I recently posted a poem on voicesnet.com entitled, "The Red In My Bed". It exposes the sharp edges, courage and vulnerability of a woman trying to navigate safely through a world where sexual violence against her gender is rampant. The poem focuses on the element of betrayal of trust. In "The Red In My Bed", I speak as a woman whose trust is violated by a partner who brutalizes her in an act of sexual aggression.
However, I just as easily could have been telling the story of a woman or young girl in the Congo savagely raped by men with weapons, collateral damage, in a senseless civil war; or, I could have been telling the story of one of the thousands of young women and girls working in squalor and filth, as sex slaves, throughout Asia where sexual tourism is a multi-billion dollar business.
And, while in the poem I speak mostly about women and girls being victims of the primal force I refer to as the "Red Bull", I could also be telling the story of a young boy raped by a church priest or boy scout leader-spiritual leaders and parental figures betraying a most sacred trust to feed an insatiable carnal hunger.
Their voices might different but they all sing the same song. Unfortunately, it's a song I sing, too.
To find a way to express what I wanted to convey in "The Red In My Bed", I had to walk down a long winding staircase to reach a padlocked room, in a dank, dark corridor, in the deepest recesses of my mind. Inside this room are memories sealed off from the light of day. They're kept buried in a secure place where they can do no harm to my mind when I'm in an awakened state of consciousness. In spite of moments of sheer panic, I found the courage to locate the keys to this dungeon and to place them into the hands of a dream avatar. I watched pensively as she removed the padlock and opened the door to my worst nightmares; forcing me to remember what I longed to forget. Later, I scribbled onto paper what I was compelled to write once I returned from my visit to this scariest of places.
It was my fervent hope that the words in "The Red In My Bed" might touch someone; maybe, provoke a conversation about sexual violence or even inspire someone to get involved in the efforts to eradicate this sickness from the planet the way we've striven to eliminate other virulent diseases: through education, intervention and prevention. We also must do something else that is critically important to the healing process for survivors of this type of violence-SEEK AND OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR THEM.
Silence is an insidious ally of the perpetrators of these acts. Whether the victim is a girl, boy, wife, mother, grandmother, lawyer, doctor, baker or Indian maiden, the perpetrators know the shame and stigma attached to what has been done to these wounded souls, (combined with fear of reprisals from these brutes), virtually assures his or her silence. In the saddest of outcomes, a victim's failure to speak out, to report the crime, unwittingly helps her perpetrator remain free to assault, rape, sodomize, maim and, sometimes, kill others.
Yet, victims oftentimes fail to speak because their families, villages, communities and, in many places in the world, societies don't want to hear their sordid tale of sexual abuse. In a perverse application of justice, women have been condemned to death for reporting a rape because they are deemed to have somehow "invited", "allowed" or "willing participated" in their own degradation.
After I posted "The Red In My Bed" on the voicesnet.com website, I breathed a sigh of relief. It had not only been a difficult poem to write, for the reasons I've already disclosed, but I had mixed feelings about speaking out on a topic that was so deeply personal. Still, I pressed the send button and said a prayer.
I know someone felt the power of my words because I received a response notification in my email. Before I could reply to the response, I discovered "The Red In My Bed" poem had been removed from the voicesnet.com website. I was stunned.
I'll confess I also cried. I felt like thousands of unseen fingers were pointing at me. I had been judged and found unworthy of their (your) support. For a brief moment I was even embarrassed by the words I had written-too graphic, too sexual, too ugly, I thought.
Then I got a grip on myself. I'm not a woman who slinks off into a corner to suck her thumb when unpleasant things happen to her, or, if I do, it usually isn't for very long.
What I've decided to do is write this eulogy and post it because I want people to know what happened and to hear my side of the story.
Secondly, I've created a webpage where anyone who is interested in reading my poem "The Red In My Bed", in its entirely, can do so.
I'm not going to dwell on the possible reasons for the decision to remove my poem. Since I wasn't offered an explanation, I'd only be speculating. My response is my way of standing up to and pushing back against the insidious wall of silence that stifles the voices and, yes, screams of victims of sexual violence,
Like I said. I can't remain silent because I know the words to the painful song they sing. It's time to stop crying and SCREAM.