Report from the Field: On Literary Sexual Abuse, Sock Puppets, and White Sage—A Story in Blog Posts

This Report from the Field is authored by Annie Finch, and originally appeared on her personal blog,, in three installations, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 2 1/2, addressing ongoing allegations of sexual assault by several writers in the literary community.

I. Literary Sexual Abuse: Things I’ve Been Ashamed to Share About Being a Writer Until Now

Last night, my husband Glen and I went out for a date night in Portland. It was that green-golden-gray time when the soft old brick houses glow so warmly you can almost feel their heat through the black iron fences as you pass them on the streets, when the bare-shouldered days of a Maine summer seem so precious and fragile that I can hardly bear to think about their beauty. We were having a fun, relaxed walk down Congress Street when we passed a restaurant we used to go to pretty often, and he commented that we hadn’t been there in a while. . .

“I don’t feel like going there anymore,” I heard myself say quickly, noticing with an odd sensation of alienation that that’s the kind of thing I hardly ever say.

“But why?” Glen was surprised.

“Well, umm…”  I looked around a bit, then commented on the lovely evening. It’s also unlike me to hedge when answering a question. Usually I love to answer questions. But he persisted. “Ummm….it’s just that I had a kind of a gross experience there.”

“What do you mean? When?”

“and . . . ummm. . . that place feels sort of contaminated to me now . . .oh, last fall, I guess . . ”

Of course he wanted to know more. As I was telling him the story, I realized that it was the first time I had told it to anyone, in nearly a year. This isn’t like me either. Something had made me act quite unlike myself. And here’s what it was.

On a Friday night last fall, I attended a literary event in Portland where I knew several other writers, including the two writers who had curated this evening of staged conversation: a local well-known writer of fiction and nonfiction, Bill Roorbach, and his visiting friend Dave Gessner. I have a busy travel schedule and don’t get out with other writers in Portland that often, so I had a great time.  Afterwards, everyone decided to walk a few blocks to a local tapas place. I texted to Glen that I’d be out a while longer, and our group of writers descended on the bar, where we drank and talked for a few more hours.  Gradually, people peeled off, until there were about six or seven of us left, including Bill and Dave.  At one point, I looked around the circle and realized briefly that I was the only woman left in the group; I was a little disappointed the other women had gone, but then I got caught up in the conversation and forgot about it.

I was enjoying the chat about literary gossip and publishing when people started talking about getting together the following day at Bill’s house to continue the conversation as a sort of house party while Dave was in town.  It sounded like fun — I thought I might even try to persuade Glen to come along — so though I wasn’t sure if I’d actually make it over there the next day, I said, “sure, that sounds like fun — count me in.”

Then Bill, sitting next to me where we had been enjoying a perfectly civil and professional writerly conversation all evening, suddenly looked me right in the eye and said, “Great! Then we can all take turns fucking you.”

After 59 years of being a female on this planet, each year full of its own serious gender-related challenges, you’d think I would have finally come up with a way to handle comments like that.

But no.

It silences me every time, as it has since childhood, with the same icy sudden petrifying stab in the chest.

Then comes remembering that my face is visible, and then the urge to hide it, to cover the painful unfair heat rising in my cheeks.  Then comes the shame washing through me at being who—what—I—am.

Then comes the yawning emptiness of loneliness in my center, as I understand all over again in my core that I don’t belong here, that I am, even when I don’t know it, an alien, an outsider, an object in this world where I mistakenly thought I had a place.

Then insult piles onto injury, the helpless impotent silent taste of frustration demeaning my mouth as I realize that, once again, I am saying nothing, and will say nothing, to this man I had thought until this minute was my friend and even my literary supporter.

And I have no excuse. This isn’t someone hooting from a passing car or murmuring insinuatingly on the street, out of sight before I can gather my voice. Bill continues to sit right next to me grinning the asinine grin that I used to like, apparently unfazed by what has just come out of his mouth.  And this time I’m not fourteen anymore; I’m a respected writer, with dozens of years of therapy under her belt.  We are both married and we both know that we are, but that’s not the point. Even if we weren’t, this kind of comment is, simply, hate speech. So why don’t I tell him so? Why don’t I say something? Why don’t I let him know out of bounds that was, or at the very least, tell him how I feel, or at the very least try to satisfy my curiosity about how he could ever imagine he could get away with such a remark?

