The little girl is five.

She has fine blond hair

in two narrow braids.

She is delicate and


in her flimsy sundress.

She wears


pink sneakers

that light up

in back

when she walks.

She is petting my dog.

I love your dog,

she says.

She is so soft.

I do too,

I say.

Her tail is so pretty,

she says.

The fur

on this kind of tail

is called


I say.

My sister

stabbed my brother,

she says.


I say.

That must have

upset you.

Were you


Oh no,

I was happy!

she says.


I say.

You were happy

that your sister


your brother?

She used a steak knife,

she says,

My sister is so smart.

She hid it in

our bedroom

under the mattress.

She did?

I say.


she says,

she stabbed him


over and over,





There was

blood everywhere.

He screamed like a baby,


momma heard him


she came in


she called the police.

Momma was


Now my


can’t hurt us


she says.

My brother is in

jail now


my sister is so


We have to go to


then he will go to


Jail and prison

are not the same,

you know,

she says.

Prison is better

because they

keep him away

a long time,

she says.

What do you do

in court?

I say.

I don’t know,

she says,

the lady here

is going to tell me

about court.

She said not to


She knows

because my sister is brave

that now


will be okay.

My brother

can’t hurt us


she says.

I love your dog,

she says.

She is so soft.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

124 responses to “Jail and Prison Are Not the Same”

  1. Ben says:

    This reads like the dialogue of a Werner Herzog film. (Maybe David Lynch.)

    The dog should really be dead, though. It would make the end creepier.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      That would be the end of a Night Shyamalan movie, Ben.

      When you’re working with your therapy dog, Irene, in cases like this one, are you expected to report what’s said to you?

      • Irene Zion says:

        I only have to report if something comes up that no one knows about.
        We’re not allowed to ask any probing questions, so what comes out is always spontaneous.
        In this case, the police and social workers and psychologists, et. al. all knew the skinny on what went on in this house.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Yes, Ben, having a dead dog to pet would positively make the end creepier.
      Why didn’t I just stop at a vet’s first and ask them if they had any extra dead dogs?
      Well, now it’s just too late, alas.

  2. Christine W. says:

    🙁 I don’t even know what to say here.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Yeah, Christine,
      I get it.

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      No kidding. That’s just horrifying. And then again, strangely quiet and beautiful.

      • Irene Zion says:

        You know, Stefan, it is beautiful,
        because this little girl felt safe
        and so very proud of her sister,
        for the very first time in her life.

        And isn’t it something,
        that the older child
        didn’t have any recourse,
        even with her mother in the house,
        but to resort to violence?

        Something is rotten in the State of Denmark, eh?

        • Judy Prince says:

          “And isn’t it something,
          that the older child
          didn’t have any recourse,
          even with her mother in the house,
          but to resort to violence?”

          Irene, I find this as disturbing as the violent events themselves and the implications of what those girls underwent prior to the stabbing.

          BTW, you made me giggle in your response to Ben about you should’ve stopped off at the vets to pick up a dead dog. HA!

        • Irene Zion says:

          (Ben is one of my funniest kids. He can always make me laugh.
          He doesn’t like grim things, so he will always turn them around.)

          What you refer to is the sore point here.
          They may have put the rapist in prison,
          but the girls are still living in a home where
          the mother didn’t notice her daughters
          were being repeatedly raped,
          where the older of the children
          probably told her mother
          and her mother did not believe her.
          And the system thinks these traumatized girls
          are better off with their mother.
          Breaks my heart.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, I got no email notice of your response! Wot’s up with the Comment Robot??!!

          Re the girls staying with their mother, it’s as if there’s no freeing them from the sick entrapment of their lives. It took a girl’s stabbing of her brother to bring that horrible chapter of their lives to a semi-close…..but the dynamic of “innocent-ignorant” mother as a constant model for her girls makes you sick to contemplate. Where’s the father?

          Oh, and that Ben is a hoot!

        • Irene Zion says:

          You know, Judy,
          You should count yourself lucky that you get anything from the comment robot.
          He virtually never tells me if there is a response to my comments.
          I have to remember to look at the story I commented on to see if I should be commenting back or answering a question or something.
          I think the comment robot might have something against us, maybe it is a misogynist?
          Maybe it only works for people under 30?
          I haven’t figured it out.
          I actually don’t always get notice that someone has commented on my own stories. Thankfully that’s only now and then.

