A Poem on Witnessing Domestic Abuse

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Domestic abuse is a terrible epidemic that harms not only the women being abused, but the children and family members who have to witness this horror. Witnessing domestic abuse has been a driving force in my life, and poetry has been an outlet for me to cope with the trauma I experienced living in fear for all those years, deep anger toward my mom’s abuser,  and an even deeper resentment toward my mom for not protecting me; and even worse, involving me in the violence.

I remember the first night I became your hero. A child, but a hero nonetheless. 

You called my name because you needed me. Me, with my strength and resilience. You needed it that night when you screamed my name so I could save you from the 200 pound, 28 year old man who was strangling you on the floor. 

That was the first night I saved your life. I used a special power of mine that was unique only to me. Pure terror. Pure, childlike fear that was strong enough to soften a man who was beating his beautiful wife. 

You always made me feel special. 

You confided in me. You called upon me. You needed me. You left me alone in the house with him and I watched you from my window as you drove off in your Saab. You had nothing to fear. I was a hero. 

That day he sat down as hard as he could on your disease ridden belly could have been worse if you didn’t have me around. I sat in the passenger seat while you moaned and waled and if it weren’t for my crying and my pleading and my begging he would have killed you. 

You survived because you had a hero sleeping peacefully in her bed that night you lured him into my room and hid a video tape down my pants assuming he wouldn’t reach for it. I was laying in bed right next to you as he slammed his body onto you and punched you. Over and over and over again and if it weren’t for my screams you’d be gone. 

He scratched your arms with thumb tacs, threw you down the basement stairs, poured windex down your throat and in your eyes but if it weren’t for me, it would have been much, much worse. 

We were in Florida. I was 10 years old and I came home from school to an empty apartment. It was silent and it was dark and I was convinced that he had finally fulfilled his promise to kill you and everyone I loved. You came home to my hysterics and you punched me right in the face. I am resilient. I am strong. I move forward and I am your hero. 

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