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Sexual Assault/Rape

Guest Posts, parenting, Sexual Assault/Rape

The Conversation We’re Not Having With Our Sons

March 26, 2017

By Amy Hatvany

I don’t remember my parents talking to me about sex, other than making it clear that opening my legs to a boy before I got married was a sin. What I do remember is thinking that I was a lesbian because I masturbated—I knew girls who touch other girls were gay, so if I touched myself, didn’t that mean the same thing? I was confused, ill-informed, and scared, so I shoplifted a Penthouse Letters magazine when I was in middle school, desperate to understand my own body and if the raging, hormonal urges that sometimes took me over were normal. But instead of validation, what I found were graphic stories of women who submitted to men’s forceful, probing mouths, fingers, and dicks. These women protested at first—some of them even said no—but soon found themselves swooning, powerless to resist the “pleasure” of violation.

Years later, I would wonder if what I learned about consent from these descriptions—that it was a man’s job to make a woman realize what she really wanted; that her “no” was simply waiting to be turned into a yes—was part of what kept me from telling anyone about the boy who unzipped his jeans and jammed his erection into the back of my throat when we were sitting together in the front seat of his car. I was on the edge of fifteen, and he was older, someone I knew, someone I’d had a crush on, and so I didn’t fight, I didn’t try to stop him. I only endured, waiting for the pain and paralyzing terror of what he was doing to loosen its vice-like grip on my chest. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Good Gentlemen, Speak Up

January 18, 2017
predator

CW: This essay discusses sexual aggression and assault.

By Jeanne Lyet Gassman

So, good gentlemen, since we’re talking about sexual assault, it’s time for you to ask the question. Go ahead. Ask. Ask your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your friend, if she’s ever been sexually assaulted.

Her answer may surprise you. When the author and comedian Kelly Oxford posted the hashtag #notokay on Twitter on October 7, 2016 after the leaked Donald Trump video from the show, Access Hollywood, she asked women to share the first time they were sexually assaulted, and she received over 9.7 million responses. Gentlemen, odds are pretty good that you know a woman who has been sexually assaulted.

Note that Kelly Oxford asked women to post the first time they were sexually assaulted, implying there was a second, third, fourth, or many times. Think about that for a moment, then ask the woman you know how many times she’s been groped, fondled, or assaulted. Her answers may shock you. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Vulnerability

Sexual Vulnerabilities: An Education

January 8, 2017
sex

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault.

By Beatrice M. Hogg

After hearing all of the recent media reports of sexual assault and improprieties, I wanted to think, “Glad that never happened to me.” But, like most women in this country, I couldn’t do it. In one way or another, it has happened to all of us. I have friends who have been raped and assaulted; amazing women who at some point barely escaped with their lives from domestic abuse. Some still have physical scars and many others still harbor emotional scars. When I started to think about my own life, I was surprised at all of the incidents that rushed to mind, some that I hadn’t thought about in years.

In my tiny coal-mining hometown, there was a small grocery store, owned by a husband and wife. When I was eleven or twelve in the late sixties, I would walk up there alone with a list of things to get for my mother. I always dreaded when the list included a meat item. That meant that I had to go to the back of the store, where the husband worked behind the meat counter. Almost every time I would go back there, he would come out from behind the counter to give me a big hug. His hugs always included a squeeze or a grope of my burgeoning breasts. I never told anyone. Would my father have believed me? In a town were everyone was armed, would he have gone up there with a shotgun? Would he have accused me of lying? Who was more credible, a shy little black girl or the friendly white grocer who everyone in town loved? As I took my meat purchases to the front of the store for the wife to ring out, I used to wonder – did he do that every girl? Did she know? I was overjoyed when the store went out of business. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Cherry Red

December 21, 2016
cherry

CW: This essay discusses assault.

