I don’t think I can forgive you, but I can thank you.

I always considered myself to be too strong to be a victim of abuse. In my mind, women who are abused are often times depicted as weak and timid. Opinionated, outgoing, and fierce, I never painted myself with those colors. However, with years of reflection and an immense amount of growth, I have realized that this is the farthest thing from the truth.

Abuse can happen to anyone.

In lieu of an assignment that I have my students currently participating in, I have written a very personal poem about my abuser. The assignment is to write a poem utilizing symbolism to tell the process of forgiveness: whether it is forgiving someone else, being forgiven by someone, or even the inability to do either.

I am not sorry for what you did to me.

I’m also not sorry for letting myself hit rock bottom as a result because you taught me more than any healthy relationship could have.

You made me feel small
I lived in miles of miles of skin that I was ashamed of
I would peel it off at night and lay it over the back of my chair
Holding my gaze,
it never failed to function as a reminder that I would never be enough
I would try and scrub it out in the washtub
Using the soap and warm water to rid of what you deemed soil
to mask your repulsion
to sterilize the shame
I would baptize it each night
in hopes
I would feel differently when dawn illuminated it
Freckle by freckle,
I yearned that this time,
this time would be different
I just needed to keep scrubbing
No lather and rinse could do that though
You had polished my insecurities
Polluted my brain,
my confidence
my skin
You never preferred your fists
That’s why abuse never entered my thoughts
But the bruises still caress my bones
Stretching underneath the shell you made my home
I don’t know if I can forgive you,
or that I ever will,
but I can thank you
The top layer of skin completely replaces itself every 35 days
Every 35 days, I am new
I picked up the skin that I had suspended over my chair
and stopped scrubbing 52 skins ago
So, I thank you because I am reborn

-l.s.

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