Apr 10 17

Charlotte Ansell


As a part of the collation of an ongoing archive of women’s voices and experiences, I am asking as many poets and writers who identify as women as possible to contribute to this blog. This page is given over to poet Charlotte Ansell.


Charlotte Ansell has two collections with Flipped Eye with a third forthcoming and has been published in Poetry Review, Mslexia, Now Then, Butcher’s Dog and various anthologies. She won the Red Shed Open Poetry Competition in 2015 and the Watermarks poetry competition in 2016.

In 2014 an independent report by Professor Alexis Jay found that an estimated 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. The report found blatant systemic failures on the part of the council’s leadership and South Yorkshire Police and described the abuse as appalling with girls as young as 11 being raped, trafficked, abducted, beaten and intimidated by men predominantly of Pakistani heritage. In turn this led to far right groups targeting the town to hold regular marches that continue to this day and have had a significant detrimental impact on shops and local businesses. A few organisations, notably Risky Business did valiant work to befriend and support the young women affected but despite their efforts, for a multiplicity of reasons, very few of the young women were able to access counselling services. I was working as a counsellor in a local youth counselling, advice and sexual health service from 2009-2013 and wrote this poem in response to what I saw and heard from the girls who were able to seek therapeutic help.


Those girls.


The ones that mostly

you couldn’t get to cross the threshold,

let alone to talk,

the dyed dirty blondes

dead eyes like fish,

the ones who found no refuge in school

called sket, skank, tramp, bitch.

the ones so beautiful it hurt to look at them,

or fleshy like raw meat

impaled on skewers that

falls apart on the grill,

the ones so delicate and brittle

they could snap in two,

or who oozed from shouty leggings,

the bravado of crop tops

over half formed mounds,

the ones caked in make-up and jewellery

they mistook for love,

the silent ones who rarely left home

hidden under veils like shrouds.

Those girls; little more than babbies

who only needed you to listen,

to hold their horror in your hands

like a grenade while they pulled the pin,

hold it until your hair and fingertips were singed

and the whole sorry mess explodes

but not ever let go.

The ones who pushed their terror into you

so forcibly the nausea clung on

hours after they’d gone

and they were just the ones

who came, and spoke.

Those girls in the 153 pages  of the Jay report,

who weren’t seen or heard or attended to;

whose hollow ‘no’s’ won’t

jump out from the printed words

to echo in municipal corridors,

whose pleas won’t penetrate

the gleaming citadel

of the new council office block,

those girls the EDL want

to fuck all over again,

fodder for their campaign,

those girls and all the others like them

that the baying of media hounds

won’t soothe;

those girls who everyone failed,

when no one had the stomach

for the petrol soaked and bloodied

edges of the truth.


copyright retained Charlotte Ansell