By Liane Kupferberg Carter

John Gravely was our neighborhood house painter. He was never John, or Mr. Gravely. Just John-Gravely.  He was always cheerful, and whistled when he worked. Sometimes, while he scraped and painted, I’d climb the creaky wood stairs to the attic, where my parents kept an old office typewriter on an old metal stand that made a clackety racket whenever I struck the keys. Pecking happily, I would make up stories about my little brother and our 14 first cousins; report on close escapes from Lancer, the Doberman Pinscher who terrorized us neighborhood kids; or invent adventures for Nancy Drew and her pals.  I’d skip downstairs to read my stories aloud to anyone who’d listen. John-Gravely was always happy to put down his paint brush, wipe his hands on a stiff gray rag and watch me intently with his crossed blue eyes. Those eyes made me a little uncomfortable, so I tried not to look too closely. I’d had surgery on my eyes when I was six, so they didn’t cross like his, but they weren’t straight either.  Sometimes kids made fun of me; it made me shy.  But I didn’t feel shy with John-Gravely. He always paid attention to me.  When I read him my stories, he laughed in the right places.  Each time he’d say, “You’re going to be a famous writer one day.”

The year I was eleven, I asked my mother if we could redecorate my room.  “I want a grown up bedroom like Cherry Ames,” I said. Cherry Ames was the nurse-heroine of my favorite book series. Her bedroom was cherry red, and it had white curtains tied back with clusters of red cherries that matched her cherry red lips. She traveled everywhere and had thrilling romances.

Mom ordered red carpeting, and picked out red and white paisley patterned curtains with  matching bedspread and bolsters. I didn’t like the fabric, but Mom did. “It’s chic and sophisticated,” she said.  “One day you’ll love it.”  She always knew things like that about me.

My mother asked John-Gravely to come remove my pink butterfly wallpaper and paint my bedroom crisp white. One afternoon I came home from school and Mom announced,  “John-Gravely’s here! ”

I hadn’t seen him in two years. I flew upstairs. John-Gravely was standing in the center of my bedroom, holding a wooden  tape measure. The overhead light was off; the room was shadowed with late afternoon sunlight.

“Hey! You’ve grown!” he said, grinning. “How old are you now?”

“Almost twelve,” I told him.

“And you’re going to have a new room,” he said. “A real young lady’s room. And what a lovely young lady you’ve become.” He clicked the segments of the tape measure closed. “You’ve really grown.” His crossed blue eyes looked shiny wet.

I blushed. I knew I had gotten taller, even though I’d spent the last year hunching to hide the breasts I’d grown before any of the girls at school. I was mortified that I’d just gotten my period; none of the other girls had that either.

“I’m already over five feet tall,” I said.

“Yes, you’ve really grown,” John-Gravely said again.  He stepped next to the radiator I was slouching against. He was wearing his usual paint-splattered overalls, and a painter’s white cap on his yellow hair. I’d never been so near him before. Up close his hair looked unnatural, as if he’d glued it on. Did men wear wigs?  And it looked as if he didn’t have any eyebrows. Or any lashes either.  It made me feel queasy.

John-Gravely moved his hand up and down my arm. Then he leaned over and nuzzled my neck with his cheek.  My heart hammered.  But I was afraid to hurt his feelings, so I stood utterly still.  I felt his lips touch my neck.  Hot trailing kisses up the side of my face.

“Yes, really grown,” John-Gravely murmured. His voice was soft. Strange. Breathing hard.  His arm came firmly around my ribs. Then he pulled me tight against his side and cupped my small right breast in his grey spackled hand.

The bedroom tilted; the air cracked with danger.

I pulled away unsteadily.  “Mom’s calling me,” I said. Then I tore down the stairs.

“Did you have a nice chat with John-Gravely?” my mother asked absently, putting down a plate of my favorite Vienna Fingers cookies on the kitchen table.

I sat and lowered my blazing face. I could never tell her.

“Do you want some milk?”

Really grown.

It must be my fault. My fault.  I’d been too happy to see him.

“How was school today? Do you have much homework?” she said.

Heart still racing, I gulped down cookies I did not taste, answering questions

curtly, behaving as if my world hadn’t changed forever.

Liane Kupferberg Carter is the author of the memoir, Ketchup Is My Favorite Vegetable: A Family Grows Up With Autism (Jessica Kingsley Publishers.) Her articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Brain, Child, Brevity, Literary Mama, and The Manifest-Station. For more information, visit her website athttp://www.lianekupferbergcarter.com/, follow her on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/LianeKupferbergCarter/ and Twitter at @Lianecarter.

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

 

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

feminism, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Grabbing Pussy, Flipping the Script.

October 11, 2016

By Tammy Delatorre

When I first saw your videotape, I might say I was disgusted like thousands of men and women were who watched it. But instead, I was obsessed. I listened to it over and over, practically memorizing the words. Why was I fixated?

