Friday, July 31, 2020

Wild Fridays #30: Moonlight Musings

Poems and Stories of Domestic Violence


These anonymous poems came from a site called Hidden Hurt: Domestic Abuse Information. They were sent in by women who have experienced such violence.

I chose to address that issue today because it's been highly visible on Instagram this week – women posting black-and-white selfies, accompanied by the words, 'Challenge accepted!'  

Here is our Sanaa's Instagram photo for this purpose:

 As well as 'Challenge accepted!' she says:

Standing in solidarity with Turkish women! For more information please Google "Femicide on the rise in Turkey."

So I did, and here is the link.

In brief, the report says the numbers of Turkish women killed by men who supposedly love them has risen – and the protests sparked by the most recent case have met with police violence.

The challenge apparently began with photos of some of the women killed and the slogan, 'Say no to violence against women,' and women were posting pictures of their own faces in solidarity with the Turkish women's protest, as Sanaa has done. Like a 'Chinese whisper' the message became diluted into one about women empowering women, a worthy aim but not quite the same. Sanaa and others have been pointing out the original intent.

It's one of the many issues of our time which urgently needs addressing. The poems I found are not by Turkish women, but sadly it is of course happening everywhere, and in much the same way.

As I said, the site these poems came from is primarily an information site for those who need it, but it seems to me it also does a service in providing a platform for women to express their feelings and detail their experiences. There are also many very affecting personal stories. And there is a notice that 'Domestic Violence – Prose' will be coming in the near future. Presumably that means fictional stories. A section on Healing from Abuse will also be coming.

I picked poems I thought shining examples in poetic as well as emotional terms. Some others could be dismissed as doggerel – but I wouldn't call them that. Their genuine eloquence makes up for any clumsiness of technique due to inexperience in writing poetry. I think it doesn't matter anyway in this instance. If these women want to continue making poems, they'll improve (poetically) in the doing, as we all do.

Even more important is that these writers have found this way to release their own hurt. (Something we in this community know very well, as we turn to our wordcraft to help us through whatever trials and traumas may come.) Not only that, they are providing a voice for others, and a way to show the other visitors to the site that they are not alone.

I've sometimes raised the question here as to what use is our writing, in terms of what does it do for the world at large. I don't recall that I've ever discussed what it does for us. Perhaps this never occurred to me as necessary; I'm sure I took it for granted that we all knew already. I am not the only one here who frequently notes publicly how lucky we are in times of trouble to have our writing to sustain us. But after all it's worth pausing a moment to reflect on this.

It has been found that people who are institutionalised (prisoners, long-term hospital patients ... ) seem to turn naturally to poetry as an outlet. I'm quoting this fact from memory and don't have statistics, but once upon a time I used to conduct poetry workshops in prisons, so I have reason to believe it. Many such poems have been published in books, and are often excellent as well as moving.

The personal stories already posted at Hidden Hurt are even more heart-rending, and in general very well written. Perhaps they were edited by site staff; I don't know. Very likely it is that, without the writers trying to conform to verse patterns, their authenticity is clearer – and authenticity is a good basis for any writing. You can read these stories for yourselves at the link, and probably everyone should – if you can bear to; they really are horrifying, albeit told without drama. (No need to sensationalise facts like these.)

In my offline life I mentor a group of women writers who have been through various kinds of major trauma, including this kind. The group is a subset of Village of Women, under the auspices of one of the local Neighbourhood Centres. Some of their stories and poems have been published. Several are on the VOW website (which exists to show other women in the community the possibilities available through that Neighbourhood Centre) under the heading Her Story, where you can read them. Please note, these are stories not only of trauma but of triumph. The women began by recounting the terrible things they had been through, which was therapeutic, and then moved to using their writing to document their new life narratives. Here is one brief tale – and yes the name is a pseudonym. These women could still be in serious danger if they were able to be found by former partners.

Claire’s Story

After 50 years of marital abuse, I was meeting a friend for lunch when I had a meltdown. Ordered by this strong-willed friend, I landed in hospital.

Lying there the first night, I knew that I couldn’t back down this time and slink back to the house (it had never been a home), to numbing abuse and – as I’d thought a few days before – "just sit in this house for the next 20 years until it’s time to die".

A moment of clarity came during the night. "I’m never going back to that house!" Not a panic attack, just a great sigh and my body softening in relief.

An amazing chain of events led me to Pottsville…everything moulding and fitting together like a beautiful jigsaw.

I came to the Neighbourhood Centre to put in a Centrelink form…too exhausting to drive to Tweed*…then picked up a leaflet about VoW. "See Cath," it said.

Cath walked in the door, we sat and chatted a little, and she invited me to join the Writers’ Group which was starting in five minutes. Another few pieces fitted together.

I learnt not just about the support and acceptance in this group, but about the other activities this remarkable bunch of women do. I am being gently encouraged to participate too. There’s a feeling of belonging.

