ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the November 2013 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] perfectworry, [personal profile] krait, [personal profile] stardreamer, Kellyc, and LiveJournal user Baaing_tree. In particular, a lot of ideas came from this discussion about the cycle of abuse, based on a graphic short about survivors. It also fills the "rape/non-con" square in my 6-10-13 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING:  This poem features child neglect, sexual abuse, and negative experiences in foster care.  Current environment is supportive, as the survivor grows up to help other people.  If these are sensitive issues for you, please think carefully about whether this is something you want to read.


"A Seasoned Fighter"


I was born in winter,
into a cold house
and a colder family.

There was never enough
of anything to go around --
not food, not clothing,
not a moment's affection.

There were fights
that howled like stormwind,
blows that fell
like stinging pellets of ice.

When I was taken away,
the memories of my family
stayed like a snowball in my center.

I refused to let them
freeze me to death.


I grew up in spring,
blown from one foster home
to another with no more roots
than a cloud swept across
the smooth blue sky.

I skipped from school to school,
learning some things,
missing others, always
making new friends because
I could not keep the old.

When I got lonely,
I had comic books and novels
and my guitar to keep me company.

Sometimes the other kids
were nice to me, but
other times they picked on me.


I was the ugly duckling:
some of the white kids disliked me
for my flat nose and tilted eyes,
while some of the black kids
found my skin too pale.

Most of the time I wound up playing
with the other outcasts --
the fat kids, the handicapped kids,
the superkids with powers
they couldn't control yet.

There was one boy, though,
who didn't see me as ugly.
He always paid attention to me
when I was starving for it,
little touches that grew bigger

until one day he pushed me down
onto his bed and forced his way
inside my body, splitting me open
and then leaving me there
like a picked flower he'd grown tired of.

They took me out of that house,
but they couldn't take it out of me,
a stain like dirt ground into a rug.
Somehow people always found out
at the new place, and treated me
as damaged goods.

I refused to let them
drag me through the mud.


Now it's summer,
and I've aged out of the system
like a hot pepper ripening on the vine,
cheerfully golden but with a hidden bite.

I've trained myself
to be strong and fast
and formidable so that
I can protect other people
the way I wish someone had
been there to protect me.

The hardest part is learning
how to cope with everything
that has happened to me,
but it's all worthwhile because
these are skills I can share.

I want to stop abuse wherever I find it,
sexual or physical or emotional,
one person at a time or
undermining the whole process,
weeding the social garden.

I'm learning how to find people
who need to be rescued,
and how to get them to safety.
Afterwards I hold them
if they want to be held,
and tell them that they're safe,
if they need to hear it,
my every touch and motion
as soft as dandelion down.

I turn my face to the sun
and hold my memories to my heart
like a bouquet of thorns and flowers,
the ones that hurt and the ones that comfort
all clenched together in my mental fist.

It doesn't matter if people
who know my past don't believe me.
I know, and the survivors I've helped know,
that there are two paths out of that bleak valley:
someday it will be my turn on top,
or nobody should suffer what I suffered.

What matters isn't what happened
but where we decide to go from there,
and what motivates people
to choose the high path instead of the low --
somewhere in there is an opportunity
to give them a leg up.

Now that I'm a seasoned fighter,
I'm going to make a difference,
and I refuse to let anything stop me.

* * *

Notes:

After reading this perspective on the cycle of abuse, I felt that the world needed more characters who survived abuse and became heroes instead of villains. So I made one. It is important to me that he is a supernary -- an ordinary human who has trained himself to function on a super-scale at need -- to emphasize that this kind of choice is a real opportunity for people, without needing special powers. I do have supers, heroes and villains and those in between, who survived some kind of abuse; it's a common background.

The Rescuer -- Joshua Young is a mixed-race man with shoulder-length wavy black hair, brown almond-shaped eyes, a wide flat nose, and tinted skin. He has a scar on his right shoulderblade from a childhood friend, Firebug, whose powers came in too early to control. Joshua works at a variety of nonprofits including women's shelters, teen centers, and home improvement organizations. He likes comic books and still reads young adult fiction. He enjoys spicy food; his favorite color is golden yellow. Most people find him easygoing and likeable, but he can be quite fierce in taking down abusers.

Origin: Joshua was taken from an abusive home and grew up in foster care, where he was sexually molested. He moved around a lot, switching schools so often that he didn't learn as much as other students. He vowed to become a protector instead of a predator, and underwent intense training to enable him to compete on a super-scale if necessary.

Uniform: Street clothes. He dresses for practicality, comfort, and camouflage.

Qualities: Master Survivor Support, Expert Coping Skills, Expert Martial Arts, Good Compassion, Good Friends Who Help People, Good Guitarist, Good Handyman, Good Gaming the System, Good Spy Skills, Good Tough, Good Trustworthy
Poor Patchy Education

Powers: No superpowers.

Motivation: To stop abuse, both interrupting individual cases and educating people about how to reduce it on a wider scale.