          There is rarely a father, although sometimes there is.
          I wonder if this mother will take her rapist son back into the home after he gets out, if indeed he does go to prison. I didn’t find out if he did or not, and since it might have been his first offense, who knows how long he would be put away, were he convicted.

          The whole situation is nauseating.

          Ben is so literate and so funny. I wish he would write pieces. He is an amazing writer, but I don’t think he’s interested. We’re really proud of him. He just passed the bar on his first try! Woohoo! (I wonder if you are supposed to capitalize “Bar?”)

        • Judy Prince says:

          Well, Irene, at least the Comment Robot isn’t ageist bcuz it’s rare (I think) for me to NOT get emails of comments on my writings. I did get your most recent response to my comment as well as Stefan’s responses, so p’raps it’s that CR snoozes from time to time and is indiscriminately ignoring its duties. It is quite frustrating, though, to NOT know that someone’s posted a comment to one’s article or comments.

          Congratulations to Ben—–not everyone can do chin-ups!!! (Yes, just kidding)

          I’ll bet he has dozens of incipient TNB article ideas stored away in his big brain. Come on, Ben, let’s see what you can do!

          I was deliriously happy when son Christopher passed the bar in California. He said it was the toughest exam he’d ever had. His wife, whom he met at UCLA law school, also passed the bar; she’s brilliant AND beautiful! Is that really fair, I wonder; I’d like to be either one, or even a little of either one. (sobs)

        • Irene Zion says:

          Well, Judy,
          perhaps the comment robot doesn’t like apple products?
          Or maybe it’s just me? (Ooooh, I hope that isn’t it!)

          So is it a lower case “b?” I should know this.

          I disagree with you completely there at the end.
          You are the most beautiful and lovely and congenial person ever.

        • Judy Prince says:

          So you have an Apple, Irene? I’m glad to be rid of my MacBook Air which died because it overheated drastically, cracking a hinge and then stopping working altogether. Am now extraordinarily happy with my Sony Vaio.

          The Comment Robot again decided not to email me your comment. (sigh)

          You were right about spelling “bar.” Here’s an excerpt Wiki on *Bar Exam*:

          “To refresh their memory on ‘black-letter rules’ tested on the bar, most students engage in a regimen of study (called ‘bar review’) between graduating from law school and sitting for the bar.[3] For bar review, most students in the United States attend a private bar exam review course which is provided by a third-party company and not their law school.”

          Thank you for your incredibly generous comments. I will bruit them about to family and friends—-who will wonder who it is you’re describing. 😉

        • Irene Zion says:

          I can’t believe you didn’t love your apple!
          I adore my apple.
          I go to classes and everything. They are so nice and act as though your idiotic question is in fact a brilliant one. They can also fix anything.
          I didn’t have the mac book air, though, and I think it isn’t as powerful even though it’s really light. My mac book pro weighs about 85 pounds, which gets old after a while of carrying it in your backpack.

          Thank you for teaching me a new word. I have never heard it in my life. For anyone as uneducated as me, here is the definition:

          Bruit: verb, (transitive)
          To report or spread a rumor widely.
          noun, (archaic)
          a report or rumor
          a sound, typically an abnormal one, coming from a stethoscope. A murmur.
          Origin: Late Middle French, bruit ‘noise,’ from bruire “to roar.”
          That took forever to write because it refused to be copied!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, I just wrote you a nice long reply, clicked “Comment,” and the screen said “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage” and my comment never appeared again.

          So here’s a very much shorter version of what I replied:

          MacBookAir (the one I got 3 years ago) is indeed beautifully sleek and lightweight—-at the expense of a FAN to cool it down, a built-in DVD player and several USB portals. My MacBookAir seriously overheated, its hinge cracked (which Apple fixed for no charge), and it continued to overheat, finally dying completely. I paid a computer person $500 to resurrect it and transfer its hard drive contents to my Sony VAIO.

          I won’t buy an Apple product again, though, because I feel that with so many online complaints by customers about their overheating MacBook Airs, Apple doubtless knows of the serious irresolvable problem—-and doesn’t admit it and give a customer credit towards purchasing a different kind of Mac.

          I’m extraordinarily happy with my Sony VAIO which is only slightly heavier and less sleek than the MacBookAir—-and it has a FAN, a built-in DVD player and several USB portals.

          Glad you liked “bruit”—-Rodent had never heard of it, either.

          I just copied this comment in case it should be blown aetherwards again.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I pretty much get the meaning out of cOntext, but when I get home now I have to look up aetherwards.
          You are very good for my vocabulary !

        • Judy Prince says:

          Egad, Irene—-I just made “aetherwards” up! You just can’t trust a poet.

          And once again I got no TNB Comment Robot email alerting me to your comment. ;-(

        • Irene Zion says:

          It’s not in Merriam-Webster’s so I have to assume it means what it looks like blown up towards the ether. Right? Your spelling of aether is much prettier. Is that British spelling?
          You are becoming so continental lately!

        • Irene Zion says:

          See, now Judy?
          I think made-up words are frequently more beautiful than words already in existence.
          Our vocabulary is constantly being updated by made-up words.
          I vote “aetherwards” should be in the next written dictionary.
          It’s a perfectly lovely, expressive word.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, it’s not the Brit spelling. Here’s Wiki on when to use the different spellings:

          “Aether (classical element), a concept, historically, used in science (as a medium) and in philosophy (as a substance)

          Aether theories in alchemy, natural philosophy, and very early modern physics which suppose a “fifth element”

          Luminiferous aether, in early physics considered to be the medium through which light propagates

          Ether, a class of chemical compounds . . .”

          And I suppose was intending all but the last one; hence, “aether.”

          Still not a TNB Comment Robot’s alert for your comment, alas!

        • Irene Zion says:

          Oh Good!
          Judy, that means I can use the pretty spelling without seeming snooty as though I were trying to be British, where it’s natural.

          On the other hand, it appears the TNB comment robot has decided to snub you, too.
          Yup, you won’t be hearing from him much anymore.
          He gets funny and just randomly shuns people.
          I’m sorry, but welcome to the club.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Yup, unfortunately for me, you’re right, Irene. Snubbed by Comment Robot yet again today. Maybe it’s because it knows I like you. Comment Robot must have evolved a Writer Hit-List, on which you’re Number One.

          I think we should talk to it as if it were a computer whose software is mucking up; i.e., curse at it and then throw it up against the wall. That usually settles things down. But, again unfortunately for me, I love, as you know, my dear Sony VAIO.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I’ve come to terms with it. I just accept that I won’t get the notices from comment robot.
          What I try to do is look at the places where I commented to make sure there isn’t a reason to comment again. Sometimes I forget, and I feel bad when someone has, say, asked me a question and I appear to be just not answering him. I know that’s happened, because sometimes I just get busy and forget to look.
          I’ll try to be better about it.
          Sorry I gave you the comment robot-doesn’t-like-you-virus.

        • Judy Prince says:



        • Irene Zion says:


          I don’t say it enough.
          I adore you!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Then we’re a mutual adoration society, Irene. I like that!

        • Irene Zion says:

          I could surely use one right now.
          I surely could.
          Thank you.

        • Judy Prince says:

          You’ve had a huge adoration society for a long time now here at TNB, from the many wonderful compliments readers have paid you. Queen of TNB, you!

          Tell me about your coming trip to Germany, Belgium, etc.

        • Irene Zion says:

          TNB people are just so nice.
          Only my daughter doesn’t like me, I think.
          We aren’t going to Germany this time.
          We fly into Paris and rent a car and drive to Luxembourg and Belgium and the Netherlands.
          Victor is planning to get stoned in Amsterdam, but I’m not.
          Way back in college, I used to just get hungry and paranoid.
          The guidebook says that the pot is a zillion times stronger than back in the day and also one puff lasts for 12 -14 hours.
          I do NOT want to be paranoid for 12 -14 hours.
          Victor just gets happy, so I suppose he’ll just get happier.
          Lucky Victor.

        • Judy Prince says:

          What a marvelous trip, Irene! I do so want to get back to Paris, have only been once and just wept with joy at seeing the architecture, especially near the Louvre and on the marvelous Boulevard Hauptmann.

          Somehow “planning to get stoned” doesn’t sound right.

          You certainly oughtn’t to do likewise if you had such a strong reaction before.

          I remember having such a feeling of terror after drinking my first cup of coffee in a seminar at university. I loved the taste of it, but within minutes my heart was thumping and I felt like throwing myself out the window. I’d never felt that way before (and have never had coffee since then) but felt that way years later after eating an expensive chocolate bar from I think Central or South America.

