a healer and care giver was beyond comprehension. This was just one privileged man, living in a male-dominated society. How many more could there be?
I turned away from the words. They no longer held meaning for me. Instead, I dove into my quiet escape of visual art. Didn’t realize that I was shutting down. Just taking a break, I told myself. I live in a world that has been completely altered. The man who leads my country is a self-proclaimed abuser of women, who calls his actions “locker-room talk”, and simply denies the numerous accusations that have been brought against him, defining them as lies, falsehoods, and the words of individuals seeking some sort of publicity. And his followers, whipped into a fury by any opposing voices, are willing to do violence both in word and deed, because he encourages that sort of behavior. I live in a world fueled by greed, whose leaders tell us that a massacre of children can only be met by thoughts and prayers, because they get pay-offs for not legislating the sale of guns. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
I’ll go back to the poem I wrote. It was very short, very simple, but I struggled for almost 24 hours about whether or not to post it, before realizing that I had allowed myself to slip back into that victim’s mode of silence. I thought others would laugh at its simplicity. They didn’t. I thought a great many things, before pushing that publish button, but did it anyway. I had to, because I am a writer, and words are the world I live in and have created for myself. And the poem pushed me to continue, to come here today and reassert that reality. I was that deer in the headlights, but I refuse to be frozen, to be silenced, especially by my own fears, old and new.
The poem may be found here:
It’s an invitation.
Elizabeth Crawford 2/16/2018