Prose Poem – Rape is Robbery and We Want All of Our Stuff Back by Marie Cartier

We protect ourselves by saying it wasn’t that bad.

It only happened once, twice, when I was little, when I was older, when I was drunk, when I was the only one not drinking, when I was alone, when I was out with friends, when I was in the break room at work, when I was in the military, when I was unemployed, when I asked for a raise, when I was silent, when I…

When you can’t change it, you change yourself. Because it’s better than thinking you can’t change anything. It’s epidemic, people say. So it’s better than thinking it’s epidemic—the abuse of women.

So, you think, if I blame myself, maybe there’s hope.

That things will get better. Because I can change—me.

In a room of forty students I conduct a training to sensitize us. Stand up, I say. Then, sit down if you or someone very close to you has been raped. Many sit.

Molested, battered, sexually harassed at work. Each directive produces more students sitting.

Within less than three minutes there is one person standing. One.

We all blink at each other. And I see these students realize: maybe it was never my fault. Maybe it’s a problem in the world. Maybe I don’t need to be ashamed anymore.

I say—you know what? If you were robbed, you would tell someone. You wouldn’t be ashamed if you were robbed. You would yell—Hey, he stole my purse. Help!

And I look at them and say — you were robbed. Something was stolen.

And on top of it you were told to not tell anyone. You’ll be killed if you tell. No one will believe you. You deserved it. They’ll call you crazy, lying, a slut.

If your wallet was stolen – people would believe you. That’s my story you would say. My wallet was stolen. My car. My belongings. The police are looking into it.


If someone steals your right to sleep with the lights off, then you were robbed. If you are afraid of the dark now, and you weren’t before, you were robbed. If someone steals your right to have sex because every time your legs part, you see the rapist and you freeze, you were robbed. If someone steals your right to go out at night because it happened at night, in the morning, because it happened in the morning, at a bar because it happened in a bar…. You get the idea. You were robbed.

We’re afraid no one will believe us. Because rape is the crime where out of 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free. Three out of four rapes are not reported. Only 20 percent of students ever report a rape and only 28 percent of the elderly.

Had enough yet?

Because right now rape happens very 42 seconds. How long have you been reading this poem?

Because there’s a good chance at least three rapes have happened since you started reading

if you’re a slow reader, at least one if you’re fast.

Someone somewhere was raped, and can you hear the silence?

Someone is afraid to tell. Someone is afraid to be shamed, to be thought crazy, to get hurt worse, to not be believed—if they tell. What happened was bad enough.

Women. Women. Women. And men. And women and children. Rape is a robbery.

A robbery where you are supposed to be ashamed of being robbed.

Rape is that little girl old woman gay man migrant worker high powered executive battered wife street walker soldier housewife teacher student.

The face of rape shifts to include everyone—so many who are not speaking.

It’s well known that if you yell fire you will get more help than yelling rape. Fire.

How do we change it? Because robbery is a crime. And you get to report it.

And you get to maybe get your stuff back.


We are in the velvet dark now.

The bitter strong stars. And we stand solid with the stories. We have a right to be here.

This is how we change it; we think. We are howling at the moon. We are taking the stars into our raised fists. We are cutting the sky with our teeth. We are angry. And powerful. A comet passes through our hair. We light up against that sky.

Rape is a robbery, we say. We have been robbed; we say. We scream into the night, Rape is a robbery.

And then we take everything, everything, everything we have lost—

we take everything back.


–Marie Cartier

In These United States, October 2019


Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

5 thoughts on “Prose Poem – Rape is Robbery and We Want All of Our Stuff Back by Marie Cartier”

  1. Somebody almost walked off wid alla of my stuff….

    stealin my shit from me/ dont make it yrs/ makes it stolen/
somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff/ & i waz standin
 there/ lookin at myself/ the whole time 
& it waznt a spirit took my stuff/ waz a man whose 
ego walked round like Rodan’s shadow/ waz a man faster
n my innocence/

    waz a lover/ i made too much 
room for/ almost run off wit alla my stuff/
& i didnt know i’d give it up so quik/ & the one runnin wit it/
don’t know he got it/ & i’m shoutin this is mine/ & he dont 
know he got it/ my stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure
 of the year/

    did you know somebody almost got away wit me/
me in a plastic bag under their arm/ me 
danglin on a string of personal carelessness/ i’m spattered wit
 mud & city rain/ & no i didnt get a chance to take a douche/
hey man/ this is not your perogative/ i gotta have me in my
 pocket/ to get round like a good woman shd/ & make the poem
in the pot or the chicken in the dance/

    Love to dearly departed Ntozake Shange for still being such an inspiration to women of all colors

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I hardly know what to say Marie – as a woman who has worked with abused women – raped women – well – I would have given anything to have had this piece of writing to hand out in class at university or during a “counseling” session. As a sexual abuse survivor i want to hang the whole damn thing on my wall for EVERYONE to see…. a fantastically powerful piece – Thank You!


  3. Thank you for a powerful piece. I have always wondered about the “shame” thing. Shame is something I have carried with me as baggage weighing me down my whole life. I can’t figure it out though. I did nothing to bring on the abuse of my father or the rape at knifepoint I experienced as a young adult. Would it have been better for me to have had the knife stuck into me instead? So why shame? It makes no sense. And yet there it is. F*#K YOU SHAME! We women need to find a way to shed what we do to ourselves in the face of trauma.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: