The Poetry Box®

What She Was Wearing

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What She Was Wearing

by Shawn Aveningo Sanders

How long can you keep a dark secret before you become completely unraveled? In What She Was Wearing, Shawn Aveningo Sanders uses poetry, prose, and letters to tell her #MeToo story—one that has taken over 30 years to reveal.

In this collection, Shawn shares her nightmare of being raped at a fraternity toga party, and examines the event from a variety of perspectives, including poems written from the viewpoint of her attackers; the toga she was wearing; homecoming years later; and even the moment she told her college-aged children. As Shawn’s story unfolds, the reader will come to understand how significant the aftermath of rape can be. For decades, she was “triggered” in the most unexpected ways and is just now recognizing how those triggers impacted her self-worth.

Inspired by the countless number of women who are bravely opening up to share their truth, she adds her voice to the fight against the oppressive, misogynic times we live in. It’s time to stop blaming the victim and to stop asking what she was wearing!  For Shawn, writing through the pain and sharing these poems has proven to be cathartic and even epiphanic at times. It is her hope this work can help women of all ages face and cope with their own traumas, while letting them know they can indeed heal and go on to enjoy loving, trusting relationships.


PAVE logoIn my efforts to help others cope with their own trauma, I’ve partnered with PAVE: Promoting Awareness & Victim Empowerment in their work to “shatter the silence” of sexual violence and take a stand against victim blaming. Since 2001, PAVE has been providing education & training, social advocacy, and survivor support through programs across the country and with their online university. For every copy of What She Was Wearing purchased, 50% of the proceeds will be donated to PAVE to help them continue this important work.


What They're Saying...

“Starkly honest and memorably graceful, these poems are a virtuoso performance of feminism and survival.” 

Amy Miller, author of The Trouble with New England Girls



“Forced into silence for too long, women all over this world are now speaking out, saying #MeToo. What She Was Wearing is Sanders’ brave voice joining this transforming chorus.”

Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita



“Shawn Aveningo Sanders has turned shame, anguish and grief into poetry, … teach[ing] the audience about pain in a way they will absorb and comprehend, creating deep levels of empathy?”

—Judith Arcana, poet & activist for reproductive rights, author of Announcements from the Planetarium



“Fresh and unflinching” 

—Leslie Anne Mcilroy, co-founder HEArt: Human Equity through Art



“As a fellow #MeToo survivor, all 25 poems in the book spoke to me.”

—Sharon Wood Wortman, poet, storyteller, author of The Portland Bridge Book




What She Was Wearing demonstrates how sexual assault impacts the entirety of the survivor’s life and shows us how one can fight their way back to feeling whole again.”

—Christopher Luna, Clark County, WA’s inaugural poet laureate

About the Author

Shawn Aveningo Sanders grew up in St Louis, Missouri and after a bit of globetrotting finally landed in Portland, Oregon, where she miraculously overcame her lifelong fear of birds upon meeting two baby juncos in her backyard. She believes poetry is the perfect literary art form for today’s fast-paced world, due to its power to stir emotion in less than two minutes.

Shawn wasn’t always a writer. She graduated Summa cum Laude and earned a degree in Computer Science with a minor in Marketing from University of Maryland, while working for U.S. Army Logistics in Stuttgart, (West) Germany. Through the years, she’s been a software developer, real-estate agent, productivity coach, soccer mom, PTA president, website designer, and book publisher/designer. At various crossroads, her inner-muse would appear, urging Shawn to follow her passion for poetry.

Since 2008, Shawn’s work has appeared globally in over 150 literary journals and anthologies. She’s a Pushcart nominee (2015), Best of the Net nominee (2017), co-founder of The Poetry Box® press, as well as managing editor for The Poeming Pigeon. She was named Best Female Poet-Performer in the Sacramento News & Review Reader Poll (2009) and was winner of the first poetry slam in Placerville, California (2012).

Shawn is a proud mother of three amazing adults, and she shares the creative life with her husband, Robert. You can learn more about her at


ISBN: 978-1-948461-32-0 | 52 pp | paperback

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