Trigger warning – sexual abuse

We were all girls once

The men who assaulted me
had assaulted other girls before me.
They assaulted other girls after me.
We’re part of the same rusted chain,
those girls and I,
the chain that tethers us together
the same chain
that tethers us to the gate
on the same property
reeking of rotten wood and dead earth,
where we were all pried open
as a man would pry open
a cellar door wedged shut,
the creak and scream of the hinges
the creak of my pelvis now when I stand,
like the screams I swallowed,
we all swallowed,
we swallowed as we were told to,
thick and sour in the back of our throats,
legs thrown open,
rust inside and out
from exposure to heavy weather,
hosed down afterward.

I got pneumonia.

Maybe it was immobility,
maybe it was exposure,
was it the weather that did it,
or aspiration,
because I didn’t swallow fast enough
or all of it,
my screams escaped my lips so
I wore their hands like hot salty lipstick,
a reminder,
does it matter,
a necklace that was a chain,
a chain that I could trace
forward and backward
on the necks
of a succession of women.

I say women.

We were all girls,

Hello there, this is Eve, and welcome to the Brow of Justice.
I’m going to skip the feel-good intro today
and get straight to the good stuff.
Today I want to talk a little bit about
Those we carry. The stories that haunt us.
If you work in medicine, you have a story
You can’t quite shake.
People in your head.
Blue eyes.
Tiny hands
The feel of a sternum collapsing into eggshells.
How blood stains a nitrile glove.
The way her mother’s hair smelled like peppermint
when she collapsed in your arms.
Spray of sweat and the smell of dirt
The way your own sobs echoed in the stairwell after the job was done.
How empty his eyes were,
staring at the new sheet and the still form beneath.
There are a lot of stories.
Today I want to tell one.
It’s a sad story, but there’s hope in it.
Before I tell it, I want to remind you.
“The wound is where the light shines through.”
Be brave enough to be kind to yourself.

You don’t have to listen.
You can turn it off.
Walk away.
Skip this one.
It won’t hurt my feelings.
It won’t change the story.
If you listen,
You’ll hear one of the burdens I carry.
And you’ll carry it with me.

She was eight years old the first time
she cut herself on purpose.
She was thirty the last time she did.
She told me this story
One sleepless night.
“Sleep is a sometimes mistress,” she laughed,
With a laugh that wasn’t a laugh.
You see, when she slept she would dream.
She would dream of a little girl
Who cut herself in the bathtub with a razor,
Never deep but just enough to let the hurt out.
She would watch the blood
Go down the drain with the water,
And she would feel better.

Enough so she could face another night.
And another day.
She had been molested by her grandfather,
The little girl. For years she had.
Her mother knew it,
And she would take her to see her grandfather anyway,
Because if her mother went to see him
Without the little girl,
he would shut the door in her mother’s face.
Her mother was desperate
for a relationship
With him. Desperate enough to use her daughter
To have one.
Years passed.
Her grandfather was injured.
Sick in the neuro ICU.
The little girl was a grown woman by then,
An ICU nurse, with children of her own.
Her mother begged her to go see him.
She refused. Her mother begged.
She refused. Her mother begged.
She refused. Her mother begged.
She agreed. They went together.

She didn’t go in the room,
But stood in the doorway,
Heart broken as her mother begged
That man to listen to her.
To respond.
Her mother rubbed the hand
That had hurt the little girl.
It hurt her to see it.
She tried to tell her mother to stop,
Arms crossed in the doorway,
But the words died before she could say them.
“I’m here, it’s your daughter,”
Her mother said. “And I brought Jennifer.”
Those words were more than the little girl could take.
Everything clear in that moment.
The quality of the relationships.
The desperation behind those words.
She went home, sat in the bath with a razor,
In the dark,
And thought about killing herself.
Thought about it for a long, long while.
The water was cold and she was shivering
By the time she was through thinking.
She laid the razor down,

Let the water out of the tub,
And decided she would never cut herself again.

Look, listen to me.
This is a real story
About a real little girl
Whose real name is Jennifer
Who had trouble sleeping for years
Who has been to therapy
Who is an ICU nurse
Who has five children
And two exhusbands
And a lot of stories
And I laid the razor down
and I walked away from it.
My life matters. So does yours.
My stories matter. So do yours.
Don’t meet the end of your story
at the end of a blade
Or a bullet
Or a rope.
The wound is where the light

Audio stories below bio

Eve is a nurse, blogger, and podcaster who spends most of her time tweeting about mental health and domestic violence when she should be writing. She died, once. Maybe you’ll hear the story sometime. She lives in the US with her kids and her dog. You will find her #bakingwithEve most days. Follow her on twitter @browofjustice, and on her neglected blog