I was looking at a blouse label and I thought it said WOSH…yes, I thought, I can now live maybe 30 plus years in WOSH…"With Out Shit Happening". Thank God for the Village of Women.

– Claire de Lune

*The nearest actual city, with a Centrelink office rather than branch.  (Centrelink is where one registers for unemployment benefits.)

 (Claire also writes the most beautiful nature poetry and takes wonderful photos of the natural world.)

Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.


  1. Thank you for sharing the anonymous poems, Rosemary, it is comforting to know that such a site exists. Domestic abuse is mostly hidden, women (and men who suffer too) are ashamed to admit it and writing about it loosens the shell of shame for sufferers. Men have abused women throughout history, and it is time it stopped. I was horrified to read about femicide in Turkey, which thinks of itself as a modern country. The women were brave to protest, considering the lack of support from the authorities and the brutality of the policemen – men again. Thank you also for sharing Claire’s story, which is sadly one that is repeated across the world. I know, I experience abuse in my first marriage many years ago, which I rarely share or talk about..

    1. Thanks, Kim. I am very sorry you had that experience, and very glad it was many years ago. I think that being part of a group where everyone has experienced terrible things has made it easier for the women in VOW to write about those things. And having a site like Hidden Hurt, where the readers are obviously people who have experienced abuse, must make it easier for some of those readers to become writers, break their silence, and send in their poems and stories.

  2. Too often domestic violence is swept under the rug or worse, made a joke of. There was an incident in my neighborhood a few weeks ago. It was a big item of discussion in our neighborhood group page, and comments were made. She swore she'd never take him back, but he snuck back (even though there was an unofficial neighborhood watch for him) and when the police came for him for something else, he was hiding out at her place. I hope he stays locked up for awhile and she gets a chance to build a better life for herself.

  3. Domestic violence against women is a nasty plague. And the fact that some versions of it seem to be part of many cultures makes the whole thing even harder to deal with, to talk about, and to fight. When I read your post, the first case that came to mind was one where a former client went to the police, asked friends for help, moved to a shelter, and pretty much did all she could to liberate herself from an abusive partner. After the system helped her relocate, she contacted a relative to say she was okay, not to worry. Somehow this person tracked her down... and gave her information to the abuser. He almost killed her when he found her. I remember sitting in court a few months later, and hearing her family use religion and duty to demonize her escape and justify their actions. I still wonder what would've happened to her if she hadn't asked for help. Because the truth is, that like the poems you shared imply, silence can be a murder weapon when it comes to this. The same goes to not having a way to work through the emotions. Turning some of the hurt to ink is certainly a way to help the self and, if the world is good, to help others.

    1. I am thankful your former client didn't die and did eventually escape. How terrible that a trusted relative would so betray her! I'm thankful too that the women I know who have been through this have been able to change their lives for the better.

  4. Domestic abuse and sex trafficking are two of the ugliest things that need to be confronted. Abusers, being the repugnant cowards they are, seem to have a radar for those who lack self confidence and self esteem. They rarely choose strong women who have a healthy sense of self value. As parents, we need to raise our daughters with those traits. As for the sex traffickers who choose innocent children, there are no words for their depth of depravity, and we can only be more aware and ever watchful to protect our children. Jeffrey Epstein is a primary example of that ilk. Writing, be it poetry or prose, is a wonderful catharsis for victims, even if they never share what they've written, but set a match to it and burn away the emotional scars along with their words. I'm told that is a helpful method for dealing with their pain.
    Thank you for shining a light on that huge problem in our society today, Rosemary.

    1. When I was growing up, the wisdom imparted to girls from their adult female relatives, and repeated over and over again to make sure we got it, was: 'The first time he ever hits you, pack your bags and go back home to your parents. Don't wait. Don't give him a second chance.' Excellent advice! Of course, it may have been easier to follow it when communities were smaller and more close-knit, and the parents probably didn't live too far away. What strikes me now, in hindsight, is that it was said to EVERY girl growing up, and also when they were about to marry, regardless of how nice the bridegroom might seem. It was not only known but taken for granted that this could happen in any marriage and that if it did, it was likely to escalate. That was back in the days when the cops, as a matter of policy, would never interfere in 'a domestic matter', so I guess it was up to the female network. Mind you it was also the days when decent men took it as a matter of pride that they would never hit a woman. And ALL these things, including the last, reveal how common it was and always has been.

