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Our Bodies Keep the Score

Updated: Nov 25, 2022

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today, the Mona blog laments all that is lost by girls and women internationally because they are subjected to violence, abuse and control at the hands of men (yes, it is statistically and overwhelming men) and betrayed by the individuals and systems that are supposed to protect them. Women who live in rural, regional and remote communities are more likely to experience violence in all its forms and, today, Mona celebrates the survivors in our rural communities, one of whom is L.M. Kervin.


CONTENT WARNING: the following poem contains reference to sexual assault and self harm. If you or someone you know requires support, please call 1800RESPECT or 1800 011 511; for situations of immediate danger, please call 000.

The Body Keeps the Score

L. M. Kervin

I don’t know what’s to happen yet

and I sure don’t know what for

but one thing I am sure of is

my body kept the score.

From the movies playing in my head

to the restless night time wanderings

the tossing and turning in my bed

the childhood memories I’m squandering.

I hold on tight to my dolly

she keeps me safe when she can

but from that fateful night time visitor

no one saved me from that man.

And now my hands shake at shadows

that pass silent through my door

and my brain goes back to 13

with broken glass upon the floor.

The blood flows from my wrists

not enough, too much, I’m afraid -

not enough near to end it,

too much for the mental charade.

I pick myself up and go to bed

but sleep escapes my mind

for here in my place of comfort

My memories rewind.

And instead of the me who cries for help,

I’m just the me who cries

the one who no one chose to hear

despite my futile tries.

But here I cannot hurt myself

I claim it’s not my fault,

and though I know I’m not that child

I cannot call a halt.

For here beneath the blankets

curled up in a little ball

I take on the body of no one -

a no body at all.

But eventually I must leave this room

for the clock ticks to and fro

but when I leave my body escapes

my scars again on show.

The angry ones upon my wrist

from loss of power and support

the broken ones upon my legs

because the wrist ones got me caught.

But the scars upon my body

that no one ever sees

are those of broken heartedness

the most deadly of disease.

A loss of will and motivation

the no more get-up-and-go;

instead I sit here awaiting

instructions to heaven, or no?

I’ve given up on searching

to find the purpose and hope

it all ends in destruction

down a rifles scope.

Damned if I do or don’t

my mantra long enough

I’d stand up and show my score

If only I could be that tough.

Instead I take it day by day,

seeking help from those who offer

those who my scars don’t offend

those who their scars they proffer.

For out there are more of us

wounded from our battles,

the battle between life and living,

we shake every cage that rattles.

So while I’m down and out,

my scars still red and raw

I’ll try and reach out to the army

whose bodies keep the score.


Author Profile

L. M. Kervin's experience in high school teaching has shown her that her students know more than they let on, and often to them a lesson learned is not necessarily the English lesson she provides. They have experiences and lives outside school and it has been her heart-wrenching honour to have students open up to her. Her own mental health took a dive and she took a lesson from her students. She found someone to open up to but she also found solace in writing; to get out of her head and onto paper. Finding a character she gels with or creating a character she wants, all sometimes help her escape her own reality. She hopes that her writing can help someone else on their journey and remind them they are not alone. Ever.


UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls.

Five years ago, the #MeToo movement, founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, exploded and sparked global mobilization creating a moment of urgency in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls.

Since then, unprecedented awareness and momentum have been created thanks to the relentless work of grassroots activists, women’s human rights defenders and survivor advocates worldwide to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

At the same time, there has been a rise in anti-rights movements, including anti-feminist groups, resulting in shrinking space for civil society, a backlash against women’s rights organizations and a rise in attacks against women human rights defenders and activists.

That is why this 2022 theme is UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls.

Why do we need the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.

In general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing:

  • intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide);

  • sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment);

  • human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);

  • female genital mutilation; and

  • child marriage.

To further clarify, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

The adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences of VAWG affect women at all stages of their life. For example, early-set educational disadvantages not only represent the primary obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls; down the line they are also to blame for restricting access to higher education and even translate into limited opportunities for women in the labour market.

While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable - for instance, young girls and older women, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, migrants and refugees, indigenous women and ethnic minorities, or women and girls living with HIV and disabilities, and those living through humanitarian crises.


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