(because oh yeah, I realize only months later, thanks to me, he has gotten away with it, so far. And believe me, I hate myself for that. And when I think of the other writers, many surely more vulnerable than I am, some perhaps students, who have likely heard this kind of thing from him also, I can only hope this post will help.) [Note: I am keeping this writing as is to show how I felt for many months, but please see the note at the end of this post.]

I didn’t go to the event the next day.  And I haven’t attended any local literary social events since.  I still don’t have the stomach for it.

A week ago a dear friend, now in her mid-50s, told me that she recently came to understand why she never finished her Masters degree in writing.  One afternoon over thirty years ago, she was meeting with her thesis advisor in a cafe to discuss her work when he started asking her obscene personal questions about scenes in the manuscript.  She left the cafe in silence and didn’t tell anyone what had happened. Soon after, she dropped out of the program.  She never went back to school.

Another talented friend told me that when she was completing her MFA in creative writing, the world-renowned writer who was her teacher told her that unless she gave him oral sex, he wouldn’t write her any job recommendations.  She said nothing, left in silence, and didn’t tell anyone for years. I don’t know if that’s why, but she still doesn’t have a fulltime teaching job.

Most women likely have an endless litany of experiences like these or worse shoved down deep in our memories. There are the catcalls, the obscene comments, the grabs, the stares, the exposures, the whispers, and more whose memories move through our days and the panic, the clutched keys, the quick looks, the half-running strides through the dark, and more whose memories move through our nights.

Yet when we are writers, there’s another dimension too. When we are writers, it’s not just our voices that are silenced when we are silenced, but our lives. When we are writers, it’s not just for ourselves that we speak— and it’s not just for ourselves that we do not speak.

So, for the writers who are silenced, especially the younger writers, I am speaking up now, and I’m following the lead of VIDA in starting to name, at least partially, names.  I have felt what a burden silence is, and what a toll it takes, how it makes it impossible to let the experience go. I vow it here: I will no longer suffer the burden of secrecy in order to protect those who sexually abuse women writers, verbally or physically. I want to say to other women writers that what you have endured is not OK, that it is safe to speak up, that you are not alone. We are everywhere. We know what it’s like.  We know how it feels to be ashamed. And none of us needs to feel ashamed anymore.

Here are the secrets I’ve been keeping that I’ve been ashamed to share about being a writer. As I share them, I give up responsibility for silence:

When I was nine years old, I was standing in my parents’ yard on a spring afternoon staring at the buds on the trees in a deep reverie, making up one of my first poems. A group of boys walked by and shocked me out of my trance by yelling, “Joey wants your pussy!” I was horribly confused; first I thought they wanted to steal one of our cats, but that didn’t seem to be the case, and the only other pussy I knew of was growing on the pussy willow bush in the corner of the yard. But though I had no understanding of what they meant, I could tell from the way they kept watching for my reaction that somehow, this comment meant that I should feel very, very ashamed.

As a freshman in college, after class one day I spoke with my English professor, Alfred J. MacAdam, to ask his opinion about a paper I was going to write on Borges.  He prefaced his remarks by informing me that I was “the bombshell of Lit I.” Just as I did at age nine, I had to find out what that word meant before I could begin to try to understand why I suddenly felt so dirty, so helpless, and so very disempowered.

I started my first literary job when I moved to New York after college, at a legendary bookstore located next to the Whitney Museum. The owner, Burt Britten, groped me whenever he found me alone in the book aisles. All I could do was try to stay away from him, which made it hard to savor my first taste of the New York literary world. There was nobody to talk to about it; he was the boss.