  5. I'm glad you wrote this. Rosemary. The women are in a terrible position before they can or will come to a refuge.
    We have a lot of women killing here in Texas, many are pregnant. Others are molested and then discarded. In the homes raging men beat up their mates, some to death.
    My father was very mean to Mom, once that i witnessed he swung a chair. My sister and I tried to help her then but were brushed aside. Then all of a sudden he changed, one Sunday we all went to church and went every Sunday after.
    He became nice always to Mom but still boxed my ears and punched me regularly. Out of Mom's sight, and I never told her. I have not forgotten and never forgave. My first beating I still remember, I was three. He beat me for being honest to Grandma about us getting a new car. I didn't have a chance to tell him that she had suspected the transaction, he thought he was going to surprise her. There were other incidents too.
    Once I hid in their hotel closet to confront my ex and a student of hers. Had I a gun I might have shot them both?
    I like the idea of your poetry workshops in prisons. I would love to have formal poetry education.

    1. Yes, men who are violent to women are often also violent to their children. Certainly not an expression of love! I wonder if the father who beat you for telling the truth also exhorted you not to tell lies? Such people are often hypocrites as well as everything else. It's wonderful that you grew up into such a fine man as you obviously are, after such beginnings. I guess you had a great role model of how NOT to be! (And I'm very glad you didn't shoot anybody while you were still growing into who you are.)

  6. The fact that abuse, both physical and psychological, still exists shows just how far we haven't come as society. Abuse knows many forms and claims many victims. The abuse, human trafficking, the children. My words are not enough.

    As I read this my first thought was how minuscule my "problems" are. My world is at peace.

    Once again, Rosemary, you've opened up a view of world, ugly as this is.

    Thank you and Sanaa for your shedding a light on those who feel they cry alone.

    1. And what I didn't mention above is that the coronavirus crisis has rendered some women even more vulnerable – more than ever stuck with their abusers, and those men more stressed....
      I am sure your words are not enough, nor mine, nor any one person's – but if we all keep speaking up, and writing the truth, that could make a difference. As others have noted, silence is what allows it all to continue.

  7. Thank you so much for addressing the issue of Domestic Violence and sharing those anonymous poems, Rosemary. It breaks my heart knowing that women from all spheres of life are subject to such atrocity.

    I was tagged by Sreeja Harikrishnan on Instagram to participate in the black and white photo challenge. It was then that I learned about what was taking place in Turkey. My stomach dropped as I went over the details.

    Thank you also for sharing Claire's story, I sincerely hope the world is kinder towards women in the days to come.

    1. And my thanks to you, Sreeja and others who alerted the rest of us to what has been happening in Turkey, and also for inspiring this post.
      Claire is happy that I shared her story here. She says that with help of others she is grateful and healing.

  8. Thank you, Rosemary, for this very excellent article. It's heartening to note that you are mentoring writers who have been through various kinds of major trauma, through Village of Women, and the success story of Claire.
    Kudos to Sanaa for standing up to the challenge!

    Over here we have the Women's Charter, an Act of Parliament designed to improve and protect the rights of females in Singapore, but there are now calls that the charter has transformed from being a safeguard for disadvantaged women into a method of discriminating against men. i think the cases of women abuse here are rather low, but there still are.

    1. Thanks, Lee San. Of course, even one case would be too many, but I am glad if cases in Singapore are few. But perhaps not; much family violence is hidden, hence the title of the site where I found the poems.

      The rights of fathers can become a difficult question when couples are separated. Perhaps that is the kind of discrimination against men which is complained about? Naturally it can be hugely upsetting for a loving father to be denied access to his kids, or to be awarded very little, infrequent access. I think myself that courts should always give preeminence to the rights of the children concerned. A child's right not to be subject to violence seems more important than a father's right to unsupervised access. But it's a more complex matter than that. Some mothers are violent to their children. Some wives are violent towards their husbands. Some women lie when accusing their partners of violence (rare but it does happen). Some children love their fathers anyway and want to see them. And some men attack their children in order to hurt the mother. And dreadful things can happen even in circumstances which seem safe. Such as the horrifying case in Australia a few years ago, when 11-year-old Luke Batty was suddenly bashed and stabbed to death by his father in public, at a cricket match. (Not anticipated, but in hindsight clearly premeditated.) The boy loved his father while understanding the man was sick in the head. And the father appeared to love the boy – but not enough to outweigh the terrible, 'Take this, you bitch' message to the mother. (A mother who is very far from being a bitch.)

      It seems to me it is very important to have your Women's Charter, and in all countries safeguards in place for women and children. I don't envy the legal people and social workers who then have to figure out the fine details including fair treatment of men.

  9. I’m so glad I finally had a chance to read this. Rosemary, thank you for posting it, and Sanaa you are doing worthwhile work. I hope many women are being helped, and the victimization ends.

    1. Thanks for having a read! And for your comment. I guess we can all only keep doing the best we can. Yes, hopefully it will have an effect; doing/saying nothing surely won't.

  10. Thank you for sharing, Rosemary and Sanaa.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jenna. The sharing is only as good as the people it reaches.

  11. Always interesting and relevant topics here on Fridays! Thank you.

    1. You're welcome! I really enjoy doing the Wild Fridays.


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