No Direction. No Closure. No Bloody Idea.

It was always used against me, that I was so determined.  That I was a good student.  That I was so enthusiastic.  That I seemed so confident.  They pat you on the back with one hand and stab you with the other.

The passion I once had came from following my heart – I was born to be a teacher.  It’s as simple as that, really.  I was a mature age student, I’d travelled the world and worked in a variety of roles which seemed to naturally lead to this point.  I have (almost) always had the pleasure of being taught by teachers who were there for the same reason.  Students can tell!  Parents can tell!  Other like-minded educators can tell.  It has been such a crushing blow to discover the hard way how many school employees are there for other reasons – and they are usually in positions of power.  An accident?  I think not.

I can’t remember what I’ve called Him on this blog before but He explicitly said, “I’m a teacher now because I have a penis.  I’ll be principal before you’re an Accomplished teacher” (pay level after Graduate).

But graduates are always extra enthusiastic, you say, that’ll change.  Even if you allow for the fatigue of years in the role versus Brand New Enthusiasm, there is a genuine difference in motivations to teach that affect professional behaviour, values and workplace interactions.

In the early stages, they lapped it up from me, as they did the other graduates.  She wants to volunteer for that extra role?  Yes!  You’ve learnt about this new way of team teaching?  Great!  You can help lead the reluctant ones who just want to do it their way!  You bring new life to this school!  We are all better for it!

Until you speak up about something.

Until you say ‘too much’.

Even when what you’re talking about is criminal behaviour that everyone saw and commented on UNTIL you took it further, outside The Group.  It should have stayed Just Between Us.  You’ve just Ruined Everything.  How could YOU do that to US?

Then you’re trying too hard, cocky, speaking “above your station” and “talking about people (they’ve) worked with for years so you’d better watch out”.  But that’s just the beginning.  Warnings.  Subtle and blatant warnings that you don’t want to be A Troublemaker here…Mud Sticks…You’ll Never Work Again.

You always acted like a Slut.

Cocktease.

Over emotional.

Misunderstanding.  This is all just crossed wires, yeah?

Why was it such a fucking horrible, drawn out experience?  I can hardly choose one reason.

Because I was followed, touched, undressed, physically penetrated, cornered, bullied by a senior teacher?

Because it all happened around a primary school, on a camp with your young kids?

Because the children themselves witnessed so many inappropriate things that they voted to put a sign on the door of the classroom banning Him from entry?

That their parents approached me, saying that their kid was worried about ME and what He was like?

That I endured so much on my own because I loved my job so much?

That every single staff member in this small school found Him inappropriate, unprofessional or had questioned him before but when things became formal they vanished into thin air and lied during each level of investigation?

That the people; teachers of small children, that I eventually begged for help to be safe, that I’d cried and shared humiliating truths with; turned it back on me with the click of fingers?

That they used every clichéd slur and excuse in the worn out book?

That they bullied me and talked about me, told staff NOT TO SIT WITH ME AT LUNCH?

That the cumulative result of their actions was eventually to break me?

That despite my confidence, belief that I was meant to be a teacher, letters thanking me for the difference my efforts made with individual students…I wanted to be dead?

I said I was determined.  I moved to another school.  But information like that makes its way around, too.

He pled Guilty.  And I was the one disgusted with MYself.  I was revolting, a failure, a joke.  Everything I’d worked for.  Gone.

I thought I was in a different place.  That I had purged it all.  It’s 8 years this year since He started what he did to me.  I am still at home.  I still have no job.

I have had all the counselling, medication and researched every goddamn way to process and progress towards something.  Anything.  But this shit is like a cancer in your guts.  It’s toxic and it’s scary.  If you’re really unlucky, it’s wrapped around the core of who you are.  You can’t really get away from it, because you are it.  It has become you.

I have to live.  I have to earn money at some point soon.  And I can’t picture that woman in my head at all.  To be out there is to be extremely vulnerable again.

There’s obviously more I need to do yet.  What spurred me on until now was the idea that I could one day tell the story.  That they couldn’t gag me or threaten me then.  And I could shout it from the rooftop.  Mostly because they said ‘you can’t tell anyone’ so many times that I thought the only way to beat the shame was to tell – put it out there and it loses some power.  Or they lose some power.  Now I might have that opportunity and I’m frozen with fear/excitement.

Maybe one of the worst things they managed to do is make sure I never knew when to trust anything again, even myself.

The Many Manifestations of Anger

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Terminal-Rage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An undeniable part of trauma – life, really – is anger.  I’m still very angry, some days more than others, but I kind of like it.  To me, anger feels more powerful than denial, hurt or pain.  When you’ve been feeling powerless and under attack, beginning to feel anger can signify that you acknowledge that a wrong was done to you (rather than this being your fault) and that it was wrong (despite how many excuses people try to feed you to water down the perpetrator’s responsibility).  It was not bravery but anger that got me through the doors of the County Court.  It was anger that drove me to lodge official complaints amidst so many warnings to ‘forget it’ and that I would be ending my own career by talking.  It is anger that enables me to endure yet *another* psychiatric review ordered by the insurance company to ‘prove’ my damage.

My anger is not always productive.  I am hit with impotent waves of rage when the topic of ‘what makes a good teacher’ is raised, or ‘how the education system should be improved’.  I am by no means narcissistic enough to imagine my experience IS the system.  But the topic stabs me in the heart like a blunt knife.  I want to scream about the parts of the system no one talks about.  The people that are still allowed to do as they wish; threaten, bully and lie – even before the Courts.  Mostly it hurts because I miss my job.  And I grieve for the loss.  The involuntary loss of my dream.

That makes me angry.

In order to move through this murky stuff (anger is also a very heavy emotion to drag around with you) I have done what I always do – read about it.

There are ten common anger styles which are divided into three categories; hidden, explosive and chronic.

Hidden styles are common in people who may underestimate or really not know that they are feeling anger.  There are all sorts of childhood and socialisation issues also at play here which may contribute to how a person manages (or denies) their angry feelings.

Anger Avoidance  Some people avoid their anger, suppress it or try to deny it.  This may be especially so of females, who are invariably instructed from birth that ‘nice girls don’t get angry’ or ‘make a fuss’.  Been there, tried that.  It becomes a cancer in you.  Delays the inevitable.

Sneaky Anger manifests in other ways.  Rather than dealing with feelings of anger, these people mask it behind confusion, hopelessness or procrastination.  I may have appeared this way to the people close to me during the worst times.  I would appear full of rage, clearly struggling with something big, but unable or unwilling to share.

Paranoid Anger could also be called ‘projecting’, I think.  This is when people hide from their own aggression by talking it out on others.  They can be convinced that others are angry and lash out in turn.  Or attack and then use the excuse that they were defending themselves.

Explosive Anger is what it says on the label; quick, exaggerated and quite often dangerous.

Sudden Anger is exhibited by loss of control and waves of rage.  These people do not seem to notice the warning signs that anger is building inside them or indeed know how to manage it when it explodes.

Shame Based Anger is also explosive but pertains particularly to issues of low self esteem.  People that are highly sensitive to criticism may lash out defensively to a real or only perceived threat to their egos.  Hello, perpetrator and asshole colleagues.  This is your stop.  Your shame, your anger taken out on me.  Your.  Fault.

Deliberate Anger is used intentionally by people to manipulate and get their own way.  Domineering people (bullies) learn that it is possible to control people through fear and intimidation.  Perpetrator, groomer…this is YOU.

Addictive Anger are seemingly addicted to the rush of being angry.  They don’t know any other way to feel good, or powerful, and seek pathways which invite opportunities to become angry.

Finally, there is Chronic Anger.  These people are your grudge holders, they stew over feelings of anger and find it very hard to let go.

Habitual Anger is used by individuals who have perfected it like a fine art.  They don’t know the difference.  They are angry all the time, over big and small issues.

Moral Anger may be rigid in their thinking and come across as self righteous.  They become involved in endless ‘crusades’, are driven by a sense of justice and what is fair in their eyes.  This is me, whether it be my ‘crusade’ or the plight of others.  I admit it.  I reckon if you have to be feeling angry, though, this one is alright.  But I am biased.

Unresolved anger can morph into resentment and Hate.  People like this always see themselves as the innocent victim and are caught in the grip of the beast.  Which is invariably not their fault.  Ever.

Now I am after all only human.  I’ve dabbled in a few forms of anger expression.  It is however Moral Anger that drives me/drives me crazy.  I know what is right and wrong.  I know how many times I was treated badly…criminally…in my workplace.  By people who always knew that they had a moral, ethical and legal obligation to behave in a different way.  The right way.  The legal way.  So I am still angry.  And searching for a sense of closure.  A point where I can stop trying to be heard and start just being me again.  I’m pretty determined/stubborn/unable to stop until I have taken it as far as I can go.  I don’t know what I will do then.  How I will feel.  But I will know in my heart that I tried everything I possibly could.  That I pushed things in every direction and took the flak that came with that.  I am trying to exorcise this bubbling anger but also I’m just being defiant.  Don’t tell me to stop!  How dare you tell me I will lose my job!  I should ‘get over it’ and let you carry on without ‘rocking the boat’ for you guys?  Will I fuck.

Still here.

Still talking.

Still fighting.

Hopefully there will come a day soon where I can stop being so angry and just look back and feel a bit proud of myself.  While I work for that, there is plenty to keep me busy.  It’s tragic how far Moral Anger can take you, in the area of assault and victim blaming in particular.  I’ll stomp some out at Slutwalk 2013.  Sometimes it feels like I have hardly moved since this started, but since I ‘came out’ and marched with the others at Slutwalk last year, I’ve come a long way, baby!

