Unseen Darkness, Collabs, and ANBU

“Unseen Darkness” is one of my favourite pieces and most powerful collaborations. It 9d08101b-a66a-4afa-8a72-093db0e4dee4
provided me with an opportunity to work with the talented at artist, Thiviyaa Sehasothy of Art by Thiviyaa, and Dilani Bala, Photographer extraordinaire. But as in the true nature of collabs, this piece extended past the three of us, and has a story of many admirable people/women.
Below I want to share my story, as that is the one I can speak to.

Where does this story begin?… In many different places, with many different people.

It began with a post about VAW shared across three Instagram channels.

It began when Thiviyaa created a beautiful piece from the (just as soul speaking) work of Dilani.

It began with a phone call to Thiviyaa, asking if she would want to create a piece for this poem.

It began when Abuse Never Becomes Us (ANBU) asked me if I had a photo to accompany the poem. I said, “Not yet, but there is only one person I want to ask.”

It began with ANBU, who reached out to me to share a piece for their March 2017 Newsletter.

It began with the stellar performance of my friend Sathya Thillainathan, who told Anbu about my poetry after she performed at their launch event.

It began from conversations with survivors; legal workers; counselors; politicians,  and groups, like the South Asian Women’s Centre; the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario; Canadian Council of Muslim Women; Againcourt Community Services Association; with conversations with activists like Deepa Mattoo, Farrah Khan, Maryum Anis and others.

It began with sitting on municipal; provincial; national roundtables and strategy meetings; asking “white” women to understand that, not all violence could be seen.

It began with projects on Gender Based Violence; Violence Against Women; Honour Based Violence and asking people to look past their conception of race, culture, and violence.

It began with conversations with my family and friends.

It began with personal experiences.

It began…

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**Previously shared on Instagram.

Author’s Note: Just a note, even if you are not directly mentioned you have impacted my life, story and work. This story, specifically was the story of “unseen darkness”.


Day 341: Working With Survivors

My tongue fights the formation of these words,
as if I could draw them back,
inhale the context of which they survive.

Instead, I spit them out,
these words I hate.
The ones I want to crawl back
into my mouth, into my body.

“You don’t have to report it,
until you are ready…”

Ready to face the disbelief

Ready to fight every stranger

Ready to hear “well meaning” advice
Of all the things you should have said,
What you didn’t wear
Where you walked and
The bad people you know.

“None of this would matter if…”
I want to say

If only the police wouldn’t treat you like a criminal,
as if it were your fault that God blessed you to be a woman.
And in doing so men saw you as their gift,
to unpackage and rewrap as many times as they wanted.

If only the courts

If only your parents

If only your community

If only media

If you aren’t ready to lose you mind,
your sense of self,
your worth.

To be the one,
whose label will remain even after the scars heal.
And your pain, baby girl,
will no longer be yours
but playdoh in the hands of others.
Shifting and shaping it until the image is one they form,
but still crushable until it becomes a mess of colours,
where truth and lies are indistinguishable

If… If…

So I send you into the world.
Another victim yet a survivor,
hoping you understand
that the survival has only
just begun.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN 1: The poem for today was inspired by my work with many of the GBV Agencies that I have been employed with and the struggles of the women and men we help.

AN 2: December 6, it is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada. In 1991, the Canadian Parliment established the day of remembrance on the anniversary of the murder of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, in 1989. The shooter, a 25-year-old, claimed to be “fighting feminism” and shot and killed 14 women, injured 10 women and 4 men before committing suicide.

You can find more info on the Status of Canada page or on Wiki.

December 6 always reminds me that GBW/VAW is still very close and can happen anytime. Before this event, as a kid, violence against women seemed to be something that, at least publically, we had moved passed. I was 9 when the massacre happened, and we had left Montreal just a year earlier. Maybe that is why this day always held a significant place in my heart.


Day 334: Cries in The Night

*Trigger Warning  – Rape; Assault; Gender-Based Violence, Violence Against Women*

Shadows fall on the brick wall,
as the clouds race past the moon,
in its glowing silver light
She stands.

Her tears run red and ragged,
as they mix with the blood from her soul,
in her tattered and dirty clothes,
She walks.

Her shoes make and uneven sound,
her stockings ripped to shreds,
with her arms wrapped her waist
She remembers.

The feel of his skin,
the smell of his breath,
the way he tore her body apart,
She trembles.

She stands in the night
with the shadows watching,
and the crescent moon shining
She cries.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: I wrote this poem back in 1998 – I can’t remember what inspired it for sure, I think it was an illustration of a girl, who had been assaulted walking under a lamp light. Sorry for the throwback – some changes. 

It’s funny; I wrote this poem on November 28, 1998 (according to my poetry journal) and whenever I re-type my older poems, so many things so through my head –

  • What the F was I trying to say?
  • Wow! I was a dramatic teenager.
  • Totally needed a thesaurus back then (and probably now)
  • Sometimes things don’t change
  • Sometimes everything changes


  • DAMN! Did I write that?!?!?!

Day 252: Unseen Darkness


When you tried to paint
my body in colours of
blue and purple,
my dark skin
hid your sins
from eyes trained
in the glow of
soft white light.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

Day 89: Choices


These words I choose tell you what I believe
#Istandwithsurvivors while I hide the real me
How do I say, I chose not to say
I took the easy way and hid…

But it wasn’t easy
To lie to the one face who knew it all
Tell myself I had been there willingly
Even as my mind ran and hid
In the deepest corners

Packed that night, as if it never existed
So that when I saw you,
I could smile as if it was nothing
As if the nights were not filled with panicked screams
And days where my body crashed from hypervigilance.

I could look you in the eye,
The golden boy who was kind
And asked me if I wanted to cuddle
Right after you tore through my core
Tapping down bile and memories

Until I choked and said “goodnight”
All the while holding the lid closed
Shoving more memories and words of hate
at you, at me, at all the ways this could never be right
Poison me from within
or crave me up from outside.

So Pandora, open your box
Let the world see and know
There is no easy way
There are only choices

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: Inspired by conversations with my nephew about the outcome of the Jian Ghomeshi, Survivors, victim-blaming and VAW in general. 

Day 49: The Lies We Tell

**Trigger Warning: Abuse (Physical)**

Deep Brown eyes stare back at me,
Fleeting whispers floating between us,
Shadows creep silently,
Across broad brown shoulders,
The darkness melding within the chocolate hues,
Lengthening to point accusingly,
At the faded bruise
That still held faint outlines of his hand.

“Are you okay? Should I call someone?”
I hear the teacher’s voice whisper
In front

My eyes jump back up,
Shamed to be caught,
Starting at the dark eyes,
That hid darker shadows.

“I’m fine, I fell”
I watched her rouge tipped lips open in reply,
Tasting the words,
Rolling them around her tongue
Until they fit,
Like words spoken
In love
In faith
In truth

“Should I call a doctor?”
The persistent voice asked again,
Concern and patronization moving together
To create a melody of the question,

“No really I am fine, I fell.”
Stronger, this time
The eyes lit with the flame of memory,
Recreated to a story to be told over and over,
Each time more real than the last.

Hands lift reaching across
Touch the fading bruise,
Face flinching from where my fingers lay,
Turning to look away.

With a breath, I slowly withdraw my hand
Shaking as it moves from the mirror.
Square the shoulders,
Bright smile,
A deep inhalation and whisper…
“I am fine, I fell.”

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: Sometimes the title is the hardest part of writing, I am still not sure if this is right, or if it should be The Lies We Tell Ourselves (sometimes I way too obsessive over one word, but other times I realize that is what makes me love writing – each word).