Cayenne Bradley Literature Poetry

Crime Victim Assistance Gauntlet

Please indicate the type of crime that occurred (e.g., home invasion, assault). 

What counts as a crime? What is the exact threshold? What specific dimensions of flesh delineate the parameters of abuse? He started at the feet and hands, and then the arms and legs; con-men know that the more times they can elicit an innocuous yes – Can I come inside for a minute? Is it okay if I sit down? Could I bother you for a cup of water? – the easier it is to persuade the conned to accept the scam. Is a stepfather touching his stepdaughter’s feet a crime? Calves? Knees? Thighs? But you want to know the type. It was theft. He entered my body and stole me from myself. He knew better than to leave bruises or DNA, which is to say you will have to take me at my word, and who are you anyway? How do you decide who deserves free therapy and who doesn’t? Is there a specific combination of words I should use to make you empathize enough?

If the crime occurred over a period of time, please provide the approximate dates (e.g., Sept 2001 – Dec 2002).

I know, of course, the answer you want me to give. You don’t want to know about elbows and knees. You’re asking: when and how many times and for how long did your stepfather inhabit the very center of you? But I cannot answer this, because I don’t know. I was drugged with sleeping pills and alcohol, and much is irretrievably repressed. I will give you a defined time frame because there is no option on this application for ambiguity, but please know that this snips away vague smudges of half-memories and years of subtle insidious intrusion. 

Is this application being filed within one year of the date of the crime? If no: Briefly explain why you did not apply sooner (see reverse for explanation).

How was I supposed to know this funding existed? The constable didn’t tell me, and you don’t post advertisements on high school walls. My trauma was a gaping black-hole mouth that threatened to swallow me if I so much as looked its way. The time and matter of my memories warped and mutated in proximity to it, and I had to always run to stay ahead of its hunger. I was never given a language to speak about any of this, and besides, I couldn’t focus well enough to read or write; words blurred and melted off the page. I could barely remember myself, let alone dates and case numbers. You do not know how much courage it takes to re-slice wounds and bleed fresh all over an eleven-page government document to prove you are hurt and need healing, knowing you may still be denied. Could you do that at fifteen with no help from anyone? Could you do that now?

Briefly describe how the incident occurred, in your own words. Please complete this section even if you have filed a police report.

The incidents occurred. Briefly, the incidents occurred. Briefly, in my own words, the incidents occurred. I sit for an hour with my pen over this section, then rip up the eleven pages and throw them in the garbage. I will try again next week, next month, next year, but to describe it in my own words means I’m going to speak around it. His sheets were light beige with a high thread count. I watched the blue laptop light blink at the wall like a lighthouse. It was so quiet I could hear the refrigerator downstairs. Can I stop here? When you ask me questions like this, the black hole yawns open again. I don’t trust you. I don’t know who you are. Have you considered the fact that those who need therapy the most might not get past this question? Do you take accountability for the harm caused by forcing traumatized people to relive the worst moments of their entire life? But I’m not allowed to ask questions. You will enter my bloodstream while I know nothing about you at all.

Please specify any injuries, physical or psychological, you sustained as a result of the crime (e.g., bruised leg, broken wrist, sleeplessness). 

What counts as an injury? Is being incapable of filling out a form an injury? Yes – sleeplessness. That’s a good one. It takes three different medications to knock me out, and on top of that some combination of weed, alcohol, and Nyquil, and only if I’m facing the door, fully clothed. What else? The shadow of a shaggy black dog once followed me for an entire year. Is that an injury? Lovers’ hands on my body will spontaneously turn into needles. I can barely stand to touch my body, or look at myself naked, for my hands have become his hands and my eyes his eyes. Is being possessed an injury? Some injuries don’t feel like injuries anymore, they just feel like me. The diagnosed depression, anxiety, chronic insomnia, and complex PTSD; the history of self harm and addiction; the suicide attempt. I know that’s your language. I know that’s what you want me to say. But these words are so clinical and hollow, so stripped of meaning. This system you’ve designed means I can’t have therapy unless I force my wounds to speak in a 4×7 inch text box to some nameless other whose job is to be objective and emotionally detached, and who is ordered by government regulations to accept some applications and reject others. Have I told you enough? Have I told you enough in the right way? How do you decide if I am worthy?


Cayenne Bradley is a queer, nonbinary writer living on the traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam, Coast Salish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations in Vancouver, BC. They won first place in Room Magazine’s 2020 short forms contest and are also published in Existere and periodicities. They currently study creative writing at the University of British Columbia.