          You never know how a new substance might affect you.

        • Irene Zion says:


          I’m afraid my children will mock me mercilessly if I do not take advantage of legal marijuana.
          But I remain steadfast. I do not want to be paranoid for more than half a day!

          I had a friend who had the same reaction to coffee. This was in High School. It was cool to go out and drink coffee and say deep things to each other. She blamed me for introducing her to coffee and to this day will not speak to me. You think I’m kidding, right? This is true!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Children mock mercilessly; then they learn how silly it is when they themselves have children who mock them mercilessly. Stick to your guns, Irene.

          Sounds as if your friend’s reaction to your innocent gesture was far weirder than her reaction to coffee. Not like you were introducing her cocaine or something. egad.

        • Irene Zion says:

          It did appear to me to be overkill, for introducing coffee to her,
          but I tried several years ago to get back in touch and was told I was “bad” for her.
          Felt sort of confused since it had been decades since her introduction to caffeine
          by me.
          Everyone has their demons, I guess, and I had her make her acquaintance with hers.
          Ergo: My fault.
          What are you going to do?

        • Judy Prince says:

          “What are you going to do?”

          You’re not going to blame yourself, Irene.

          You said it perfectly when you said “Everyone has their demons.” And folks’ brains are not transparent like fishbowls; we can’t see what’s swimming in their minds. We can wish them well, I suppose, but then let them either go to bed with their demons or turn toward the light.

          Free will. Not the easiest game in town, but the one that teaches the most effectively.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I agree, Judy,
          I feel bad for her, that she has these fears.
          We could have been good friends, and I feel a loss there.
          Funny, that I could be perceived as dangerous, isn’t it?

        • Judy Prince says:

          “Funny, that I could be perceived as dangerous, isn’t it?”

          Indeed! But I think you should encourage that image, Irene. Especially when dealing with Comment Robot. 😉

        • Irene Zion says:


          An excellent hint!
          My personna will be different when speaking to the comment robot!

  3. jmblaine says:

    think maybe
    my favorite


  4. George says:

    Where do you pick up your friends?

    • Irene Zion says:


      You are missing the point.
      These are not my acquaintances.
      I’m working with my therapy dogs here.
      These are clients who are all children
      and have all been sexually abused.
      My dogs make them feel better,

  5. ksw says:

    although it seems unimaginable to a human with actual mental process, there are many places in the world where a family tree looks much like a hedge row. too bad there aren’t more steak knives.

  6. Irene Zion says:


    I don’t think there is a paucity of steak knives.
    I think there aren’t enough big sisters with the guts to use them to protect herself and her little sister.

  7. Carol says:

    When “Witty” Falls Flat, guys. Don’t be in such a hot hurry to comment after reading, but before thinking.

    Irene, bless you and the pup.

  8. Irene Zion says:

    Hi Carol,
    Haven’t seen you in a while, welcome back!
    I’m the one who profits the most from these visits.
    My dogs are happy to be working
    and I don’t feel like I’m just taking up space here on earth.

  9. Gloria says:


    Lordy, lord. I agree with J.M. I think this is my favorite. I agree with Ben, too, that this would make a good movie scene. Though, obviously, the dog must stay alive.

    I won’t ask probing questions. I will, however, tell you that I love this and ask you to keep posts like these coming.


    • Irene Zion says:

      Don’t worry, Gloria,
      If this were a movie, the dead dog would be a prop, but really life-like, (or dead-like?)
      I’ve had to remove my dogs only twice because of violent kids,
      who obviously became violent as a reaction to violence,
      but still, these are my dogs and I am their protector.
      No one hurts my dogs, no matter what their excuse.

  10. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Bless you and your dog for giving the little girl a few moments of attention and affection. I’m going to be thinking about her all day now…

    • Irene Zion says:


      As I said to Carol, I get more out of these visits than the kids do.
      The dogs really need to work and they are visibly delighted to be there with the kids,
      whom they remember even if they’ve only seen them once.
      My goldens are the best dogs ever in the world.
      (I may be a bit prejudiced….)

  11. Richard Cox says:

    This is tender and wonderful and terrifying, Irene. I’m glad the little girl could find a little peace petting your dog.

