When Home Is Not Safe

Writings on Domestic Verbal, Emotional and Physical Abuse


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About the Book

Even if you haven’t been hurt by domestic violence, someone you know has and wishes they could tell you about it. Perhaps you are a therapist, teacher, academic, or social worker who wants to help those who are suffering. Or maybe you are in an abusive relationship and need to know that you are not alone.

The poems, memoirs, and creative nonfiction pieces collected here tell of real incidents of abuse, as well as of those who left destructive and unsalvageable relationships. The beauty and truth of the language, as well as the honesty and courage, set this anthology apart from self-help manuals and academic treatises on domestic violence. This book offers a path forward to healing, health and fulfillment, using the power of art to give voice where voice has been stifled, forgotten, overlooked or denied.

About the Author(s)

Judith Skillman is the recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets and Artist Trust, and has published twenty collections of poetry. She is a faculty member at the Hugo House in Seattle, Washington.

Linera Lucas won the Crucible Fiction Prize and her poetry and short stories have been widely published. She has taught at the University of Washington Women’s Center and Hugo House in Seattle.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Judith Skillman and Linera Lucas
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 221
Bibliographic Info: notes, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8392-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4412-7
Imprint: Exposit

Table of Contents

Preface by Judith Skillman and Linera Lucas 1

Introduction by Judith Skillman and Linera Lucas 4


Heidi Seaborn

Weather  9

Drafting a Flight Plan  9

Jennifer Jenkins

Hit Me  10

Susan April

The Ballet  13

Howie Good

Anger Is an Arrow  20

Stick Figure Family  20

The Secret Goldfish  20

Emma Brousseau

What’s True of the Garden Pea  21

Wren Tuatha

Fissure  25

Chelsea Clammer

Balcony, 3 a.m.  26

Nina Fosati

Her Father’s Daughter  28

RK Taylor

holy / days  30

Lynn Magill

You Smiled   30

Michael  31

Cynthia Steele

Words “Too Dark” for the Father’s Day Edition  33

Kurt Olsson

Packs  41

Drowned  42

The Best of a Bad Year  42

J. Flynn Doncaster

Ever Closer  43


Lindsay Erdman

Abroad  46

LeeAnn Olivier

Kintsugi  46

Aimee Parkison

Girl in Rape Kit  54

Victoria Elizabeth Ruwi

A Slice of Summer  55

Mary Ellen Talley

Wine Song  59

How to Survive Abuse  59

A Steady Whip  59

Ogu Chukwuebuka Kizito

Voices from the Streets  60

Carolyne Wright

Mandamientos: Lover to Beloved  63

I Forgive  63

Paul Rousseau

Kitchen Table  64


It Wasn’t the First Time He Hit Me  66

Darlene Goetzman

Reading the Lines  67

Anne Spollen

From Where I Live Now  76

Izzy Wilson

Why Are They Fighting?  79

Christina Hoag

When His Words Became a Drug  82

Amelia Goldman

The Fixer  88

Sally Quon

Beginnings  88

Gayelene Carbis

His face Right in My Face  93

The Weight of Words in Our Hands Like Water  96

This is What Happened  97

Kelsey Brown

A Game of Cat and Mouse  100

Polly Buckingham

Excerpt—The Queen in the Mirror  110


Tina Barry

Pine  122

Roxanne James

Counting Raindrops  123

Lillo Way

Pearls Before Swine  126

Sally Showalter

Stone Lies  127

H.M. Clark

Fire Line  131

Danielle Hark

I Keep Secrets Stashed in a Lock Box  134

Abandoned Doll  134

Cold Sheets  135

Secrets Stashed in Tiny Orange Pill Bottles  136

Lexy Courneya

Memoir Excerpts  136

Memoir Excerpts II  141

Joyce Hayden

The Out of Body Girl  142

Marjorie Maddox

Eiffel Tower  154

On a Hot Summer Night for Revenge  155

The Truth of Lies, The Lies of Truth  156

Sharp.  157

IV—In Retrospect

Susan Landgraf

The Woman Who Held Her Tongue  159

Carol Smallwood

House of Cards  159

A Picnic  160

Rosanne Ehrlich

­Two-Year Slide in Brooklyn Heights  161

Linera Lucas

Saddle Up  172

Signal  173

Lindsey Heatherly

Weaving Rope  173

Robert Kingett

My First Online Love  177

Alice Ting Liu

Tug of War  180

Judith Skillman

Trellis  183

Years Later  184

Jeff Burd

Lost in Transmission  185

Mary Zelinka

Last Supper  188

Sailor Holladay

Red Flag  190

Alison Stone

Heretic  194

Tina Kelley

Pushed Out of the Chevy, She Adjusts Her Miniskirt  195

Meggie Royer

Twenty Years of Rain  195

Acknowledgments 197

Acknowledgments of Previously Published Work 199

Notes 201

About the Contributors 203

Index 211

Book Reviews & Awards

• “When Home Is Not Safe brings a necessary voice to the silent and all-pervasive epidemic of domestic abuse among us. This is a powerful anthology—healing for the writer, eye-opening for the reader. As a therapist and a poet, I highly recommend this collection.”—Gayle Kaune MSW, LICSW, author, Noise from Stars

• “This anthology on a wide range of abuse is alive in its varied writings, both prose and poetry. The full sensory experience of domestic violence reveals human suffering, as well as triumph over trauma. The sheer existence of these writings is memorable; this is a must read for educators, social workers, and all those in the field of domestic abuse.”—Ellen Katz, PhD, MSW, RSW, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

• “How are we to receive and make use of these cries of the heart? These writings serve as sociological evidence of the imposition of the disturbed narratives of the powerful upon the vulnerable, in our domestic lives. I see them as reminders of the need to assure victims that their narratives matter more, and that the shame of what was done lies with the perpetrators.”—Patty Cannon MA LMHC, psychotherapist, Seattle Washington