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NEWS | May 1, 2013

From behind the shadows: A stolen innocence

By Airman 1st Class Victoria Taylor 633rd Air Base Wing

He made his way up to the microphone with tears in his eyes, as he carefully unfolded a piece of paper. With nervous apprehension, he began to steadily read his poem to the audience.

"From behind the shadow, behind the trees,
was my stolen innocence and my dignity.
Will someone help me, in the land of the free?
Help me end this violence, and forced indecency."

In a shaking voice, he continued.

"What are you doing? No! Please! Stop!
How could you do this? Could you do this, to me?"

For Tech Sgt. Michael Shaw, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron section planner, writing that poem meant more than just words on paper; it was a way to express his experiences and bring awareness to the need to prevent and end sexual assault.

As he stepped back from the microphone, somber applause filled the park. His hands shook as he refolded the paper.

Shaw's heart-wrenching poem, "Listen," was written for Langley's first Sexual Assault awareness Poetry Slam held at Memorial Park, Langley Air Force Base, Va., April 26, 2013.

Shaw said the poem was about a young woman he knew from childhood, a crush he had while his father was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

"This woman was such a strong survivor," said Shaw. "I wrote 'Listen' for her, in her honor."

According to Shaw, he considered to be his girlfriend, but only in a childlike innocence.

"It was common for children in my day to ask each other 'Will you go out with me?' then skip off holding hands," said Shaw. "I was 13 and had a puppy-dog crush on a girl."

After Shaw's family moved around within the town, for several years, the two had begun going their separate ways. Shaw eventually learned from friends that his "puppy-love" had been raped; she was only 14.

The last time that Shaw saw her was at a local restaurant, a few years later. She hid in the back booth, out of view, holding a baby. He later found out from friends that she did not want him to know what had happened to her.

"She had such a loving heart that was made to suffer at such a young, delicate time, and then to bear a child and have the strength to love that child as her own," said Shaw. "I never saw her again. I can only remember her pretty face."

Even though Shaw had only known her for a few years, he had never forgotten this young girl. Shaw said being able to support awareness through his poem has enormous meaning.

"To me it is a reflection of reality and of life," said Shaw. "Life happens and sometimes it is beautiful and sometimes it hurts so badly. Even though nobody wants to talk about it, we have to do something."

As Shaw left the Poetry Slam, paper in hand and memory in tow, he had done something. By the steady applause from the audience, he had made others remember as well.

If you or someone you know has suffered from sexual assault and would like resources, contact the Langley Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at (757) 764-7272 or the Fort Eustis Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at (757) 268-8967.