    And I agree there is no paucity of steak knives. Ever since I made that light saber steak knife on your family portrait, they seem to be popping up everywhere.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I was so shocked by the turn of events in the conversation
      and I didn’t understand what had happened until close to the end.
      Life is different for these kids.
      Very different.
      These stories should all end like this one!

  12. Pamela Norinsky says:

    How very sad!!! Hope you brought the little girl a little hapiness!!!!!!!

    • Irene Zion says:

      You know, Pamela,
      She seemed happy as can be.
      I think that knowing her abuser
      will be in Prison
      lifted a huge load off her little back!

  13. Tawni Freeland says:

    Wow. I’m glad the brother can’t hurt them anymore, too. What brave sisters they are. And what a powerful bit of writing, Irene.

    Hug that sweet puppy for me. Hug the little girl for me too, while you’re at it. xoxo.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh Tawni,

      If you could see them with my dogs!
      They are so gentle, for the most part, so tender,
      and my dogs just eat it up, putting their faces on their laps
      and just going all out to love them to pieces.
      This was a while ago when only Brooklyn volunteered,
      Kimchee has been volunteering with her for over a year now.
      They are such hams around children
      and so perfectly obedient,
      which is necessary.
      A lot of kids come from homes with attack dogs.
      Mostly the first question I get from a new kid is:
      “He bite?”
      Takes a while for them to get to trust dogs,
      their parents are more of a challenge.

      • “A lot of kids come from homes with attack dogs.”

        That is so incredibly sad.

        I grew up being quite scared of dogs, but only because I had never really met one in my childhood. I never thought of them, though, as animals liable to attack people.

        • Irene Zion says:


          Most people in the US have dogs as pets. There is only a small percentage of people who keep guard dogs and they are in no way pets. Not all, but many of the children who come to this facility are from homes with vicious dogs. In my world a dog is your best friend, the dog adores you no matter how ugly, old, young, silly, fat, skinny, bad in math…even mean. A dog is meant to be your companion. Turning dogs into savage creatures is against their nature. I think every kid should have a dog or two. I really believe that.
          My kids always had at least one and up to three dogs and we had up to five cats at one time, but I have to say that that was too many cats to keep the house not smelling like a litter box.

  14. Trish Swanson says:

    Sad to say Pink light up shoes and her sister sound like my clients. I work through this story on a daily basis. And the really sad part is often the brother is back in the house despite the brave little girl. Hope their fate is better than most of my clients. Well done Irene.

    • Irene Zion says:

      My Dad used to say that life isn’t fair, Trish.
      I never knew until I grew up that, in fact, it isn’t.
      Not one bit.
      Fair doesn’t even enter into it.
      Gets you right in the gut, doesn’t it?

  15. susan gomez says:

    Having worked with children for so many years, this poem broke my heart. The child is so innocent, the abuse so horrific. And, of course, I am a dog lover to the max. Do you visit prisons with Ben?
    Your economy with words, and your excellent choice of language makes this such a strong piece. I gessedfrom the start why the sister stabbed her brother, but that didn’t matter. And coming full circle to end with the dog is very effective. Good piece of writing.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thanks, Susan, you are very kind.

      Funny, but I didn’t guess at all.
      I was mystified the whole time until she said
      “my brother can’t hurt us anymore.”
      I don’t know what I thought,
      but it blew me away.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Sorry, Susan, I forgot to answer you about the prisons.
        I’ve never gone to a prison with them.
        I’ve done old age homes and sexually abused kids with them.
        I’d like to branch out to McDonald House.
        I think that would be a good place for the dogs.

  16. Melissa (Irene's friend) says:

    Oh Irene, what you see is just beyond ones comprehension. I cry for these children who have no one to protect them. Who have seen so much abuse in their short little lives. You my friend and Brooklyn and Kimchee, are heroes. Hugs.


    • Irene Zion says:

      Hardly, Melissa,
      I’m just letting my dogs work as they were meant to work,
      and doing something that makes me feel better about myself.
      Selfish, really, when you look into it.

  17. Pat Gray says:

    WOW!! As usual Irene you got it all down in such a heart wrenching way. The poem was perfect.
    It sounds like you and your dogs are doing wonderful things. Keep it up! Child sexual abuse is just unforgivable.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thanks, Pat.
      I tried to say it just like it happened.
      Child sexual abuse is unforgivable,
      and yet there are two such facilities here
      just in Miami.
      How sad is that?

