Child Welfare- Christine Ray


I am in a child welfare class in graduate school

the room is full

Class starts at 4 pm it is dim


my classmates and I are drowsy

we all could use a snack

some caffeine


our professor puts on a film

a surprisingly graphic film

about child sexual abuse
I am fine

I am fine

I am fine

I am not fine

I am rushing out of the classroom

full fight or flight

heart thudding

hands shaking

I just make it to the ladies room

the privacy of a stall

before I vomit my lunch up in white porcelain toilet

my knees sore on the cracked
black and white checkerboard tile

I have never used the words sexual abuse

in relationship to myself before

But my body is telling me a different narrative

as I sit on the cold bathroom floor
I have had lovers who are sexual abuse survivors

I have always told myself

that what happened to me,

was not like what happened to them

That drifting on the ceiling

doing my grocery list my head

while having sex

was normal

That my constant need for control

was normal

That my inability to let anyone touch me when I am feeling vulnerable

was normal

That I cannot look at pictures of myself from certain parts of my childhood without wanting to be sick

was normal

That wanting to die for the first time when I was 12 years old

was normal
As I fight my panic in the bathroom

praying that no one else will need to use it

I am finally forced to finally admit to myself that “Hey, maybe this is not so normal”

I am surprisingly unnerved

as though I have never seen

the young woman looking back at me in the mirror

It takes me some time to regulate my heartbeat

calm my breathing

splash cold water on my face

school my expression into something that resemble

s functioning adult

before returning to class

and watching the rest of that damn film

Christine Ray writes for Brave and Reckless and is a member of Sudden Denouement. She is also curator at Blood Into Ink and barista at Go Dog Go Cafe.  She is an aspiring badass.

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