As a young poet, mother of two kids, and assistant professor, I was walking through the middle of a packed hotel lobby at a writers conference in Atlanta and stopped to chat casually for five minutes with Ravi Shankar, the editor of a journal that had published my poems—a poet I had had dinner with along with a mutual friend a few years earlier but otherwise barely knew.  As we said goodbye, he grabbed me with very strong arms and suddenly shoved his tongue briefly and hard into my mouth, then walked away, leaving me in a state of violation and robbed energy that I still experience as I remember it.

As an associate professor at another conference, I sat down with a poet acquaintance I knew through years of casual occasional literary emails, Ethelbert Miller, on a bench outside an elevator to discuss his contribution to a book I was thinking of editing. As we talked earnestly about the project—the longest conversation we’d ever had in person to date—he casually rested his hand high up on my thigh—very high up on my thigh.  And kept it there.

During and immediately after each of these incidents, I’m ashamed to say that I just froze— robbed, it felt, entirely of myself.  In the middle of my own yard.  In the back of the Yale classroom.  In the aisles of books of poetry.  Amid a crowd of literary friends, readers, students.  At the birth of an anthology project.  And why? Why? Did I feel somehow responsible or guilty, even though I had done absolutely nothing to deserve this treatment? Was I trying to avoid embarrassing these men, with whom I’d had friendly professional relationships until then? Was my long training in silence, begun at the age of twelve when I told my mother I’d been sexually molested and she told me not to tell anyone, taking over my integrity, my power, my common sense? Did I think if I didn’t do anything, I could pretend to myself that it hadn’t happened?

For whatever reason, like so many women, I silently extricated myself as unobtrusively as I could and didn’t say anything to the perpetrators, nor to anyone else—not at the time and not afterwards. And it’s not that I’m incapable of speaking up, either. There have been many other incidents in my life where I was sexually assaulted and I did stand up to the men involved. Once I even broke someone’s finger. But not in these cases—and so these are the ones that have haunted me for years, the ones that won’t go away.  I see now that in all these cases, I was caught offguard when I was being a poet and writer—an area of life where I usually feel completely safe, completely myself. Maybe that’s why I chose to act as if they had never happened, to take the experiences inside and let them silence me.  To let them make me felt alone. To let them shame me.  To take away my voice.

Reading over this post, I find myself tempted to make excuses for some of the men.  “Oh, he was just joking.” “Oh, he didn’t mean it.”  “Oh, that should feel flattering.” “Oh, it’s no big deal.” And so on.  Maybe you feel some of the same responses arising in you.

If so, I encourage you to remember, or imagine, how your body may have felt in similar situations.  For example, in each of these instances, I can remember the same sequence of freezing, shame, emptiness, and bitter confusion invading my body that I felt after Bill’s remark. That’s the true response.  The rest is ego, self-manipulation, and justification.

The groundbreaking psychotherapist Alice Miller, in her book Banished Knowledge, points out that it’s an outrage that our culture expects children to forgive our parents for whatever harm we’ve endured at their hands. There’s no need to forgive, Miller argues. We can still love our parents, but it’s most important that we respect and honor the hurt child inside ourselves. That’s who needs us most, and that’s who we need most, if we want to reclaim our authentic selves.  And it’s the same with what one might call literary sexual abuse.

I have built my career under literary sexism, and I notice new forms of it regularly.  Whether it’s the miasma of sexist remarks from the blackboard, the lectern, the panel table, or in print; ignorance or lack of attention to female literary traditions and influences on the part of teachers, editors and reviewers; the grevious gender imbalances that still remain in the choice of book series and journal editorships, high-profile reading, lecture, and media engagements, contest judgeships, teaching appointments, visiting writer gigs, and publishing; or the deep sadness of hearing one’s most respected female mentors say that they’ve entirely stopped writing recommendations for grants and fellowships because “none of the people I recommend ever win” — sexism of these kinds is infuriating, debilitating, and—certainly— terribly, horribly silencing to our voices.

But still, those kinds of sexism don’t silence us from inside our own skin. They may make us feel angry, but they don’t make us feel ashamed. They don’t threaten to wall in our hearts, sever us from our bodies, and rot out our voices the way sexual abuse does.