You said you grabbed women by their pussies. At first, I wanted to understand the mechanics of it. It implies a woman has a handle down there, something around which you can get your fingers; as if the pussy were the first body part to reach for, rather than a woman’s hand to shake out of respect, or her arms to embrace in friendship. It implies, too, that no permission is needed—the reach from a man in power is justification enough. They will let you do it; they will allow you to do anything. That’s what you said.

I’m intimately familiar with the biology of a pussy because I have one, although I realize my pussy is not one you’d want to grab. After all, according to your rating system of women, I’m not an 8—far from it. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Sexual Assault/Rape

They Can’t Erase Our Voices.

October 10, 2016

By Domi J Shoemaker
I wish I could say that this thing I wrote after waking at 2:30am to take my pain meds and check my blood pressure after a hysterectomy that had only been performed so quickly because I benefit from the Affordable Care Act was an act of true inspiration. But it is more than that. It is also desperation. I have reached maximum capacity. I will tell you why.

After getting my surgery scheduled at the teaching hospital, I rolled across campus to an appointment that confirmed I would need a breast biopsy. The breast clinic did the biopsy two days later, and the .
day before my cancer surgery, a week ago today, and just before their gorgeous offices up on the hill closed for the day, someone giddy-sounding from the clinic called me and said,

“Domi, I am so happy to tell you the calcifications in your breast are benign.”

Now, with one week to go before my post-op appointment to find out the stage of cancer and whether they got all they needed to get, I listen to the presidential debate and hear that man say things like “Obamacare is a disaster. Just a disaster,” and I want to throw up.

This coming from a man who would surely try to shred me for the way I move through the world, the type of man I know all too well.

He is my old conservative “uncle” who put his hands and mouth wherever he wanted, on and IN my four-year-old body. He would zero in on the vacuum of need created in me those times when I saw my father rage at my mother and carry her down the hall by her throat.

He is my teacher when I was eleven, who carried me across the playground by my collar, with my feet kicking inches above the ground, desperate for purchase, just because I was cool-talking and called him Mr. Turkey like I was Vinnie Barbarino.

He is the man who, when I was twelve, called my mom for the hundred bucks we didn’t have to replace the passenger-side windshield of his split-windshield Dodge van aftermy feet had kicked it out, while his buddy tried to convince me not to climb back up the tree.

He is the man’s buddy who, with his hand on my thigh, tried to keep me in the van because I thought I had the power of a FLYING squirrel after he fed me PCP-laced Kool-Aid when I lied and said I was thirteen.

He is that man, when I really was thirteen, who rubbed up against me and said, “You have the most beautiful breasts I have ever seen,” when I was such a tomboy and had begged to wear cut off Levi’s and a T-shirt but got sidled with a swimsuit that pushed my breasts into the next area code.

He is the coach who, that following year, my first in high school, “hired” me to help coach the girls junior varsity basketball team. The coach who picked me up, when I was drunk, and he saw me walking alone at night. I convinced him to drop me off at a friend’s house with the promise of a kiss. He kissed me. With his tongue. I lost all interest in basketball.

He is the hundreds and hundreds of men who feel free to comment on my body whether in praise or in disgust and he is the woman who buys into that message that she deserves what she takes because she has given it for so long.

It isn’t a wonder that we all – at THE HANDS of men (and at the hands of women who follow their lead), who believe they have a right to use us at their will – have had to re-boot and readjust over and over just to be alive on this planet.

And here we all are. Speaking up! However we can.

I wish the piece posted below, which is only the 2nd thing I have written to its completion since starting all the health tests last January after an ambulance ride for what was a-fib likely due to anxiety, a symptom of my well-documented PTSD, PTSD at the hands of repeated early childhood (and beyond) trauma, were only MY story.

I feel fortunate to be alive and to have NOT killed anyone with this rage.

All that said, these words are meant to be a catalyst, not a masterpiece, because my words don’t need to be precious, they are meant to get shit done.

I wish this was just about me and my dearest friend, but it is the story of so many of us. To even pass this heinous man’s behavior off as “locker room talk” is to deny the fact that even locker room talk is designed to minimize the damage these putrid bags of bilious waste inflict upon those they treat as property.

