Before It Happened


by Taylor Wear. CW: sexual assault.   

you have to understand

who i was before it happened.


youth surged through my veins

seeped from every pore

filled my sanguine lungs

laced every breath.

young and fun and a little dumb,

in my prime.


age five, high tide

some cloudy beach

each collapsing wave dissolves into

glitter and seafoam

think i could prolly drown here.

whip around, see the dunes

the seagulls on the shoreline

sherbet-colored beach houses

my mother under the umbrella

and i wave.

when you’re five, on the brink of

a vast expanse of ocean,

comprehend fear and endless depth,

then realize you are safe –

it’s a feeling akin to joy.

fling handfuls of wet sand

into the deep.

laugh, leap.


i have to remember

who i was before it happened.


i danced bachata at a party

liked cheetah print, Gwen Stefani

boys with cologne and roaming fingers

snuck raspberry vodka into water bottles

laughed at horror movies

lived for the summer,

made each one better than the last


on the precipice of self-discovery,

newness and bliss

when identities are malleable as clay

mine was molded for me.

happened right before the summer


in truth,

my life began inside my dorm room

frozen on the bed, numb under his weight

in a moment of recognition,

i looked back up toward the ceiling

and tried to see the seagulls on the shoreline


on cue –

the door clicked shut

and i began to adjust

to who i am now,

before it happened.




they call Dr. Ford an inspiration,

a warrior

and it’s hard not to agree.

strong backed and stoic,

right hand raised

eyes closed in an expression

that says this is her sacrifice,

her call of duty.

the chamber lights bathing her

in a pool of warmth and radiance,

trying to pretend she’s not before a row

of angry men

keen to burn her at the stake.


but unlike Joan of Arc,

who wanted the fire

something tells me

a warrior gets to choose

when to draw her weapons

and when to burn



blonde and bright and brilliant

on the white cliffs of youth and summer

i like to think of her then, of who she was,

before it happened.



this is a battle

i have fought for so long

from the confines of a therapy room

to the National Mall

i have balled my hands into fists

made blows

screamed into the void

these are sacrifices i’m willing to make

this is pain i’m going to feel

this is a hill i’m willing to die on

and yet sometimes


i‘d rather have a tree to sleep under

and to dream of who i was

before it happened.



there was a time in your life

when trauma didn’t rear its ugly head

when there weren’t any nightmares

when you didn’t clutch your keys

when the world seemed opportune and bright

and when youth seemed a natural transition

into the womanhood you deserved

and the strength you always knew

you had in you.


so when you draw your weapons,

fight for your sisters and your daughters

fight for the world you’ve always wanted


but most of all, fight for you

for who you were

before it happened.


Photo by Iwan Shimko. For more work by Taylor Wear at Boshemia: Hot Dating Tips for the Completely Undatable, I'm Here! I'm Queer! I Promise, On Permanence, and  On Fleek || Lipstick Revolution.