As director of a creative writing program, I had to deal with firing three different male faculty members—two inherited when I got the job, and one whom I made the mistake of hiring—who had engaged in sexually harassing behavior with students (consensual in two of the cases). I am not listing their names because I think the university’s termination agreements may forbid it, but most of us in the literary world know of esteemed writers on creative writing faculties who are tolerated in spite of regularly making women students feel sexually uncomfortable or worse. When an ordinary eighteen-year-old who has consensual sex with a sixteen-year-old needs to stay on a public sexual offender registry for life, it doesn’t seem right that universities protect the reputations of teachers of creative writing whom numerous vulnerable young writers entrust with their most intimate and precious possession—their voice.

I feel that the only way to free our writers’ voices from the silence of shame is to use them to share our stories.  That’s why I have decided to speak up and share my own—finally.

P.S.  I would like to make clear here that my impression of Bill R. changed completely later on, as described in  Literary Sexual Abuse Part 2: Apologies and the comments of others who were there that night.  Here are excerpts from my note to one of them:   “This situation shows that a comment meant purely in jest by a kind and aware person can still turn out to be triggering and harmful. It is important for people to know that it’s not only sexist jerks who can perpetuate sexist abuse, but sensitive, wonderful people too. . . Even after we cleared up the misunderstanding about the joke part (the joke was based on a conversation about Game of Thrones that had been going on earlier that he assumed I’d heard, but I hadn’t), he chose to apologize anyway since, wonderful person as he is, he “got it” that 1. he had no way to be sure I was in a position to get the joke (i wasn’t) and 2. even if I was, he had no way to be sure I wasn’t someone who would be triggered by such a joke, and 3. even if I wasn’t triggered, any joke that depends on the gender of the person addressed for its humor is not a joke he wanted to tell.

II. Literary Sexual Abuse Part 2: Apologies

Speaking out about the secrets I’d been carrying turned out to be helpful not only for me, but for many others. Countless women have told me this week that they had similar experiences and that my piece helped them feel more validated and empowered to share their own stories and reclaim their voices. So many women shared their stories that it was like an ocean of poisonous contaminated water was unleashed and came washing over me. And still I’m saying thank you, sisters, mothers, daughters, keep it coming, because silence is so much worse! As we all know, any such tale is only the tip of the iceberg because the sexual abuse has been so constant, so ubiquitous, in our literary lives. So it can feel daunting to begin to speak because there is just so overwhelmingly much to tell. But to start seems to be the path to freedom. When I wrote my first post on literary sexual abuse, I had no idea what it would feel like afterwards; I was feeling rather numb in fact. But after the secrets I had carried so long were told, I was astounded to discover that, for the first time in my professional life, I knew what it felt like to carry myself with the full dignity of a complete human being.

One person, out of hundreds, suggested in a comment on my previous post that it was cowardice for me to speak out because I hadn’t done so at the time of the events. I disagree heartily—and I need to disagree, because the survival of the voices of so many women is at stake. I have been blessed to connect in the aftermath of my post with the editor of Drunken Boat, Erica Mena, who brought the model of Restorative Justice into our discussions of sexual abuse. This model seems to me the perfect way to approach these issues in the literary community, both for our own sakes and perhaps as a model for the larger national and world community to which writers, after all, are accountable. This is a community issue, one where communication and human connection, not finger-pointing and retribution, will lead to meaningful and lasting healing. In such a model there is no statute of limitation; it is never too early nor too late to speak the truth that as humans we deserve to tell–and in so doing, to get our voices back. Women who have been abused don’t owe anyone silence–not ever, and certainly not anymore. We don’t owe silence to the intimidators, attackers, or abusers, to bosses, editors, or publishers, to mothers, friends or sisters, to lovers, husbands or children, and least of all to those who are clueless about sexism.