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote

INDELIBLE

By the time I was 6, I was at least 3 people.
I don’t know how it happened, to me instead of you.
How I split and split again and you, you had to swallow the rage.
While I grew big, then bigger, then bigger again,
You withdrew and went inside yourself.
I found safety is loudness, in bigness, and in bright!
You found solace in smallness and silence.
Our strength is born in sameness.
You at the hands of your father and me at the hands of uncle,
THE HANDS who grabbed us and groped us as though we were owned and grown to be consumed.
It is not just us, my love, it’s her, and her and him, and them,
THE HANDS, they they tried to erase us.
BUT WE ARE INDELIBLE.

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote

And to honor the protector of those parts of me who helped me survive, I give you this-

p.s. “Listen, fucknuts, if you don’t want your rich white boys to pay for healthcare, stop creating the problem by taking whatever you want. That’s a goddamn coward’s way. Come talk to me about your excuses. See if you can earn it. I dare you.” ~Harley
And from the new me you see today-

p.p.s. Our bodies always move toward healing and homeostasis. As a species, this is how we have survived. This go-around with cancer and it’s friends, I have been using my body to create images and clips when I cannot find the words. All of the heart-shaped images are my own blood found on and in various pieces of clothing and furniture. That’s what endometrial cancer does. So I wanted to conquer my fear by calling the cancer out with images and representations of love.


#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote

Domi J Shoemaker is the founder the Burnt Tongue Quarterly reading series and they have been published in Pank Magazine, Unshod Quills, Nailed Magazine, Gobshite Quarterly, and in the Forest Avenue Press Anthology, The Night and The Rain and The River. You can hear Domi on KBOO radio’s Bread and Roses archives with Leigh Anne Kranz. Domi worries about being a name-dropping attention whore who did a scene with Fred Armisen in Portlandia. Just Google Pedicabs Are Douchebags, and it will come up. Domi’s grandest achievement aside from completing an MFA at Pacific University, is working with Lidia Yuknavitch since 2012, and is currently co-facilitating the seasonal face to face workshop series, Corporeal Writing with Lidia Yuknavitch.
Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their signature “Writing & The Body” Retreat in Portland March 17-19 by clicking photo.

Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their signature “Writing & The Body” Retreat in Portland March 17-19 by clicking photo.

 

Click photo to read People Magazine.

Click photo to read People Magazine.

Abuse, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Revolutions Have Started this Way.

October 9, 2016

By Heidi Hutner

 

Since the release of Trump’s leaked and lewd bus tapes, the Internet has been abuzz with the topic of misogyny and violence against women. Amid Friday night’s Twitter conversations, author Kelly Oxford shared the story of her first sexual assault and then requested others to share theirs. By Saturday evening, more than 9.7 million women tweeted their first sexual assault tales, according to Oxford.

One of these was mine:

My sister’s 19-year old boyfriend (naked in my sister’s bed) told me to take off my clothes. When I refused, he bullied and shamed me. I was eight.

 

While woman continue to tweet #notokay, many Clinton opponents on the left argue across social media that the eleven-year-old Access Hollywood footage of Trump was leaked “just” to divert attention from the recent Wikileaks of Clinton’s emails. Many claim, Trump’s behavior, while deplorably sexist, pales next to Clinton’s bad deeds.

 

These opponents state, however, that their dislike of Clinton has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman or that she’s old—yes, ageism and sexism go hand-in-hand. As Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes, “A woman her age is supposed to be invisible. But Hillary Clinton, who is 68, refuses to disappear — and there is no shortage of people who despise her for it.” Many Clinton opponents say the ‘feminism question’ on all counts—whether about Trump or Clinton—is just a diversion from more important issues.

  Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

The Thing About Being Raped

October 9, 2016
raped

TW: This essay discusses rape. 

By Perveen Maria

The thing about being raped is that for most or the rest of your life, you believe in your skull and feel in your heartpools like you don’t have a choice in certain situations or with certain people. You think you have to do this or you should do that because when you tried to say no before you were overpowered and shut down and yelled at and screamed at and hit with drunken hands and pinned down with a manbody who believed he was king, but was really a nobody who stole my virgin ring.

When you are raped, you have a rage inside that demands to be heard and recognized and appreciated and valued, but this rage inside can’t be visible on the outside because this is why girls and women are raped. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Tricks Between Past and Present

October 5, 2016
assault

TW: This essay discusses sexual assault

By Marion Ruybalid

I’m back in a town where I once attended college. Just a few streets away, there’s a house propped up on stilts. It’s a familiar home, but sometimes I wish I’d never been inside. If I didn’t know the layout, then I wouldn’t have known him. Perhaps the roast chicken dinner he prepared in beer before our trip to the symphony would have never happened and maybe the first time I experienced sex would have been with my husband.

