So help me

TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual assault, femicide.

I wrote this poem in a passion of clear, hot anger upon reading about the atrocities committed against Ukrainian women and girls by Russian soldiers. It is becoming clear that like virtually all conflicts that precede this one, rape and sexual violence are being used as weapons of war and that horrific war crimes are being committed.[1] News that leaves me cold, sickened, frightened and horrified, as it always does.

When writing this, I had Ukrainian women and girls in mind. I also had in mind the Yazidi women of northern Iraq and Kurdistan who were systematically raped by Daesh militants; I had in mind the unknown thousands of black enslaved women in Britain, the Caribbean and the USA who were raped by their enslavers; I had in mind the unknown thousands of indigenous women who were raped by colonial oppressors[2]; I had in mind the 61,158 sexual assault offences recorded in England and Wales at year end June 2021[3]; I had in mind the students raped whilst I was at university in Manchester between 2010 and 2014; I had in mind Jyoti Singh, the woman a group of men gang-raped and killed in Delhi in 2012; I had in mind Grace Millane killed in New Zealand; I had in mind Sarah Everard, abducted, raped and killed by Wayne Couzens in 2021; I had in mind Sabina Nessa, Ashling Murphy, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman; I had in mind the unknown numbers of transwomen raped and murdered across the world. All acts of terror and violence committed by men.[4]

I am heartened by news that, as of 2021, the UN has begun to impose sanctions for rape as a human rights abuse.[5] But the anger, sorrow and fear I feel is still so profound. I was unsure as to whether to even publish this poem for fear of it being ‘too much’. But having typed out all of the suffering above, my worry dissolved by my wrath.

I want to live in a world where perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable. Where I don’t have to worry that a walk to the park on my own could be my last; where my husband and I don’t feel the need to escort teenage girls home at night because they are scared of the men who touched them on the bus; where I don’t live in perpetual fear that such an act of violence could be committed against me and my body, and those of the women in my life.

This poem was inspired by all of the stories above, by my love for my sister, family, friends and beyond. It was also written in response to the tale of ‘The Loss of the Voices of the Wells’, written down by Sharon Blackie in her book If Women Rose Rooted.[6] I am forever inspired by Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.[7] I found writing this poem extremely comforting, connecting and powerful: I hope it speaks to you too.

So help me,

Great Mother,

I would I were

a wolf.

I would rip him,

each and every him

who has done this,

limb from limb

worse than any

frothing Bacchant.

I would have the wind

whisper a reminder

to him discretely

each and every morning

upon waking

with cold, sinister severity:

‘You committed an atrocity’.

And the darkness of night

would swallow you

yes, you

consume you

for one hundred and one years;

the dawn would hold

no hope,

just a pale shadow

of what you have lost

by your own actions,

your own violence.

I know you are not

beyond redemption and restoration

I believe that with all my heart, but

first, I would have you

raked over the coals

of despair;

I would have you

contemplate the horror

of yourself

day in, day out,

crying in pain

over and over again

wondering how

you

a gift to the world

could become the profane.

No joy from bird’s flight.

No warmth from embrace.

No tenderness from the sea.

I would have you cast adrift

prostrate in the desert

of your being,

to consider the bones of your kind,

the yellow moon

casting you in

sourness

as all of Earth’s women

who have been, who are, who ever will be

along all the webs of the matrilineal lines,

the witches, the maidens, the crones, the hags,

all of us queens,

every single one

in our billions,

howl and claw and roar,

rendering you deaf and dumb

at the ancient, timeless horror

that is

you.

And you will know yourself.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/03/all-wars-are-like-this-used-as-a-weapon-of-war-in-ukraine

[2] ‘EmpireLand: How Imperialism has Shaped Modern Britain’, Sathnam Sanghera, Viking Press, 2021.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/04/highest-ever-number-of-rapes-recorded-in-england-and-wales; https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/natureofsexualassaultbyrapeorpenetrationenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2020

[4] I want to show an awareness here that the rape of black enslaved women by their enslavers created the conditions for violence to be perpetrated against them by white women. Dr Yaba Blay explains in great detail here: https://momastery.com/blog/we-can-do-hard-things-ep-79/  

[5] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/angelina-jolie-campaign-rape-war-landmark-un-sanctions-b921377.html

[6] https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Sharon-Blackie/If-Women-Rose-Rooted–A-Life-changing-journey-to-authenticity-and-belonging/23812711

[7] https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Clarissa-Pinkola-Estes/Women-Who-Run-With-The-Wolves–Contacting-the-Power-of-the-Wild-Woman/7000774

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s