As a male friend commented on reading the previous post, incidents like these are all about power, not about sex: they put women down and subtly (or blatantly, as in this case!) remind us throughout our literary careers that we are second or third class citizens. These are the pieces of sand that are melted into the glass ceiling. I have no doubt that sickening, oppressive incidents such as I’ve heard about this week, especially in the context of the endemic sexism we all breathe constantly, can have a profound experience on one’s life and fundamentally affect a career path. So I am ready for more tales of literary sexual abuse, here or in the comments section of my post where people have been starting to post (please keep a backup copy before you press submit because though it is mostly working fine, as you may know, WordPress sometimes eats things). No justification, no comparison, no downplaying, no self-sacrifice needed; the truth of the pain you felt is enough–more than enough.

After spending much of my career working to strengthen women’s voices, through starting communities such as WOMPO (Women’s Poetry Listserv) and through editing and writing about the traditions and influences of women’s writing, I am shocked how long it took me to understand that complete freedom to speak out about literary sexual abuse is essential to women’s ability to claim our full places as writers. I am now convinced, through this experience of coming forward, that keeping secrets about sexual abuse is the bedrock on which other forms of sexual oppression rest—and that only by telling the truth and no longer being complicit in protecting people who have done these things will we free ourselves (and free the perpetrators as well) from the terrible burden that has been muting our literary voices and robbing the world of our true words.

Two of the men mentioned in my piece, Bill Roorbach and Ravi Shankar, contacted me to apologize. Bill’s apology, in a private email which he did not want quoted but gave me permission to paraphrase at will, was gratifying. He said he has no recollection of making the remark I describe, but he took full and complete responsibility for making it. He assumes it was meant as a joke, but he completely understood my response and not only apologized but also empathized completely with my feelings, so that I felt fully heard and respected. He expressed sincere, compassionate, and genuine remorse and made it clear how terrible he feels about the pain he caused to me. He closed by letting me know that he is making meaningful and significant changes in his life to ensure that he never hurts anyone like that again.

As I read Bill’s apology, I was shocked to find tears running down my cheeks. Finally I had to put my laptop aside for fear of getting the keyboard wet. And then I found myself sobbing aloud, as if my heart would break-—though after a few minutes I realized it was not breaking, but healing. Because of all the men who have attacked, exploited, groped, grabbed, embarrassed, offended, catcalled, whispered, hooted, molested, or otherwise sexually abused me during my life (a hundredfold more times than just the specifically literary incidents described in my post, as I’m sure few women will be surprised to hear), Bill is as far as I can remember the first man ever to apologize to me for sexually abusive behavior.

Not only did it feel incredibly, deliciously, good to read Bill’s apology that morning, when a level of relief and relaxation and joy and trust and openness towards men I can never remember feeling before flooded over me–but the effects have lasted. I had noticed with dismay for a long time an undercurrent of distrust weakening my relationships with heterosexual men, especially older men who might have a sort of paternal or avuncular relationship with me. But since reading Bill’s apology, I notice a distinct increase in my capacity to trust that a man is OK and safe—whether a man I know in my own life, or even a picture in the media of a man holding a child, for instance— and that I don’t have to feel constantly on guard. This is an immense relief and makes me feel that, in a sense, I am entering the human community for the first time. It also makes me immensely sad for my former self, for the wounds I still carry, and for all my sisters around the world who have suffered such unspeakable things from childhood on. There is so much healing to be done. But on the positive side, who knew that one man’s apology in 2016 could help so much, so easily, and so rapidly to heal the effects of so many years of sexual abuse deep in my psyche? The beauty of healing is that it is whole-ing; it restores us to the wholeness we are deeply and already ready for. It goes with gravity. It flows downhill. It has momentum on its side. And it is never too late.

[Author’s note: Ravi Shankar’s apology is not included here out of respect for his wishes.  Although, in the wake of the sock puppet episode, I decided to keep it up on my blog because I thought it was educational, especially with the comments critiquing it, here I will substitute a link to a more recent conversation he’s been part of about these events.]