  18. Joe Daly says:


    I only found out the difference between jail and prison a few years ago, after spending some time with some gentleman who had passed through those hallowed institutions.

    Life shouldn’t be so hard for children. Life should be very hard for the people who hurt them.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I recently learned the difference too,
      and I’m somewhat older than you.
      Children should not have to know the difference.
      Children should never have to know the difference.

      I really wish the rapist had died of his injuries,
      but, after all, she was just a child doing the stabbing,
      how effective would her stabbing be, after all?

  19. Stephanie says:

    Some creepiness. I know I would never react so calmly if the little girl petting my dog told me out of no where her sister killed her brother with a knife. I was trying to think of an amusing pun to go with my comment, using possible words like “stab” and “slice” but alas I am dry.

    • Irene Zion says:


      There are times when we can make things into black humor,
      and there are times when it just is not possible.
      This is one of those times.
      He didn’t die, by the way.
      I wish he had,
      but he didn’t.

      A child just a bit older than the baby
      just doesn’t have enough strength to kill.
      even if she has the will and the right to kill.

  20. Zara Potts says:

    Lovely work, Irene.
    Beautifully paced and pitched.

    I remember when I was a journalist, a colleague came into work one morning kind of bemused, I asked him what was up and he said he was walking down his street when a little boy from the neighbourhood stopped and talked to him. The little kid looked my colleague up and down (who was in his work suit) and said: “Are you going to court?”

    The only time anyone he knew wore a suit was when they had to appear in court. Kids shouldn’t have to know about courtrooms, or the difference between prison and jail.

    It’s a mad world.

    • Irene Zion says:


      You are so right.
      To think that a suit means going to court?
      This is not something any child should assume.
      It is unquestionably a mad world, Zara.
      Most adults think jail and prison are the same thing.
      Why is it these little things have to know it?

  21. Mary Jane Hill says:

    Very sad and disturbing. Brings back memories of working on a child psychiatric floor.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Mary Jane,

      I can’t imagine the anxiety of waking up each day knowing that you had to go to work on the child psychiatric floor.
      I’m pretty sure it would drain me dry.
      Dry as a bone.
      You are a stronger woman than I, Mary Jane.

  22. Don Mitchell says:

    This morning I was briefly worried that a large unleashed dog was going to bite me. She didn’t. I worry too much about what dogs might do to me, so it’s good to read about your dogs and the way they help people.

    You’re doing important work and, as always, writing beautifully about it.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You know, Don?
      I have more trouble with the adult guardians of the children
      than I do with the children.
      They all come in afraid of dogs
      because attack dogs are part and parcel of their lives.
      Children can get over it.
      Adults take much, much longer.

  23. Erika Rae says:

    So flipped upside down. She was brave and a hero for stabbing one two three four times and then hiding the knife. But she *was* brave. No doubt. Oh. Poor child.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Erika Rae,

      This little girl was seriously so brave.
      She had no one who listened to her.
      She, a mere child, was responsible for herself
      and her little sister.
      Imagine what it took,
      being a child,
      to steal a steak knife,
      to plan the attack,
      to hide it under the mattress,
      and to strike the rapist,
      one, two, three, four times!
      No one has ever been more brave.

  24. Wow, this is really powerful. The sparsity is like a gut-punch. Poor little girl. It’s astounding and heartbreaking and unfathomable the sort of hell that some children have to grow up in. What a brave sister indeed. And what important work you and your dogs do, Irene!

    • Irene Zion says:


      As I just told Erika Rae, this little girl was supergirl.
      My dogs are the medicine these kids need.
      I just drive them in and let them do their magic.

  25. angela says:

    wow, irene.

    that is all:


  26. Oh Irene, you never know, do you? You just never ever know. And that scares the hell out of me.
    You and your dog are wonderful, beautiful creatures.

    • Irene Zion says:

      If you saw any of these kids on the street, you would never, ever suspect what they’ve been through.
      Places like I volunteer for do the best they can to minimize the internal damage of the horrific experiences they’ve been through.
      When I first volunteered, I had to be Federally fingerprinted and checked. They take no chances. We had a class where we learned that “stranger danger” is a myth.
      99% of child sexual abuse occurs within families or friends of the family.
      Amazing, isn’t it?