I blame myself for looking in his direction and being caught up in his charm. Others thought he was attractive. I didn’t disagree.

We met at church. I considered it a safe place to meet people. When I offered to give him Ralf, my rat from my psychology behaviorism class, I never thought of it as a romantic gesture. He appeared at my dorm room with a cardboard box. In search of Ralf, a janitor informed me that all the psychology rats had died over Thanksgiving break because nobody remember to feed them.

I wondered if this guy thought I already knew Ralf was dead? When we found out the news he smirked at me. Somehow, he was under the impression that I wanted him. I tried to piece together what turned our meeting into a date. We went to sip apple cider at the student union building. Did that make it a date? I paid for it because they only took student cards and cash. Was that a dating gesture? Maybe, but I never intended it to be. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Rape Weight

June 14, 2016
rape

By Jacqueline Evans

During the summer after my high school graduation, I was raped.

It hurt, and while it was happening, I was terrified. I recall every single strange thought that went through my mind during those few minutes. I remember wondering if I was going to die. I remember thinking that this wasn’t how rape looked in the movies, and shouldn’t someone be making more noise? I remember starting to make some noise, a tiny and pathetic cry, and my rapist’s hand clamping tightly over my mouth. I remember closing my eyes and randomly wishing that my dad would come and save me. Mostly though, through the terror and pain, I remember a strong feeling of ownership and blame for what was happening to me. What echoed through my mind was clear:

“I put myself here. I deserve this.”

The 16 years that have passed since that night have held a lot of change. Unlike certain parts of that experience that will stay fresh in my mind forever, the girl I was in that time of my life is a distant memory, a far cry from the woman I am today. At the time of my rape I was a budding alcoholic. It wasn’t long before I was the real deal, with an insatiable need to “feel good,” no matter what the cost. I used alcohol to try to fill a vacuous hole inside of me, and sometimes it worked. The problem was that sometimes it didn’t. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Surviving, Young Voices

From One Survivor To Another

June 11, 2016
writing

By Courtney Cook.

When I think about being raped, I think of mosquitos. I think of the sound of a buzzing street lamp. I think of sweat, of sand, of silence. And I think of the women on the tennis court nearby, blissfully unaware of my presence a mere fifty feet away.

There are no bicyclists in my story; there is just me, a girl barely 15, and him, not much older. I am so grateful there are heroes in your story. You never deserved what happened to you, but you did deserve all the kindness in the world that those men gave to you in your most vulnerable moment. I wish they’d never had to extend such kindness, but if something so horrific had to happen, I am glad good men found you. I am so thankful for all of the good men.

 

Two weeks before I was raped, my future rapist was pulling me away from a party. It was Halloween; I was dressed as a sailor. I can’t remember what he was dressed up as, but I can tell you the way his arms felt wrapped around my wrists as he drug me away from the party. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Five Things I Remember About Being Raped

March 6, 2016
rape

Trigger warning: This essay discusses rape.

By Marianne M. Porter

Memory #1: The Sound

At 1:15 in the morning, on a bitter cold February night, the sound of clunky boots pounding on the wooden steps that led to my door woke me from a peaceful sleep. Then I heard frantic knocking. Prior to the banging, I thought it may have been the guy I was dating, a casual relationship over the past month. I opened the door, but it was someone else, someone I had knows for about half a year, but I trusted him. He must have needed help.

I didn’t think about the possibility that soon I would need help. This guy and I hung out with mutual friends. He helped me find my studio apartment above his friend’s garage six months earlier. He was married, soon to be divorced. I could see he was drunk when he stepped into my room. He sat next to me on my makeshift couch, lowered his head and cried. He wanted to talk, said he felt lonely, said he missed his wife.

