W T Stead, by Natalie Scott

I am not a silent poet

Editor of Pall Mall Gazette and campaigner for equality
Guilty of abduction – sentenced to two months, 1885

Our laws state that a girl of thirteen
is at the age of consent, and yet she is
not old enough to give witness in court.
My crime? Caring too much. I wanted
exposure, so I bought a girl and sold her.
Her parents accepted a slim price
and the brothel madam paid a slim price.
Deal done. Evidence acquired.

Our current laws don’t protect those
who make it their calling to pull back
the stained bed-covers of crime.
I was charged with abduction because
her parents could not fathom
how they could have done such a thing,
so pretended they hadn’t. Deny
all knowledge. Safest bet.

Our laws gave me time in Holloway. Not
so much a punishment as a treat. A
pleasant holiday in an enchanted castle. I
had a…

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