New Study Finds You
by Amy Jo Trier-Walker
How many people have ever harassed you while you were in a public place in a way that made you feel unsafe? Kissed you in a sexual way when you didn’t want this to happen? Fondled or grabbed your sexual body parts? Yes, men at bars count. You didn’t know their names then? This woman--raped by her dad, her biological dad--is teaching yoga and writing poems on bones the wind gives her. Her hair is always in her face. She has shaved her head. When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean, has a man or boy ever put his penis in your vagina when you couldn’t consent? And you knew these men? How many? Would you say they were friends or just acquaintances? This woman--molested by a cousin when she was seven, drugged and raped by a friend at nineteen--is selling her art at the farmer’s market with a paint brush and typewriter key braided into her sunflower hair. And then, what made you receive anal sex when you could not consent, meaning they put their penis into your anus? Made you perform oral sex, meaning they put their penis in your mouth or made you penetrate their anus with your mouth? Made you receive oral sex, meaning they put their mouth on your vagina or anus when you could not consent? This woman—raped by her dad, gang-raped at sixteen--is wearing neon-teal tights and Cleopatra eyes and is selling you coffee. She purses her lips, and you pour the cream on your phone. How many people have ever used physical force or threats to physically harm you to make you have vaginal sex? How many was that again? How about make you receive anal sex? Make you perform oral sex? Make you receive oral sex? Put their fingers or an object in your vagina or anus? This woman--raped at eleven--is attacking her acoustic guitar on the fire escape and will eventually answer her girlfriend’s calls. How many people have ever used physical force or threats of physical harm to try to have vaginal, oral, or anal sex with you, but sex did not happen? This woman--married to a man who screams at her when the paper doesn’t come--is making green bean casserole and practicing her lesson on mythology in her head. Her students remember Circe for decades. How many people have you had vaginal, oral, or anal sex with after they pressured you by doing things like telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue, threatening to end your relationship, or threatening to spread rumors about you? Wearing you down by repeatedly asking for sex or showing they were unhappy? Uh, there’s not a place for “I was married.” Do you have a number of times you could give me? A number between one and a hundred. Now, what about someone using their authority over you, for example, your boss or teacher? This woman--molested, became anorexic--is riding a carousel with her niece and relating each type of bread to a different fairy tale. Her eyes alight when she explains what a tinderbox is. How many people have ever watched or followed you from a distance, or spied on you with a listening device, camera, or GPS? Approached you or showed up in places, such as your home, workplace, or school, when you didn’t want them to be there? Left strange or potentially threatening items for you to find? Sneaked into your home or car and did things to scare you by letting you know they had been there? Left you unwanted messages including text or voice messages? Made unwanted phone calls to you including hang-up calls? Sent you unwanted emails, instant messages, or sent messages through websites like Facebook? Left you cards, letters, flowers, or presents when they knew you didn’t want them to? This woman--raped when drunk by a friend of a friend--is making music videos in a gypsy skirt and going to every bluegrass show that comes to town. How many of your romantic or sexual partners have ever acted very angry toward you in a way that seemed dangerous? Told you that you were a loser, a failure, or not good enough? Called you names like ugly, fat, crazy, or stupid? Insulted, humiliated, or made fun of you in front of others? Told you that no one else would want you? Do you need a break? Should we make another appointment to continue? This woman--beaten by her husband in front of their daughter--is learning German and politics so she can work at the U.N. How many of your romantic or sexual partners have ever tried to keep you from seeing or talking to your family or friends? Made decisions for you that should have been yours to make, such as the clothes you wear, things you eat, or the friends you have? Kept track of you by demanding to know where you were and what you were doing? Made threats to physically harm you? How many times was that again? This woman--tied to the bed by her husband every time he went to work for six years--is buying asparagus and wishing she had enough for moonflower seeds. Next year. Next year she’ll be able to afford a garden. Okay, how about threatened to hurt himself or commit suicide when he was upset with you? Threatened to hurt a pet or threatened to take a pet away from you? Threatened to hurt someone you love? Threatened to take your children away from you? Kept you from leaving the house when you wanted to go? Kept you from having money for your own use? Destroyed something that was important to you? Said things like, “If I can’t have you, then no one can”? This woman--sexually harassed by her boss and all her savings stolen by her gambling husband--is making swans out of onions. No, all of the above is not a possible answer. You must say how many and give initials for each and list how many occurrences and your ages at the time and how long this was happening; now, let’s go through the list again. This woman--raped by her husband for five years--is pulling an all-nighter to total the space needed for eight zucchinis, sixteen beans, twelve broccoli, and as much spinach as possible in a twenty square-foot garden and to write a narrative of her love for drain tunnels. Her phone is always on silent. How many of your romantic or sexual partners have ever tried to get you pregnant when you did not want to become pregnant or tried to stop you from using birth control? Refused to use a condom when you wanted them to use one? This woman--raped when she took a guy home from a gig--is hiding in a closet from her daughter. She is found in laughter and silk. How many of your romantic or sexual partners have ever slapped you? Pushed or shoved you? Hit you with a fist or something hard? Kicked you? Hurt you by pulling your hair? Slammed you against something? Tried to hurt you by choking or suffocating you? Beaten you? Burned you on purpose? Used a knife or gun on you? That isn’t a specific category; I’ll put it in the last one. This woman--still stalked by her ex-boyfriend after a year--is singing “Hold On” and thinking she might not need a drink to sleep tonight. Have you ever needed medical attention? Did you receive medical attention? This woman--married to a man in sympathy for sixteen years--is drawing her wife with charcoal. How many days of work have you missed because of these occurrences? How many days of school have you missed because of these occurrences? This woman--raped and beaten by her husband for three years--is learning to talk to a man on the train. She is finding herself smiling. She is not lying; she is not being polite. Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Do you have nightmares? Do you often have headaches? Do you often drink or use illegal substances? Do you ever find yourself keeping distance from others in your life or refraining from entering relationships? Do you avoid sexual partnerships? Do you check your doors repeatedly? Do you often look over your shoulder? Do you refrain from going out alone? Do you often feel stressed? Do you have anxiety? Do you have depression? Do you have any eating disorders? Do you have other mental or emotional problems? How often do you consider suicide? Thank you for your time. Your answers will be kept strictly confidential.
"New Study Find You, Braided With" borrows text from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's survey on Intimate Partner Violence.
Amy Jo Trier-Walker lives and works on a tree and herb farm in Indiana, and she is the author of Trembling Ourselves into Trees (Horse Less Press, 2015). Recent work can also be found in New American Writing, Caliban, Ghost Ocean, Tinderbox Poetry Review, and inter|rupture, among others.