I don’t want this to sound like I think the world revolves around me. I think if it did I would have no need for a blog. There is a potent mix of significant events in Australia of late which on their own trigger me into a mental spin. Together, they could/should/probably won’t combine to force one conclusion…I am a victim of crimes committed in the workplace, of a sexual nature, and the people I went to for help threatened and lied about it. They are working within the education system today, without punishment despite the main perpetrator changing his plea to guilty in a criminal court. This admission was several years ago now. Investigations have started at my behest but every level of the system has failed to take action. I repeat it again and again because to me it adds up to a horrendous situation which could have been prevented or circumvented at so many stages. I pushed myself beyond my limits to keep working. I did everything there was to be done. I just cannot believe I am sitting here with the blinds closed because I am afraid of a private detective watching me. ME. All the while there are huge investigations and stories in the media every day related to a part of this shitty scenario. Sexual assault and rape. Workplace bullying. Workplace injury and disability. Educational reforms, from the classroom up. When these things come up in the media every one of them has been highlighted as an area of crisis…issues that have been dealt with in an appalling fashion and must be rectified. How can I still be sitting here in the dark, then?
On Monday 26 November 2012, the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment tabled its report on the inquiry into workplace bullying entitled: Workplace Bullying “We just want it to stop”. The title is insultingly simplified, especially given that many stakeholders jumped up to say that bullying was an untested, unverified and questionable issue full stop. They suggested this investigation had no relevance. I had my head down at the time where submissions could be made and people could speak in front of the Parliament. If only I could have taken that chance. Terrifying? Sure. Life changing in its power? Undoubtedly. Like at SlutWalk this year when I experienced a ‘coming out’, a freeing break from the physical isolation and shame. I chanted, I wore my story written on what I was carrying that day. I cried. I laughed. I hugged. I wanted them to see me. I live in fear every day of being seen ‘out of the house’ or somehow not damaged enough for the powers that be. On that day I was beating my chest and fucking daring them, Come On! It was a watershed moment. If only the high was permanent. I digress. All the time! So the information about the Inquiry is here.
I can’t read it again. It hurts too much. Suffice to say that the education sector features in the Big Four of workplace bullying. If the reaction of my lawyers is anything to go by (and their fancy digs) I am one of many, many teachers pushed out of the system. Not all would be of prime teaching stock but let’s be serious here. If you didn’t love your job and want to be working with the kids, you wouldn’t be trying to get back and therefore be fighting the Department and Workcover, left in such turmoil. The teacher who raped me, for example, simply started his own business unrelated to teaching after Court. He wasn’t sacked nor his license to teach removed. He couldn’t have cared less. He never wanted to be an educator. When I started this blog I wrote about what he said to me about his choice of employment. He’d been in middle management in the retail sector and decided to become a teacher because ‘I have a penis, I knew I’d get promoted and be able to mess with all these women’ or very similar words. I’m too lazy to dig for the quote but it’s there 🙂 But this Inquiry, and the sheer number of teachers forced out of work (also confirmed by the insurance company who deal with “so many teachers”), means that something is wrong systemically and culturally, in the schools and in the non teaching level of education management. We are talking about the very people who educate your children about bullying, self esteem and seeking help. About being good citizens. These are the teachers that are with your children more waking hours than you are as a parent. Teachers are everything. Good teachers inspire you and help you to be your best. Then, like me, you want to become one of those people yourself. Because you are living proof of their potential good influence and fostering a love of learning through positive experiences which met the needs of you as an individual. I had great teachers in primary school, in different ways, because they cared to get to know me. Was I a perfect teacher? Nah. Did I live for the job, feel it like a calling to God? Yes, I did. It is in my personality, it is the product of my family experience, it is my obscene love of discovery and obscure facts. How things work. What I affectionately refer to as the nerd factor. *sigh*
Image from The Age
A Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse by the Clergy in Australia was recently initiated. This is well overdue and so important for thousands of victims. It is the only chance to penetrate a system of secrecy and power that sees itself above all else, immune from the boundaries of the law. Whether the Government is indeed able to break that seal remains to be seen. The hope comes in the voices of the betrayed and silenced. That they can finally be heard, and do it together. There was a great article written by a member of the clergy pushed out after being a whistleblower of sorts. I will have to find it and link it back to here. He explored the multifaceted issues at play in the power stranglehold of the Church. There are basic similarities to my situation, and something I have spoken about before – a rape culture. Victim blaming and shaming, grooming and manipulation, abuse of positions of trust in the community, denial and cronyism…mates looking after mates. There is information about this Royal Commission here.
