TW: sexual abuse/assault
I don’t remember how old I was
when my mother told me.
She said he was her teacher.
He told her to stay after class,
that she was a good little girl,
the prettiest one he’d ever seen.
I don’t remember how old I was when she told me,
but she was only twelve when it happened.
Her childhood ended by having a grown man
use her body like she didn’t live inside it.
He took her apart piece by piece.
Sent her home
hastily put back together
without pieces of herself
that she would search for all of her life.
When she told me she looked hollow.
Like she was talking about someone else.
Ended it with, “don’t tell your grandmother,”
and then she walked away and left me
running back over everything she had ever said
about her childhood.
I wonder what it took for her to say that.
Why she wanted to tell me.
Sometimes I wonder if she was frozen at that age.
If she needs me to be the grown up
because she could never become one.
Once we fought.
I said, “you’ve spent your whole life as a victim. “
She asked, “what are you talking about?”
I ended it with, “you know.”
But now I know too,
because I’m the one who can’t tell my mother
that things have happened to me.
That men have happened to me.
That they have touched me without asking,
that I didn’t say not to, didn’t feel like I could.
That when they pressed their warm, sticky selves
onto me there were pieces of me
they hung onto,
that I don’t think I will ever get back.
I wasn’t twelve.
I was seventeen, and eighteen, and nineteen, and twenty.
An adult. Old enough to know it was all wrong.
But she didn’t.
She was so young,
Sitting there in her cat eye glasses,
with her hair in pigtailed ringlets,
and lace trimming the little socks
that stuck out of her polished Mary Jane’s.
She just wanted someone to love her,
and she thought maybe it would be him.
Well I guess I wanted someone to love me too,
and neither of us understood what was happening.
I never wanted to be like my mother,
never wanted to live inside a trauma,
but I feel men’s hands carve valleys in me
every time I am touched.
We are both victims,
and we can’t even talk to each other
because all that we want is to protect one another
from what we think we did wrong.
From people who have already hurt us.
People who could not be stopped.
When I told my mother that a man grabbed me at a party,
that he reached up my skirt
and sunk his hands so deep into me
that if I close my eyes for too long I still feel
his fingernails in my flesh
“Why did you tell anyone?
Did you think they would take you seriously?”
Rachel Roupp is a poet and aspiring witch from Northern Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in Rag Queen Periodical and Komorebi Literary Magazine. She is known for poems that make people cry and her superb selfies with her basset hound.