We talked for a few minutes about his impending divorce and as I consoled him with positive talk about his future, I wondered simultaneously how I would get him out of my place. My apartment was isolated from the house it was attached to, a lone room above a garage. In fact the downstairs homeowners were both alcoholics and one of them was on oxygen, a few months away from death. He was the kind of man who cheated on his wife with young girls while she was at work. I caught him once when I made a surprise visit to my place in the middle of the day. A girl with long blonde hair hurried out his front door to her car in the driveway, laughing and giggling at the man in the window. My landlord waved at me, oxygen prongs stuck in his nostrils, finger raised to his lips to indicate this was a secret between him and me. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Self Image, Sexual Assault/Rape

Encounters On A Train

November 3, 2015

By Yana Walder Cook

Sensitive material is contained in this essay. Mention of rape/sexual assault.

I grew up in post-Soviet Union Collapse Ukraine. In 1990s, being a female teenage girl was a hazardous liability. I watched girls disappear into the dark underbelly of nightclubs, human trafficking and drugs and did my best to escape that. All through middle school I bartered potatoes for English lessons. The year twin towers fell I turned 16, and given one lucky break, I found myself in Boston with a United States Green Card. I ended up on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts where I slowly healed from years of scarcity and violence. I diffused into the scenery and went to the ocean every day, until my writing and my love of travel brought me face to face with the reality of human trafficking again.

I met a Ukrainian girl on a night train in Italy; it was 2011. I was travelling from Vienna to Venice. My laptop sat open on the table between us and she watched me typing at it until it got very dark. She ordered us each a glass of steaming black tea and a cookie.

“I have a story for you,” she said at around midnight. “It is a story of hundreds of girls like me; half of these stories will have died with the body they belonged to, And those stories that survived will never see the light of day because of the shame and stigma and the powerlessness…”

Listening to her was like looking fear right in the face, but there she was sitting across from me, so I knew the story was going to end well somehow. She was like quiet ash, beautiful, sad, soft-spoken, transformed by life into fine mincemeat. Here is Sefi’s story.
***

When this story began her name was Serafine. The name was given to her presumably by her mother.. at least that was her hope. She knew she was born outside of Kharkiv in Ukraine, but she never met her mother because for one reason or another she could not keep the baby and gave up Serafine at the hospital. This story began when she was 14 years old. That day in November of 1999, she got busted for smoking, which was prohibited. At the orphanage of 200 kids between four and seventeen years old, her only reprieve was smoking a cigarette in the outhouse above a hole in the floor over a pile of shit. Hiding away, she thought about how it was even possible to feel this alone even though she shared her bedroom with 18 other girls her age. And she thought about how painfully cold it will be to go pee in this outhouse in about a month. No indoor toilets at this orphanage. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

La Llorona

October 29, 2015

By Alma Luz Villanueva

I lived in Santa Cruz, California, for sixteen years while my youngest son grew up, became a surfer, a runner, and went off to university. So, when I heard that eight-year-old Madyson Middleton was missing from the Tannery Arts Center, where she lived with her mother, I immediately began to worry in a personal way. Also, one of my granddaughters is exactly Madyson’s age, and I was to find out later that she knew Maddy from school. And so, the night of July 26, 2015 I kept checking for updates- was she found yet. Then I finally gave up, went to sleep after midnight. I kept seeing her large, beautiful, child eyes, awake when I checked the clock, back to dreaming. In the very pit of my stomach, where the truth lives, I knew she was no longer alive- but I refused to believe it. And her mother, her young mother- I imagined what she was going through. Her beloved child missing.

I felt the horror in every cell of my body like small fires. And I remembered myself at seven, an older thirteen year old friend saying it was okay to go to the park by ourselves. Buena Vista Park, San Francisco, the early 1950s. I was wearing a brand new dress and twirling around because I thought I was beautiful, special, in my brand new dress. My grandmother had made large curls on my thick, dark hair, held by barrettes- I remember they matched my dress, soft pink. I never left the street by myself, my grandmother, Mamacita, watching me from the window as I rode my Hopalong Cassidy bike with rainbow streamers on the handlebars. She’d yell my name, “ALMA,” and I had to answer like a song we knew together. Alma means Soul, and she’d often say (in Spanish), “Tu eres mi Alma…You are my soul.”

When my older friend, Peggy, and I got to the playground area we had swinging contests to see who could go higher. Of course, she was stronger as her feet pierced the sky much higher than mine. But I didn’t mind, I remember I was just happy to be swinging with my new dress blowing around me. I remember wondering if Mamacita was calling my name, waiting for me to sing back to her. I remember wanting to go back suddenly, like a pain my eight-year-old stomach. Continue Reading…