Introduced to the character of men
as a child in a swimming pool,
excited to learn how to swim,
but learning so much more
far too soon,
as your teenaged hands swam between my legs
under the water and the privacy of a kickboard.
I was just barely a teen when your claims to love me
showed me that love is insults, manipulation, fear.
You forced me to shake my ass in your face
while you violently pulled my hair,
ejaculating on my back, then spitting in my face.
I was still so young,
yet already barely clinging to the hope
that maybe, one of you would be different.
Not you, though.
You who told me that I was too worthless to even bother kissing,
as you kissed someone sexier,
while shoving my head in your lap
as I choked and struggled to breathe.
I was too young to drive,
so you gave me a ride.
The sky was so black, the air so cold that I could see my breath.
30 miles from anywhere, you slowed down
and pulled over.
You told me you’d leave me there
if I didn’t hold still,
I was just 17 when you pushed me down the basement stairs,
your friends so encouraging,
their music so loud,
meant to stifle the sounds;
no one could hear me fall,
or me begging you to stop.
Not that they would have stopped you.
You were so much bigger than I was,
how did you expect me to fight back?
“We’re so in love,” was your deception;
in truth I was property,
an object you’d stolen and recycled.
For years, you manipulated, intimidated, and abused me.
Night after night,
you forced my face forced into the pillow,
where no one could hear my screaming,
until I finally stopped.
What good did it do?
I was nursing your newborn,
oblivious to your drug use,
so confused by your paranoia and insanity.
“Don’t you dare leave,” you said,
waving a gun in my face,
as you took my car keys, wallet, and phone.
Terrified and imprisoned
was how I spent our son’s first months,
but I couldn’t tell anyone,
and couldn’t escape.
My voice held no value
to you with the power.
Each moment of your pleasure
chiseled away at my worth,
until I no longer felt human.
My fear was like fuel to you,
so I stopped.
Stopped fearing, fighting, caring.
Take it and leave;
it was over quicker that way.
My “no” never mattered,
“please stop” made it worse,
“you’re hurting me!” drove you on.
Silence is not consent;
your hand was over my mouth.
Your egocentric quest
so distorted my sense of self-worth,
that I no longer knew who I was,
or trusted my own voice.
My truth was every lie I’d been told:
“you’re a malfunction,”
The things you uttered thoughtlessly,
words you disregarded once you spoke them,
Every disdainfully tender touch,
“shut your mouth”
told me what I already knew;
I am nothing.
I refuse to believe the lies you spoke over me,
or that you’re all the same.
No longer is your conquest my disgrace.
Your individual choices do not speak for the character of all men.
My voice does have value.
You no longer hold all the power;
I’ve taken it back.
I am not insignificant or broken.
I am not a malfunction.
I am not filthy.
You no longer define me.
Amy Menkhus is a Colorado Springs native and the mother of one small child who is the delight of her life. She has spent her life caring for others as a nanny, CNA, health assistant, and administrative assistant in higher education. She is a passionate pursuer of all human rights for all people but prefers to work behind the scenes. When she is not working at a local college, she spends her time hunting for bugs (and letting them go again), acting out the wonderfully silly stories told by her son, and running around barefoot.