Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Janette Schafer: On the day I testify for Homeland Security

an homage to “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

The darkness drops again.  I square
my shoulders, dab lipstick of martyr red
on that which spills the truth.

My mind fixes on the memory of his mustache,
gagging hair, rude insinuation of tongue
in my cavity of gums.

My prayers were not to be the only one.
In the shadow, 438 images of child pornography.
I slouch beneath supplication.
We were but mice to a falcon.

I think of the shape of my seven-year-old body
cocooned in the weight of my
near-fifty years.  She is in my throat,
her second coming at hand.

Together we draw nigh to this rough beast
under protection of the Federal Government.
We face the nightmare
of our rocking cradle.

Surely there is more
than this gray room and sterile sound
of fingers on a keyboard
taking record of this blood-dimmed tide.

At the edge of my fingertips
she shimmers of invisibility,
the child I was before his slow thighs
blanked her gaze.

She is Light Guardian, Music of the Spheres,
her hour, come at last.


Janette Schafer is a freelance writer, photographer, and singer living in Pittsburgh. She is the chief editor of Social Justice Anthologies and the Artistic Director of Beautiful Cadaver Project Pittsburgh. Her writing and photographs have appeared in numerous publications. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. She is the author of “Something Here Will Grow” published by Main Street Rag. She has a forthcoming chapbook titled “Mother’s Unbearable Itch” from Alien Buddha Press.

Familial and sexual trauma are motifs in Janette’s writing. On October 7, 2019, the man who had sexually abused Janette as a child was arrested by federal agents. Facebook reported to Homeland Security conversations in which her abuser had used Facebook’s messenger to solicit young girls to send sexually explicit photos and videos. Janette testified to Homeland Security about the sexual trauma she had endured until age 13 from her abuser. The federal agent indicated that her testimony helped secure a plea deal for the prosecution and her victim impact letter was read at sentencing. Her abuser was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison and began serving his term in December 2020.

Janette agreed to share these details publicly in an extended bio to help allay the stigma, shame, and secrecy inherent with being a sex abuse survivor. She also wishes to thank PAAR (Pittsburgh Action Against Rape) for the support as she gave testimony and waited for the trial and sentencing outcomes. The phone number for PAAR is 412.431.5665.

For more information about the case, please visit:
https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/2019/11/18/michigan-man-uses-facebook-to-lure-girls-in-philippines-into-sending-explicit-images-feds-say/

https://www.abc12.com/content/news/Shiawassee-County-man-accused-of-obtaining-400-child-porn-images-from-Philippines-565162572.html

https://www.argus-press.com/news/news_local/article_fd5f083f-58dc-59ed-a6c4-2de5556f0f25.html

Copyright 2021 Janette Schafer

10 comments on “Janette Schafer: On the day I testify for Homeland Security

  1. fgsjr2015
    May 15, 2021

    Thank you for your reply.

    I can’t help but wonder how many instances there have been wherein immense long-term suffering by children of dysfunctional rearing might have been prevented had the parent(s) received, as high school students, some crucial child development science education by way of mandatory curriculum? After all, dysfunctional and/or abusive parents, for example, may not have had the chance to be anything else due to their lack of such education and their own dysfunctional/abusive rearing as children.

    If we, society, are to avoid the dreadedly invasive conventional reactive means of intervention — that of governmental forced removal of children from dysfunctional/abusive home environments — maybe we then should be willing to try an unconventional proactive means of preventing some future dysfunctional/abusive family situations. Child development science high-school curriculum might be one way.

    While such curriculum may sound invasive — some will even say it sounds too much like socialism or communism — especially to traditionalist parents distrustful of the public education system, I really believe it’s in future generations’ best interests.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      May 15, 2021

      Yes, it does seem strange that in order to drive a car, a citizen has to undergo training and testing, but in order to raise a child, infinitely more important and complex, no training is required or even expected.

      Liked by 2 people

      • fgsjr2015
        May 17, 2021

        You’re quite right. …

        “This is the most important job we have to do as humans and as citizens … If we offer classes in auto mechanics and civics, why not parenting? A lot of what happens to children that’s bad derives from ignorance … Parents go by folklore, or by what they’ve heard, or by their instincts, all of which can be very wrong.”
        —Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

        “I remember leaving the hospital thinking, ‘Wait, are they going to let me just walk off with him? I don’t know beans about babies! I don’t have a license to do this. We’re just amateurs’.”
        —Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons

        “It’s only after children have been discovered to be severely battered that their parents are forced to take a childrearing course as a condition of regaining custody. That’s much like requiring no license or driver’s ed[ucation] to drive a car, then waiting until drivers injure or kill someone before demanding that they learn how to drive.”
        —Myriam Miedzian, Ph.D.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Vox Populi
          May 18, 2021

          Profound and beautiful quotations. Thank you for posting them!

          Liked by 2 people

          • fgsjr2015
            May 18, 2021

            I also find them very thought provoking, considering the perhaps preventable future human-suffering toll they implicitly address.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. fgsjr2015
    May 15, 2021

    Trauma from unchecked child abuse typically results in the helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it acts as his/her starting point into an adolescence and (in particular) an adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. In short, it can make every day an emotional/psychological ordeal, unless the mental turmoil is doused with some form of self-medicating.

    I believe the wellbeing of all children — and not just what other parents’ children might/will cost us as future criminals or costly cases of government care, etcetera — should be of great importance to us all, regardless of whether we’re doing a great job with our own developing children. A psychologically and emotionally sound (as well as a physically healthy) future should be every child’s foremost right, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.

    “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.” —Childhood Disrupted, pg.228.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      May 15, 2021

      Thank you for this thorough and perceptive response. I couldn’t agree more with the idea that most of our psychological disorders and maladaptations to life have their roots in childhood trauma, and most of those traumas involve intentional harm to the child by adults or older children.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Rose Mary Boehm
    May 8, 2021

    Heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barbara Huntington
    May 8, 2021

    Thank you for writing this Janette. Thank you for posting this. Michael. 15 years for how many children’s lifetimes.

    Liked by 1 person

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