living inside our bodies

Credit: BStarrArt

The majority of women we write with have lived through abusive relationships.

The National Institute of Corrections estimates that 52 percent of imprisoned females in the U.S. reported some form of domestic or sexual abuse prior to being jailed.

As a result, it’s not hard to imagine the physical, psychological and emotional traumas that a woman entering Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility bears.

We leave the deep work of unpacking those traumas to the mental health practicioners at the facility, for sure.

However, we do look for opportunities to have the women write about ‘living inside their bodies’ with mindfulness and respectful awareness.  We tread softly in our work, exhibit compassion, and allow the women to choose for themselves where they want to go in their self-expressions.

Last week’s writing circle began with the quote:

Be strong then, and enter into your own body; there you have a solid place for your feet.
–  #14 in The Kabir Book, translated by Robert Bly

CR wrote about her past as a body, with the parts being different ages or events, evoking a set of memories unique to herself.


My fingers, all 10 of them, have felt many things over the  years. The soft warm fuzz of my cat. The movement of his thundering purrs erupting from his body.

My hands, the two of them, have given many hugs.

My two arms reaching to my love, giving great big hugs as if I were trying to reach around a big oak tree.

My heart, the only one I have, has a couple of chips out of it from being pushed around. But the love that’s still within shines out every time I hear a bird. Remember the ones at home watching for me to return? Continue reading

love is not…abusive

Our ‘inside’ women-writers detail their crimes from time to time.  I’ve heard (deeply regretted) stories of dealing drugs, driving get-a-way cars, and theft of every sort.  What the majority of the stories have in common is a dysfunctional male-female relationship at the center.  Not to make excuses, but many of these women are engaged in abusive/dysfunctional relationships that mirror the disastrous relationships they witnessed as children or were victimized by. They commit crimes to maintain relationships or to support their children.

Last week, the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women issued its latest report Ten Truths That Matter When Working with Justice Involved Women.  There at #3  was “women’s engagement in criminal behavior is often related to their relationships, connections, and disconnections with others.”  (It’s always heartening when one’s on-the-ground experience syncs up with the latest research data!)

Women are relational beings; relationships shape identity and add to positive self-worth. ..which is why writinginsideVT is such a life-giving endeavor for these 140-odd women residing at Chittenden Correctional Facility.  They are encouraged to create healthy, respectful relationships in the context of our writing circles.  We model deep listening, equality within the circle, and the value of personal voice, assuming that each woman is doing her very best.  Whew..a kind of space we all need in daily life, right?!