  27. Jim says:

    Thank god for Dogs.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Dogs are God’s creatures.
      I really believe that.
      They are kinder than people,
      more loyal than people,
      and they forgive anything you do.
      What other conclusion can you reach?

    • Amber says:

      Jim, amen.

      Irene, reading this story made it hard to breathe for a minute, comparable to being sucker punched. Excellent writing. Wow.

  28. Jim says:

    …and for the people who “drive them in and let them do their magic.”

    • Irene Zion says:

      You know, Jim?
      I’ll bet you that I could teach my dogs together to drive a car.
      Also I’ll bet that they would drive more carefully than the average driver in Miami.
      And yet, the State of Florida refuses to give them a drivers license!
      I myself am outraged.

  29. She was so matter-of-fact about the whole thing. It’s so unnerving when children are like that.

    I’ve had a lot of my students tell me about the stuff that happens at home. Never anything as traumatizing as that, of course. And I never really know how to respond, having had such a fortunate life myself. It’s so awful to imagine what some people go through at home.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You are so right, David.
      Whatever happens to a kid in his family is what he thinks is normal.
      It never occurs to kids that what is going on is not going on in every family.

      She was matter-of-fact about it.
      She was just telling me how proud she was of her sister,
      and how happy she was that her brother was going to go to prison.
      I hope to God she was right.

  30. Tim says:

    Dogs are better than people.

  31. Dana says:

    Amazing Irene.

    Thank you for sharing this and thank you for sharing your dogs with the people who need them so much.

  32. Irene Zion says:

    Hello, Dana,

    You know anyone who has a pet who is good with people can do this.
    There are even therapy cats, if you can imagine that!
    There are therapy miniature horses.
    Mostly it’s dogs, but the field is wide open.
    Animals, like to work, they like the attention, they like the kids, or the veterans or the old folks.
    It isn’t hard to train an animal who is good with people.
    Anyone with a pet like this should give it some thought.

  33. Lorna says:


    The sad thing is that there are these types of stories to be told. Five? That is so young to be learning life’s hard lessons. Bless you and your precious doggies for giving her some comfort.

    You rock.

  34. Irene Zion says:


    The sadder truth is that there are even younger kids there for the same reason.
    Even younger.
    Staggers the mind.

  35. ksw says:

    here is to all the brave girls that know the multiple kinds of prison…caw

  36. Amy says:

    Wow, don’t know how you do it. Guess that is why you write and paint.

  37. Carol Novack says:

    The mother has no doubt been charged with endangering the welfare of her children, amongst other criminal acts. The girls will go to foster care. Actually, in NYC, that probably would’ve happened already. The brother’s probably a juvenile. Dunno about prison for a juvenile under Florida law.

    Well-done suggestion of what was going on in that house without stating it.

  38. Irene Zion says:

    Oh, Carol,
    I do wish it were so.
    Unfortunately I think that those poor girls went home with the inattentive mother.
    Such is how they do things here.

    (Thanks, for that.)

  39. Marcia, still in Illinois says:

    I wish the sister had succeeded. People eventually get out of prison. Society doesn’t do a good job of protecting people, especially children.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Society does a lousy job protecting children.
      I don’t know how that can be.
      You would think that protecting children would be everyone’s priority!
      I just don’t get it.

  40. holy shit, irene, very powerful.

    this little girl, so relieved, so much safer now, so proud of her sister.

    her big sister, so brave, a young warrior unwilling to just take it, to let her little sister take it.

    but the brother. well, what was that inattentive mother doing at one time or another when somebody was raping him?

    i guess it happens, but most times kids are not just born rapists.

    that mother looking the other way while her daughters were being raped by her son was no doubt looking the other way while some boyfriend of hers, or some family member, was raping him, and making him into what he became to those poor little girls.

    now he’s been stabbed, and it’s hard to be sorry about that. but the little girls are going straight back into the home that probably turned that brother, at one time an innocent kid himself who nobody protected, into a monster whose own sister had to stab him.

    it’s a fucking depressing world out there. i’m not a big fan of dogs, to be honest, but maybe they ARE a whole lot better than we humans.

