To the One Who Raped Me
Sibling Rivalry Press
$1 from the purchase of each chapbook through Sibling Rivalry Press goes to the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center
“The personal is political” has been a feminist slogan since Carol Hanisch’s essay of the same title was published in 1969. Before reading Dustin Brookshire’s chapbook, To The One Who Raped Me, I’d never thought of the saying as anything other than feminist. I don’t know if this is because of closed-mindedness on my part or if it’s because I’d never read something so personal and vulnerable by a male author before picking up this collection.
Before I had even finished reading the fourteen poems that comprise this chapbook, I was thinking of people who should have this book—and ways to get it to them. How could I get it to rape victim advocates? To therapists? To the psychology professor at the college where I teach? True to the overt nature of its title, To The One Who Raped Me might not be a poetry collection people will want to read for pleasure, but it’s a poetry collection that people need to read. Brookshire takes a personal tragedy and turns it into an indispensible tool for survival, healing, and understanding. This book is a multi-faceted guidebook; if you are ever raped, this is what you’re going to go through; and if you know someone who has been raped, this book is the key to understanding that person and helping him or her on their way to recovery.
Interspersed with the poems are statistics and facts the website of the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) that ground each poem in the collection. For example, one page lists statistics about victims of sexual assault—how many times more likely they are than others to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and so on. Immediately after this page is a poem in which Brookshire describes watching a movie in which there is a rape scene, and then goes on to describe his reaction, which is a PTSD-induced flashback.
Brookshire understands the enormity of his topic and writes a book that is at once so hard-hitting and delicate that fourteen poems are all that is necessary. Here is one of the shorter poems, as an example:
MY THERAPIST ASKS WHAT IMAGE HAUNTS ME
In the bathroom
I push out his cum
like a mother who knows
her baby is stillborn.
When it is done it isn’t done.
The feeling of him still clings.
The comparison in this poem is surprising yet fitting. Both events are ones that one just wants to be over, which won’t ever be. Brookshire has produced not just good poetry but important, life-changing work with To The One Who Raped Me. My hope for this chapbook isn’t the usual hope I have for poetry—that it ends up in the hands of writers and readers. My hope for this book is that it ends up in advocacy centers, counselors’ offices, in the hands of survivors, and in the hands of those who are trying to help survivors fit together the pieces of shattered lives.
Shaindel Beers' poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in numerous anthologies and journals. Her second poetry collection, The Children's War and Other Poems, is forthcoming from Salt Publishing.