III. Sock Puppets, Sexism, and Silence: Literary Sexual Abuse Post #2 1/2

About six months ago, I learned that several of the people who had posted comments in response to my first and second posts on Literary Sexual Abuse were not real people.  The “women” named Samantha F., Emily, and Casey turned out to be not real commenters at all but what is known as “sock puppets”—fake online identities used to mislead others, hijack discussions, and basically to troll.

I guess I tend to be trusting to a fault.   Even though—as is clear looking back at the discussion threads— Samantha, the most prolific of the sock puppets, raised flags almost immediately among some of the wise folks commenting on my blog, during the initial discussion I never imagined that Samantha, Emily, and Casey were not real people. Even when I was tipped off that the poet these commenters were all defending, Ravi Shankar, had disguised himself online with false identities repeatedly in the past, I never expected to find that my own blog had been the victim of such manipulation and deceit. But sure enough, when I finally checked out the IP addresses of all the commenters on these posts, the IP addresses of two of these three “women” (Samantha and Casey) matched up with the IP addresses of Shankar’s own comments, and a third (Emily’s) turned out to be located, as he was at the time, in Hong Kong, a city where nobody else who comments on my blog has been located.   The evidence seemed clear that Shankar had been creating a mini “sock farm” on my blog, and when I checked in with others with more technical know-how and experience, my suspicion was confirmed.

“Ravi Shankar: ‘Even that second apology sounded more pompous than I intended. Sigh. I’m just really sorry, Annie.'”
“Casey: ‘Laura–just wanted to say that I find your comparison of either of the apologies to Donald Trump’s vile and sexist non-apologies pretty off-base. I don’t think he possesses 1% of the capacity of self-reflection that anyone here does and to suggest otherwise is offensive. Go Hilary!'”
“Samantha F.: ‘So I’m just back to fact check on a few details which have troubled me since this entire thread began. For me, the word “abuser” indicates a pattern of behavior. To call someone a sexual abuser, sexual predator, etc. is not something I throw around lightly since I’ve been in court to help ask a jury to make that determination about someone accused of some pretty heinous crimes. Obviously there are some acts that you only need to do once and you are that label that is affixed to you — you molest a child once and you are a pedophile, you kill one person and you are a murderer (unless it was an accident or… even this has gray area). But other behaviors could be explained in a variety of ways. I drink too much once, am I an alcoholic? I bring home a pen…'”


I was of course shocked, disgusted, and extremely disturbed by this discovery. It felt as if I had been invaded, as if I and all the others who count on my blog as a safe space had been violated yet again, as if the perpetration had extended itself.  And I’m deeply sorry to say that, in the face of this additional layer of abuse, my first tendency was, again, to freeze. When Shankar had first accosted me with his tongue in my mouth in the middle of the hotel lobby in Chicago so many years ago, I felt and acted the way I had in seventh grade when my mother’s brother did the same: powerless, petrified, not even aware that I had the right to my rage.  And now Shankar’s online behavior had triggered a silence again. My blog was frozen. My series on Literary Sexual Abuse was based entirely on the crucial importance of speaking out openly. How could I publish the final post when I had been protecting a new kind of abuse with my silence?  Knowing that I had to deal with this situation before I could post the promised third and final part of the series, the healing ritual which many of the readers and friends who had appreciated my first two posts were enthusiastically awaiting, I barely posted anything at all for six months.

I wasn’t really mad at Ravi during this time—or if I was, I didn’t let myself feel it. Not at first.  The poetry world is a closeknit one, and we had been acquaintances and colleagues there.  I felt sorry for him, compassionate and pitying towards any person whose faith in others and in the truth is so thin that they think disguising their identity is the only way be heard.  I had more than enough going on in my own world to keep me busy,  and I was tempted to just take the easy way out, to let Shankar and his psyche go their own way, and to let things rest as they were.  But, I guess because I knew that if I gave in to the power of silence and freezing, my voice would pay the price, I kept struggling, unable to take that path. I finally wrote a draft of a long blog post on the topic of the sock puppets and their effect on me, several months ago—after which I promptly and irretrievably lost it somehow or somewhere on my computer, thus extending the freezing period by several months more.

