After a five year fight to be recognised as ‘damaged enough’ for the powers that be, I’m on the top of the mountain. A long, steep climb with an obscene amount of hurdles to jump. But I think I can say now that I am at the pointy end of the process. The beginning of The End. Thank. Fucking. God.
I’ve ‘passed’ all of the assessments, each by a new (strange) psychiatrist, usually every three months.
I’ve done whatever has been asked of me by the insurance company of my former employer.
I’ve taken the medication, spent hours upon hours pouring my guts out to various counsellors, mental health nurse and a couple of eccentric psychiatrists.
I’ve kept journals, tried natural therapies, meditation, talismans, crystals and read so many texts on How To Manage This.
I’ve been lucky enough to become part of a group of women who share, learn and grow together.
Most importantly, I started sharing here.
All mostly positive learning experiences and opportunities for reflection and forgiving myself. Because when enough people blame you for your own abuse, you blame yourself with cruel regularity.
I’ve been surviving but also rebuilding.
The next official step in the legal process is a Case Conference. This is an informal meeting of myself, my lawyers and the lawyers representing the other side. The purpose of this meeting (which is compulsory, kind of like mediation before Family Court these days) is to try to resolve the case and avoid the need to go to Court. Again.
I must attend to advise my legal team regarding any ‘offers’ made regarding a settlement but I should be in another room to where the lawyers all discuss issues at hand or negotiate. This is to protect myself should they say anything offensive or upsetting. I will chat to my lawyer and barrister just prior to the conference. The timeframe of a Case Conference can vary from half an hour to a full day but the average is apparently one to four hours. Sounds like a day in the park…
I can take a support person, and someone has offered, but I think I’ll probably go it alone. It’s hard to imagine.
It is hoped that the ‘other side’ is prepared to make a settlement offer as the idea of a Court hearing with a jury is in no one’s best interests. If the do not make any offer, we prepare for court. This would add another twelve months to the wait.
The hope of a settlement is based on where we are at now. The original perpetrator pled guilty in the County Court. It has been proven that the damage done to me at work was a direct result of being sexually assaulted, stalked and then bullied for saying something about it and expecting help (what was I thinking?!?). The damage to me has been ruled likely permanent, stabilised and basically ‘as good as its gonna get’. I’ve met the almost unmeetable threshold…30% Whole Person Impairment.
So, what price my body, mind and mental health? The wages I’ve lost over the last five years? The wages I should have been free to earn for the next thirty years? Pain and suffering? The constant grief of being kept from a career I dreamt of, that I was made for. That made me so happy. And that I was good at.
Apparently it is unusual to be facing this at my tender young age. I had at least 30 good working years left in me. That’s a significant amount of time. I was going to be a Leading Teacher, Assistant Principal…Principal even.
I need the money to live off at this stage. But I also need the money because it is the only way I have to seek recognition of what happened. It won’t say ‘I’m sorry they were such assholes’ on the cheque but I’ll read it that way as it suits me. Finally, I want this money to set a precedent. I know it won’t ‘cure’ me and I’ll have a lot of work to do to help the anger fade with time but I will have pushed the boundaries as far as they possibly go. And if I win, when the next person meets a lawyer, distressed and unable to go on, the lawyer may say that a workcover battle is a very difficult one but they will be able to say, “We’ll, there was this one case in 2013…” and maybe that worker will feel a bit stronger.
I’ll report back after the meeting next week.