After the Assault

I begin to have panic attacks in the dance studio. I have been dancing for seven years, but now, suddenly, I can’t. I can’t go to auditions. I begin to skip the occasional class. In the studio, I can’t stand the sight of myself in the mirror. In my maroon leotard and pink tights, I lookContinue reading “After the Assault”

The Second Assault

I am still in seventh grade, but I have made two friends. A girl at school. And another girl in my neighborhood. Stephanie. Stephanie is about two years younger than I am, but she is tall and willowy. She is part Cherokee and part white, and her long black hair shines. She talks of almostContinue reading “The Second Assault”

Shut into the Dark

In the early 1970s, Martin Seligman led experiments on learned helplessness. He tested whether you could abuse dogs to a point where they just gave up. The answer is of course you can. One group of dogs was given electric shocks they could easily end by pressing a lever. Another group was given shocks theyContinue reading “Shut into the Dark”


Every story has its heroes and villains. In a story of trauma and assault, the villains are easy to spot. It’s the heroes who can be harder to see. Look at any trauma survivor. Look deep enough, and you will find a human behaving badly. It’s inevitable. PTSD is an ugly beast. From punching wallsContinue reading “Frank”

The Body Tells the Truth

I am sitting in social studies class a month or two into seventh grade. Suddenly, I cannot see Mrs. Johnson’s face. It is like someone has pressed a thumb over my vision and smudged the center of it. A smudged thumbprint where her face should be. I try to keep taking notes. I am aContinue reading “The Body Tells the Truth”

When Post-Traumatic Stress Begins

I wish I could tell you that was the end of it. I held an umbrella and felt strong, and suddenly I was better. There. All better now. A band-aid. A blessing. And I was all set to go. But that isn’t how trauma works. I am 12, and I don’t yet know that justContinue reading “When Post-Traumatic Stress Begins”

The Aftermath

The next memories I can place with any certainty are in the last month of sixth grade. I am with my best friends, Heidi and Christine, girls whose lives hold their own traumas. We have completed our end-of-year projects—my purple rocket with a Lego monkey inside the capsule, books we have written and will presentContinue reading “The Aftermath”

The First Assault

My father had been my ally in the family. True, he’d done some weird shit. When I was in preschool, my mother’s cat had turned up dead in the storage room where he kept his tools. He never explained how he hadn’t noticed her starving in there. When I was five, I told him IContinue reading “The First Assault”