Something weird happened. I’m learning. And getting stronger.
I had the Case Conference in the city with my lawyer, barrister and The Other Side. I knew I didn’t have to see or speak in front of the enemy so I was not too stressed on the way in.
Five years of these meetings has taught me to play angry rap music LOUDLY and keep my sunglasses on en route. Don’t concentrate on anything except the words (along the lines of ‘fuck the haters’ or ‘you can’t keep me down’) and breathing. Kind of like giving birth – this is going to play out anyway so you just have to survive it. Later, you’ll recognise your own strength under fire.
The barrister and my lovely lawyer explained the way the Other Side would try to pick apart the case and listed its possible weaknesses in the legal arena. The way the other side would fight mirrored the ugly tactics of his defence in criminal proceedings…though I am seeking financial compensation for damage done. Guilt proven in Court. But even after this, they would still attack me so personally. My childhood. My behaviour. Though I knew these things on a theoretical level, having them listed before me so blatantly was just as shocking as always. A sucker punch. Down I went.
Five years since I first disclosed any of the harassment, assaults or stalking behaviour has taught me that the cliched comebacks and victim blaming never feel any less of a violent attack. Even as a list of possible legal arguments, Things They’ll Use to Discredit You are just as disturbing, shameful and remove all of the courage you’d built up to get where you are. I DID NOT GO IN PREPARED FOR THIS AND I FELL APART. Maybe you can’t steel yourself in this case but let’s just say I forgot how much that hurt.
The barrister spoke numbers. Wages lost, past and future, with pain and suffering topped one million dollars. Though I will never see that amount it comforted me a little to have it recognised even just between us. My loss has been a big one. That’s when I really started to cry and moan, “None of this matters compared to how much I want to be a teacher! When I talk to kids in the supermarket, when I read my son a story…I just ache with the grief that I can’t be what I wanted to be so badly. I was meant to be a teacher”. Head down, choking sobs My lawyer comforted me, her eyes watery, and the two of them left to “bring it” to the Other Side…and see what exactly their position was.
Five years of spilling my guts and expressing pathetic despair should have prepared me for that dark hole I fall into afterwards. It didn’t. I tried to read a book. Couldn’t concentrate. I could hear lawyers talking in adjacent rooms. I put on the trusty headphones and music at full volume. This time, strangely, it was Damien Rice. Delicate. Over and over. I sat up against the floor-to-ceiling window and let the tears fall. Honest truth…I thought about falling from the eighth floor into the concrete chaos below. Falling. Letting myself fall. Would the hurting end? What would my child think of me? How does such a positive, passionate woman with postgraduate qualifications end up sitting in a window wondering about ceasing to be?
My Dynamic Duo returned and I sat at the long conference table with them. They had presented our side and heard the response and counter claims from the other side. An offer was made for settlement on behalf of my ex employer…which didn’t have to happen so I consider that a small positive. It was a shitty offer but made nonetheless. Further details were put to me, some of which were outright lies and I was able to refute in detail on the spot. That pissed me off but cheered me at the same time. STILL LYING! The next steps and what can be expected were not so diabolical. As we finished up I felt … alright. My last words were, ” If I have to be out in front of a jury to fight for compensation, that wouldn’t be the worst thing”.
Five years of fighting a whole group of liars and bullies gives you little to enjoy. Being able to respond to bullshit and denials felt great at the County Court. If they want to make me do it AGAIN, I am very clear on the details and telling the truth makes it easier to repeat with surety. I’d like to avoid taking things that far of course but I know I’m strong on the stand.
To get home I had to play that fucked up angry rap again. It’s a blur, really. Just had a headache for the rest of the day and puffy eyes. I hugged my son with all I had and ate ALL OF THE CHOCOLATE IN TOWN.
Five years with this has taught me that the psychological responses to traumas remain the same. The blows really smash you hard. Send you straight back to the place you were then. During it all. The bottom. Five years have also taught me that what’s happening now is HARD but it’s not like the bottom. When you’re stuck with secrets and scared, you have no voice. Ever.
I’m still talking now and there are so many roadblocks from these assholes but I have a voice. I’m being heard. Not like I deserve, not nearly as much as I want, but I have a voice. And I survived the next step. I’ll probably survive the next one.