Content warning: The following poems contains references to sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
"My Right to Say No"
You took away a piece of me,
you denied my right to say, "no."
You didn't stop after I cried...twice.
You told me I needed to, "live in the moment."
I was living in the moment when I said no.
I didn't want to have sex with you.
I didn't even want to kiss you.
I didn't want you to touch me.
To you, "no" was not an answer.
You wanted to hear a "yes,"
But touching me and confusing me was not working.
I continued to say, "no,"
but you continued on.
I was only trying to support you during a hard time.
I was trying to set boundaries and be a friend.
You took away my voice, and my right to say, "no."
I had every right to say, "no."
Four years of controlling my life.
Flashbacks. Anxiety. Depression.
I may have lost myself,
You told me to "live in the moment."
I was living in the moment when I said, "no."
"I'm not comfortable with that."
"I don't want to because we're coworkers."
I'm slowly finding myself,
and soon you will no longer be the person
that took my right to say, "no."
I know one day I will heal.
You will no longer control me.
You never took my education.
You never took my true self.
I will reclaim my right to say, "NO!"
You muted my voice when I spoke up.
It just wasn't convenient for you.
Just like it wasn't convenient for him
when I said, "no."
He raped me.
Then I was abused once more by you.
We were not drinking.
We were not on drugs.
All simple reasons to believe him over me.
All the reasons to call it "he said, she said,"
And sweep it under the rug.
You took away my right to feel safe at work.
You took away my right to refuse.
I dedicated my college life to promoting you.
I was used by you and tossed to the side.
My voice would wreck your image and reputation.
So let's just press the mute button.
Make her feel like she is safe.
Then say the he was not responsible.
That was the day I lost all hope.
I have felt muted since.
I had panic attacks daily
After returning home from work.
When I got help,
I learned you muted my voice.
My anxiety consumes me in any new work situation.
I feel no one will ever have my back.
Just like he took my right to say, "no,"
You took my right to speak up.
You took my voice.
Today, I am taking back my right to say, "no,"
And I'm no longer on mute.
About the art:
There was so much I wanted to say to this survivor after reading their words. About looking forward. About making sure you keep parts of yourself in tact while healing, as hard as it may be. About not letting yourself drown in your trauma.
In hard times, I've always turned to music. I paged through lyrics and found something I felt was fitting from the song "Battle Scars" by Paradise Fears. "Better days are near. Hope is so much stronger than fear."
I felt this was fitting for this story/set of poems because I want this survivor to find their voice, stand up for themselves, and know that their body is under their control again.
When I lost my partner, words from "Last Lost Continent" by La Dispute kept me afloat. "Though we're not sure where we'll go, we keep our hopes up." I hope this painting can help this survivor keep their hopes up moving forward, even if they don't know exactly what direction they need to go.