I recently took an online training course on recognizing and reporting child abuse. I could not help but think of all the horror stories I’ve heard during my career as a psychiatric technician and residential counselor. One of my jobs involved working with women who were abused over a large part of their childhood and their early teen years. The abuse was so severe that they developed multiple personality disorder. This is a type of dissociative disorder that allows the victim to create multiple levels within his or her psyche in order to “hide” from the abuse, or somehow slip away while it is happening.

I was so blown away at the time that I was able to work at the job for only about a year. It was exhausting. I felt a certain degree of rage toward the abuser. I had been writing poetry for a short period, and was able to relieve some of the tension by creating the following poem.

Mother calls.
Shadows fall on bedroom walls.
The neighbors yell.
Time stalls.
Your father bellows
Hey, who’s in my yard?
He screams and shouts.
He wails and yelps.
Thank God
No one knows your special place.
Keep your silence.
Let time race.
Pay the price with lonely patience.
And just remember to disappear.
No one knows if you’re here.

© 1990 Steven Barto

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