* * *

Child abuse spans a wide range of physical, emotional, sexual, and other forms that harm young people. Neglect is a more passive form of abuse that can also do a lot of damage.

Foster care is intended as a temporary replacement for an untenable family situation. Like climbing up into a lifeboat from a sinking ship, it's better than nothing but not a great solution as the outcomes for children in the system tend to be rather poor. Family preservation tends to produce better results. Sexual abuse is a significant problem in foster care, including foster children abusing each other which has been widely reported but minimally studied. Abuse survivors may pose challenges to foster or adoptive parents who wish to help the children overcome abuse while maintaining a healthy family environment for everyone. Despite the challenges, sometimes there are happy endings; survivors can grow up to thrive and to help others.

Sexual molestation is a widespread problem. Abusers may be adults or older children, and often use grooming tactics to select and manipulate their victims. Male survivors of sexual abuse face certain challenges particular to the image of masculinity, which explains why many of them do not report it. A key to their recovery is making meaning from what happened to them. There are ways to deal with sexual abuse and to help a survivor heal.

Coping is the psychological process of solving problems and tolerating stress. Coping skills are what we use to do this, which can be positive or negative and span various categories. Learnhow to improve your coping skills. Build a list of safe coping skills that work for you.

Stopping the cycle of abuse is possible. There are ways to stop child abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and other forms of abuse. Friends and family of abuse survivors can help stop the cycle.

Heroes aren't just for literature and entertainment. They exist in our world too, and they often share common traits. Here are ten ways you can become a hero and four ways to become a superhero. There's a hero handbook too. Being a hero doesn't require superpowers. You just need some useful skills, a clear head in a crisis, and the willingness to help when needed.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-25 02:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
Beautiful. Sad and beautiful and happy all at once.

I can see my Ah'Koi Bahnis character Nokwahl resonating with this. She was attacked, almost died during an attempted rape, when she was a child; attacked by what she thought was a human. Later, when her psychic powers developed, her Gift (that she sometimes calls a Curse) turned her pain into a weapon. She can cause so much pain with this Gift of hers that if she did it too long, the person on the receiving end could go insane. (A bit like the cruciatus curse in Harry Potter.) Luckily, it is not her only psychic power.

Her pain is also what drives her to seek justice for crime victims via her work for the TLEA. (Terran Law Enforcement Agency.)

Thank you!

Date: 2013-11-25 02:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Beautiful. Sad and beautiful and happy all at once. <<

Yay! I'm glad this worked for you. That's very much what I was aiming for.

>> I can see my Ah'Koi Bahnis character Nokwahl resonating with this. <<

That sounds similar, yes. I like your description of this character.

>> Her pain is also what drives her to seek justice for crime victims via her work for the TLEA. (Terran Law Enforcement Agency.) <<

I'm really happy to see another writer casting characters like this. Another favorite is Alysha Forrest, who appears in Alysha's Fall. She had a deprived childhood and then was abused as a teenager. It made her very protective of other people.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2013-11-25 03:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
I also had a thought, about different responses to similar events. Nokwahl's response being wildly different from Lyria's response to an attempted rape. Of course, circumstances were different. Lyria's attacker got no farther than tearing her clothing a little before she magically threw him back and gave him boils. And in her mind, that attack was a pathetic attempt and doesn't influence her mentality much; the events that happened because of how she defended herself, on the other hand, became a huge part of her life.

Had Nokwahl's attacker been human, she and Lyria would have had more in common, because Nokwahl would have kicked his ass and left him in the hospital, because AKB children are stronger than most human adults.1 Hell, given Yahgahn culture's tendency to never send their children outside without a Protection Knife, and given that she had one and tried using it on him, if he had been anything other than what he was (spoilers!), she would have gutted him like a fish. But he was not human, and therefore stronger than she.

1 = Might be interesting to write a story about a sexual predator going to Traipah thinking to find naive, trusting, easy prey, and finding out to his detriment that he was VERY mistaken.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2013-11-25 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>I also had a thought, about different responses to similar events. Nokwahl's response being wildly different from Lyria's response to an attempted rape.<<

Yes, I'm fascinated by how different people can respond in widely varied ways to the same or similar experiences.

>>1 = Might be interesting to write a story about a sexual predator going to Traipah thinking to find naive, trusting, easy prey, and finding out to his detriment that he was VERY mistaken.<<

I never get tired of that plot. The Chubb-Chubbs are coming!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-09 09:22 pm (UTC)
chordatesrock: The Punishment of Loki by Louis Huard (detail) (Default)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
Ooh! Is there more about him?

Difficult but worth it!

Date: 2014-05-21 12:19 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I'm going to need a break after reading this, but I kept thinking, "That young man should be incredibly PROUD of what he's accomplished."

He's in the same universe as Danso, right? (Hint, hint, hint.)

Thanks for posting this. "Difficult" conversations /still/ need to happen, and you made a safe place for this one.

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