Image from abc.net.au
Last month the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith MP, made a formal apology to victims of “sexual and other forms of abuse” suffered whilst serving their country. Again, overdue and crucially important. The text of the apology is here. What a formal apology means when I hear it is that SOMEONE KNOWS THIS WAS WRONG. The bastards who caused the hurt didn’t get it, the bosses didn’t get it, maybe the Police didn’t get it. It’s too late. But a public apology is bigger than that. I can only hope that those individuals might have at last felt a sense of validation. Someone heard them. Someone felt their anger. It couldn’t undo the damage that I know very well but I imagine it gives individuals a launching point. A place to start to heal. And that’s the best you can hope for when you have lived through your own personal Hell.
So what does this all mean? Very simply, it says to me that Australia recognises that:
*An individual has a recognised right to work free from bullying, abuse, threats and intimidation
*It is wrong and extremely damaging to be a party to sexual abuse and assault of another
*It is not acceptable to fail to deal with perpetrators of sexual violence and other forms of assault and bullying, in particular as a direct manager of the perpetrator, as a workplace issue
*Employers and management systems in any field or sector have a responsibility to address the issues of assault and bullying as the criminal behaviours they are and not minimise, excuse or lie about their knowledge of such
And this is as it should be. Sadly, these points simply state obvious facts. But they are abused and manipulated all around us. The cost, which I’m sure has been calculated but it’s late and I have to take my sleepy-time tablet, would be in the billions of dollars. I put it to you that the cost just to my baby boy has been immeasurable. He’s not old enough to know the reasons why we stay inside so much; why we never stick to a playgroup or meet many new people, why he goes to day care when I need to see another psychiatrist; why I am a pretty good Mum but feel like a huge shitty failure at being me. I don’t know what it will take to allow me to be able to walk into a bloody school in order to enrol him…and then hand my baby over to Them. I need to rearrange my own psyche to be able to show him all that is wonderful with the world. I want to show him that you can do anything you dream of. Work hard and you can achieve great things. You have everything you already need to make it inside you right now. All of the things I used to think when I started teaching. The things I so desperately want to believe in now. No dollars bring that back. And who knows the potential I was holding. The difference I, or any of the other Workcover teachers, could have made. To one child. To your child. To the child who is scared to go home at night. To the child who hides in the toilets to avoid the loneliness of the playground. To the child who thinks they are stupid and cannot do anything. I was doing that and they took it away from me, over and over again. When I think about that (Sliding Doors *sigh*) I get even more angry thinking that all of the moments I was able to share with students, create that safe and encouraging place, all of the supportive reassurance…and I can’t even walk my own walk. I know intellectually that they are different examples but your world is your world. When you’re at school, when you’re at work. It’s a jungle out there. I would die of shame if any of those awesome kids could see a glimpse of me now. This will only be ok if I can crawl out on the other side.
So if we know all of these behaviours are bad, horrible, damaging. If we say that people seeking help should get it. If we need good teachers and functioning educational management with people we can trust with our own babies. Why am I talking to myself then? I got this whole thing into the County Court. I got the bastard to admit he was a sexual offender on my evidence alone. It’s about time somebody else did something, too. I don’t mind sharing the load. There’s more than enough of this shit for a few of us. Mr Garrett? SOS.
Image credit here