  41. Irene Zion says:


    I don’t know if the brother was abused before he turned into an abuser, but I suspect he probably was. The mother wasn’t worth a pile of shit in my opinion. There was no father in the home. The usual scenario is one of a series of boyfriends, or “uncles.”
    But, honestly Gina, I don’t care what his excuse is. I don’t. I only care that he was raping his two little sisters on a regular basis. I want him punished and I hope he never gets to come back in that house again. Lord knows the house is no where for those girls to be. They should be placed together in an adoptive home, if the world were fair, but we both know the world isn’t fair.
    I fear that the big sister might get into trouble or get a record for protecting herself and her sister. I don’t know this, but I am afraid of this.
    It isn’t always a depressing world, Gina, I just go to depressing places with my dogs because that is where they are needed. We worked for years at an old folks home until one too many of my people up and died. It was just too much for me. I kept seeing me and Victor sitting in wheelchairs next to each other with 30 other wheelchairs in front of a flat screen TV playing something in Spanish, which we don’t know. I just couldn’t take it. I feel real guilt about leaving them alone because no one ever visits them. I might guilt myself into going back, but it would take its toll on me, I can tell you that.

    Gina, you would like my big dogs. I promise.

  42. I once went to court with a friend so she could testify against the guy who robbed her at gunpoint and roughed her up. As we waited in the courtroom we distracted ourselves by playing peekaboo with the baby in the row ahead of us. He was an utterly gorgeous little cherub. After a few minutes my friend, who had been trembling when she walked into the room, was actually giggling. Then they called her case and brought in the defendant and of course, the woman holding the baby turned him around in the direction of the defendant and told him to, “Wave to Daddy.” My friend did an amazing job testifying very clearly and calmly. It was only afterward in the car when she lost it and went off on the guy. She hated him for robbing her. She hated him for making her afraid in her own neighborhood. She hated him for making her hate his baby the very most.

    The next time I feel like a sucky mother I’m going to remind myself that my daughter has never seen the inside of a courtroom and in our house steak knives are for steaks.

  43. Irene Zion says:


    You are a wonderful mother.
    You have to remember than when you think such things that no one is perfect and we all screw up now and then, but the love is there and the care you give your child and the safety you provide, these are all things that make you a great mother.

    Your daughter will thrive under your mothering. You’ll see.

  44. Irene,

    No time to read the other comments (will do so later, I promise) so maybe this was already asked: Where exactly were you? At the courthouse?

    This is amazing. You are amazing. You and Victor are like human Swiffers, walking around the world and picking up every gritty bit that clings.

  45. Irene Zion says:

    Jessica Anya,

    I volunteer with my dogs at a clearing house for children who have been sexually abused.
    When you spend any time at a place like this, you are bound to be sideswiped by a story you couldn’t ever imagine before.
    There’s no point in volunteering where you are not needed, and where you are needed is usually a place with which you have had no prior experience in your life.

  46. Caleb Powell says:

    I’m late in reading this, but I just wanted to say well done. Not much more to add, you said much with little.

  47. Irene Zion says:

    Thank you for reading, Caleb.
    I really appreciate that you understand what I was trying to say.

  48. Ducky Wilson says:

    Perfectly written. Even the format looks like a cliff, from which you had me hanging. This poor girl and her sister.

    I knew a girl who stabbed both her parents with a butcher knife when she was 5. Though her reason was much different. It made me agree with scientists that there is, indeed, an evil gene.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Geez, Ducky,
      That’s horrible!
      At 5?
      Yeah, unless there was abuse going on, I can’t see a normal child doing that.
      In fact, even if there were abuse going on, a normal 5 year old would not be capable of that.
      I agree with you that there is an evil gene.

  49. Irene Zion says:

    I know, Jessica Anya!
    I feel like that all the time when I go there. All these kids go home to the same house where the guardian or whatever allowed the sexual abuse to take place. It makes me sick how the system works. They always want the kids to stay with a family member, usually the mother, regardless of how blind she was to the problem.

  50. sheree says:


    Thanks for the read and keep up the good work beautiful lady!

  51. Shanna says:

    Augh. The phrasing of “She used a steak knife,” she says, “My sister is so smart” just slayed me. Then when I got to “He bite?” in the comments, I got all weepy and had to wake up my dog to clutch him like a stuffed animal. People consistently astound and horrify me. Dogs solve a lot of my problems.

  52. Irene Zion says:


    I am grateful for your kind comments, which tell me the poem hit its mark with you.
    When I heard this it just about wiped me out, but I had to act as if nothing was unusual.
    Dogs absolutely solve my problems, I’m happy that they help to solve yours too.

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