But freezing is not in the service of truth, nor of healing.  I am a double Scorpio, and my time to speak up about all this has come at last, here at the time of the blessed full moon in Scorpio, the time when the power of love and growth and joy is so strong that it sweeps away all that interferes with growth.  So I speaking up for these reasons and with these intentions:

1. I intend to re-assert my blog as a safe space for the truth, both for myself and for my readers. As you might imagine, after all this I was tempted to delete the comments made by the sock puppets, but I decided to leave them up for educational reasons. At the same time, I am posting this as a cleansing post before getting on with the real business of this site and blog, which is to celebrate magick, love, poetry, and women-honoring spirituality.

2. I want to let all of you wise readers who posted that you suspected Samantha, Emily, and/or Casey were not genuine know that your instincts were absolutely spot on. To all of you, I’d like to apologize for the naivete and online inexperience that made me take so long to wake up and to act. And for all of you who were taking part in that beautiful, empowering, and healing conversation that these sock puppets invaded and forever changed, I am sorry I did not do a better job of keeping my blog a safe space for you.  I have learned a lot, as you will see below— and I will be vigilant in the future to protect the conversations on my blog from any more of this kind of abuse.

3.  I want to raise awareness and educate everyone who has a blog—especially women— about the dangers of invasion and to remind you of the usefulness of checking IP addresses— and even more of the importance of trusting your instincts about disturbing or suspicious commenters (it seems that in the case of very technologically sophisticated trolls, the IP addresses may not even match, but the comments could still be from sock puppets.).  If you are like me, your natural instinct may be to be polite, inclusive, fair, and respectful and to make room for all points of view. But just as happened in my case, such good intentions can backfire.  Like a teacher who allows a domineering student to hijack a class, I would have done far better by all the readers who count on me if I had been less polite. I hate to think how much time was wasted engaging with Samantha while an urgent and genuine healing conversation was sidelined by “her” agenda.

The wider lesson about hosting a blog that I have learned is this: we don’t owe it to anyone to approve and post their words. If a comment feels wrong, it could be because the writer is a sock puppet–or it could simply be that their vibe is bad for the discussion.  Either way, we have the right to curate the comments on our posts as we see fit, in order to guide the discussion for the good of the core guests we serve (of course keeping in mind that sometimes a dissenting view, even if it does come from a sock puppet, may help to stimulate better discussion).

4. I want to take a more general stand against the kind of horrific abuse that women suffer all over the web.  Whether it takes the form of disgusting obscenity about women cultural icons spewed into the comment stream on Youtube, violent misogynistic threats to female thought leaders on Twitter, trolls ganging up on posts supporting women political candidates on Facebook, or a man posing as women to hijack a conversation meant to provide women a safe space to heal right here on my own blog, it is wrong; it is deeply damaging to women, humanity, and the planet; and it is not acceptable.  I am angry at this abuse—angry on behalf of my blog, myself, and all who have been disrespected online.

5.  I vow to continue the tradition of speaking out openly and not protecting the identity of those who have done sexually abusive things, extending this openness to online abuse as well as in-person abuse.  As I said in my first post, I feel strongly that the time for this kind of protection of the secrecy of perpetrators is OVER and that only through speaking up and speaking out will we all (those who have suffered abusive things and those who have done abusive things alike) begin to heal.

6. I am creating a clear space for the healing post which will be published next.  So please consider this post as a sweep of cleansing white sage smoke through the space of my blog.  I hereby purify this space of the unwanted energies of past perpetration and abuse on behalf of myself and all my readers, to make space for the healing ceremony to come.


These posts from Annie Finch’s blog were originally posted between Oct. 19, 2016 and July 16, 2017.


An author photo of Annie Finch, a woman with light hair, wearing a long dress.ANNIE FINCH  is a poet and writer, a speaker and teacher of women’s empowerment and earth-based spirituality, and a performer of poetry and ritual. Her many books include the poetic epic on abortion Among the Goddesses and the poetry collections Eve, Calendars, and Spells. Finch’s poetry has appeared onstage at Carnegie Hall and in The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry.