A piece on the personal archeology of victim blaming and the exclusion of survivors as actors in social change and healing.


She sat at her desk,
Me, staring at the curtain patterns behind her head,
Wide eyed and eager to work,
In service to others,
Who had been through the torment I knew.
The judgment came down,
Elegant in its cruel simplicity,
“You have too many Red Flags.”

I am Red Flagged and dangerous,
I am a walking taboo.
They speak about me in hushed tones and indelicate condemnation,
Incest, abuse, rape, victim, erratic, addict.

I self-medicated to survive:
Alcohol, sex, lying, drugs, prescriptions, geographical jumps.
Numbing myself from the horror to live.
Flashback, daddy’s little whore.
Nightmares, mommy’s fist.
New lover hated, old rapists’ maneuvers.

They said, “You can’t ever work in social services,
You have nothing to offer abuse survivors,
It would be too triggering.”
I am too unstable.
They want me to believe that I am,
Forever Broken.

If I had believed them,
I’d be 6 feet underground with a Red Flag marking my grave.
A hole in one.
No right to exist, because of something,
I Had No Control Over.

I tore apart their Red Flags.
I became a seamstress,
Using thread of broken innocence and nightmares.
Stitching time and space,
Bruises and insecurity,
Self-hatred, anxiety attacks, insomnia,
I bound all of me into nano-fibers of hope,
And I sewed.

I have these giant red wings now,
Constructed by callused hands.
Their Red Flags gave me flight.

I am in Iraq.
I am in Sudan.
I am in Afghanistan.
I am in Central Africa.
I am there after tsunamis and earthquakes,
Of the heart, the earth, the body.

They do not plant Red Flags on the planets of my solar system.
They do not know the strength of a survivor thwarted.

We stand on shaky legs,
Puffy eyes and scarred souls.
Always sitting with our backs to the wall, ready to fight and defend.

Trauma, anxiety, depression, mania, addiction,
And still we stand.
Still we fly,
To each other,
Across oceans and continents,
Fingers intertwined,
A tapestry of survival.

I am becoming a massive body,
An attractor,
A magnet.

We are compelled to one another,
Our lives taboos to those,
Who wish us into nonexistence.

I will whisper to you the secret of thread making.
Show you how I used my bones to make strong needles for the loom of my liberation.
I will tell you that I believed I was nothing too.
Sometimes I still do,
But you remind me,
Each day,
We are heroines.
One to the other,
Saving lives,
Giving flight.

© Amanda Lee 2016