People | I Survived

On Abuse, Survival, and the Word ‘Victim’

I debated for a long time whether I would describe sex with Reese. I didn’t know if I could stand knowing that it might turn some readers on, that it could sustain their fantasies about underage girls. Some of you have come to this essay for the sex, whether you’d admit to it or not.


When I first met you, baby

Baby, you were just sweet sixteen

You just left your home then, woman

Ah, the sweetest thing I’d ever seen

But you wouldn’t do nothing, baby

You wouldn’t do anything I asked to

You wouldn’t do nothing for me, baby

You wouldn’t do anything I asked to

too late, too late

What just happened?

Get out of here

Did you hear me?Get out of here—I won’t tell you again, little girl!

You’re your mommy’s whole life, baby girl.

Your father’s not allowed in here anymoreDon’t tell him anything about the house, got it?

Don’t say anything, Emily. It’s not his business. It’s ours.

July, July, July.

okay, a little afraidbut only for another month

Maybe we can try again after your birthday?

never again

jailbaiti thought she was 18, do i need a lawyer? Is it really statutory rape if she consented?


In my poem “Philomela,” the rape isn’t described. It takes place off stage, recorded years after the event by the character who experienced it.

When I left out the rape, I thought I was refusing to indulge a reader’s voyeurism. But the reader knows what is left out: My silence, then, is not a revision but an invitation to imagine this violence for yourself.



You’ve got to learn how to defend yourself

daughtermy mother

Just a minute

+ Okay, baby girlDon’t be too longI’ll have dinner on soon.






I had to make sure



You wanted itYou pursued him. You were a little slut. You put him in an impossible position. should so maturereally talk to me

the unlawful sexual penetration of a victim by the defendant, or of the defendant by the victim when the victim is at least fifteen (15) but less than eighteen (18) years of age and the defendant is at least four (4) but not more than five (5) years older than the victim.

Oxford English Dictionarystatutory

Of a crime: established or regulated by statute, as opposed to common or natural law

My baby girl’s back homeYour mommy’s so happy

Get outI don’t want them to see you.

This is the recording.


This is the recording this is the recording this is the recording

It’s a little girlShe’s not a mean ghost, just mischievousWe haven’t heard from you in a whileHow was your day, little ghostie?