Child Welfare

This poem was original published on Whisper and the Roar

This piece may be triggering for those with a history of sexual trauma.


I am in a child welfare class
In graduate school
Class starts at 4 pm
The room is crowded and dim
My classmates and I are drowsy
We all could use a snack
Some caffeine

The professor puts on a film
A surprisingly graphic film
About child sexual abuse
I am fine
I am fine
I am fine
And then I am not fine
I am rushing out of the classroom
In a cold sweat
Heart thudding
Hands shaking

I just make it to the ladies room
And the privacy of a stall
Before I vomit my lunch up
In the ancient, cracked toilet
I have never used the words
Sexual abuse
In relationship to myself before
But my body is telling me a different narrative
As I shake, white in the 3rd floor bathroom

I have had lovers
Who are sexual abuse survivors
I have always told myself
That what happened to me was not like
What happened to them
That drifting on the ceiling
Doing my grocery list my head
While having sex
Was normal

That my constant need for control
Was normal
That my inability to let anyone touch me
When I am feeling vulnerable
Was normal
That the fact that I cannot look at pictures of myself from
Certain parts of my childhood
Without wanting to be sick
Was normal
That I first wanted to die when I was 12 years old
Was normal

As I fight my panic in the bathroom
Praying that no one else will need to use it
I am finally forced to admit to myself that
Maybe this is not normal
This unnerves me
Makes my world feel upside down
It takes me some time
To regulate my heartbeat
Calm my breathing
Splash water on my face
And school my expression into something
That resembles functioning adult
Before returning to class
And watching the rest of that damn film

26 thoughts on “Child Welfare

    1. Sarah Doughty asked once whether we would be the same people without these experiences that shaped us so early. I try to focus on the thought that hopefully I am a stronger, more empathetic human being for living what I lived through. I hope that breaking the silence gives voice to the voiceless and lessens isolation.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I cannot speak for Sarah, but I have a very, very deep survivor’s guilt. Even at this stage in my life I am not sure that I deserve to be happy, to feel whole. There is nothing special about me aside from being more stubborn than some of the other survivors that didn’t make it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I understand this. Your pain is alive, it pushes you further than you may go without it. I selfishly dance in joy for your survival knowing even as you are one of the most prodigious creative and merciful souls I’ve been blessed to meet (very rarely) it comes with a price to burn so brightly. I would never wish you pain, i would always fight in your tribe.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It’s actually a pleasure to ever tell you a truth about yourself, it feels good to say it, knowing I couldn’t say it enough and still I’d mean it and feel it and hope that one day you see from all those who say it, the truth of it xo

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I have a lot of respect for your writing on topics like this, and for you. It scares me how many people I know who have had these sorts of experience, and it always takes bravery to break the silence.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sometimes whatever words I put together simply sound hollow in face of powerful writing and emotions such as what you have shared here. I want to take my heart of my chest so you can feel how it beats in a different way as witness to your courage, not to heal anything or to fix anything, but just to show how you have changed me, humbled me. I am happy you are here, I am happy to hear your words, I am eager to listen. Your bravery inspires, and if this is reckless, let more of us be so reckless in our efforts to reach out to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. I am deeply touched but I have a really hard time accepting praise for writing about this topic. There is nothing special about me except for the fact that I am still here. It is hard to articulate this, but I have a lot of survivor’s guilt around this issue and there is literally not enough that I can do around this to be an adequate voice for the voiceless. I often feel like I am not brave enough.

      Liked by 1 person

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