Women, It Is Time To Roar

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So, this image is doing the rounds on twitter in the last couple of days. It has struck a chord with me in particular because I am sitting with some pretty intense rage. The words on the sign are fairly polite compared to what many might be thinking at the moment, amidst such horrific acts of barbarism on our young women. It hurts my chest, makes my whole body feel heavy…and makes me want to scream obscenities and let this simmering hatred and anger erupt.

Fuck those rapists. Fuck the police who minimise or make victims feel guilty. Or in one particular case, tell the victim she should marry one of the rapists and drop all charges. WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Fuck the women and men who immediately return fire when people voice their rightful anger at these acts with ‘Not all men are bad’ and ‘Anger doesn’t help get people on your side, you know’. Well, fuck off then. If you think women should express their disgust at the fact that girls and women around the world aren’t safe at home or out of it more politely and with less aggression then fuck you. There is something wrong with you if your priority here is the presentation of the words. If you don’t think women should be enraged and passionate about using their voices and standing up together about rape then you should immediately assess the contents of your soul. Also, if you think that women can’t address other women on this issue without using parentheses to include the male victims of abuse and violence, fuck that, too. Nobody knows better than a survivor of this shit that it happens to individuals in every category. But there is an acute imbalance here and it is ridiculous and offensive to me that an attempt to reach out can be dismissed because the hurt party doesn’t mention ‘the others’. Get the fuck over it. Any decent man reading this stuff would not expect that I am speaking for every individual on the planet and I’d posit they would also respect my message without asking about who I left out. Just so we’re clear on that.

You can’t ignore it. Gender. Gender. Gender. Deal with it.

Suppressing and silencing this anger, this natural and reasonable reaction to such horrifying abuse, is dangerous. It’s toxic. Perhaps under a different gender construct, with different social conditioning, this anger and swelling discontent amongst the worlds women would manifest itself in a much scarier, more violent (and much less ladylike) way. Have you thought of that? I have imagined those scenarios in my head. I have referred to them here before. I imagine retribution. I imagine hurting the people who violated me and then covered for each other. A counsellor referred to it as a Release Valve. That is, I don’t really want to hit him with my car, but the thought is a release for my psyche under great strain. I feel like there is something wrong with me at times, for having these violent feelings. It’s not ladylike, not expected and certainly not discussed. I rage inside, the longer this experience goes on without any sense of justice or closure. No career, no pride, no life. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who has been treated with such callous disregard and violated over and over who sometimes thinks what they would do if they could hurt the people who hurt them. Strangers respond with all sorts of violent vitriol on the Internet, from ‘put me in a room with him’ to ‘castrate and stone to death’. Does it help the cause? Perhaps not. But I’m asking you to stop and think about the outcome if there was a gender ‘expectation’ reversal here and millions of women reacted on the outside the way they can be made to feel on the inside. I happen to think that if 1 in 3 men faced sexual assault or rape, with danger in and out of the home, followed by intense shaming and blame for their own humiliation…if they survived the assault…the world would be set on fire. Literally.

I will try to find a way to deal with my anger and building aggression. Not because I give a shit about the idea women shouldn’t lose their shit and feel SO ANGRY that they let it out somehow. I’m angry. I’m really fucking furious. About how I’m being treated. About how all of these other women are treated and hurt and killed. And how if you survive, you operate on a Danger Scale in your head every day. Every interaction is acutely analysed and you never really feel safe anywhere. Go out? Not safe. Start a relationship? Not safe. Even tell someone your story. Not safe. Danger. Judgement. Humiliation. Danger. Danger. Danger!

That’s not a fucking life. I deserve more. A young girl in Delhi deserves more. An old woman in America…we all fucking deserve more.

While the retweets and mentions and sheer existence of assault, rape and abuse sting…and they do…they offer one hope. One life-changing possibility. THIS might be the beginning of the end. THIS could be the time when enough voices join together to be heard. Loud and clear. Some of us hear the voices. But we already know what they’re calling for. So this is another chance for us to add our voices to their voices. THIS is the time to let each woman know, in every country of the world, that we hear them. We support them. We are them. That support helps the ones who have been hurt so badly, that NEED to know that someone hears their cry. That matters a whole lot. It may also contribute to creating a bigger force to be reckoned with. Louder voices. Stronger. Fiercer. Greater solidarity on an issue so shame-filled and isolating. Destructive.

We ALL deserve better than this. Say it out loud. Every chance you can.

Endless Scream

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I struggle with the endless scream coming from deep within me while this whole process moves in such slow motion. I ignore the screaming most of the time, much like I feel my screaming was and is ignored by the people who should be hearing it. And acting. All those dreams I have had where I am screaming out for help but apparently no one can hear me. No one notices me, the way my face looks when I’m screaming like this, guttural and raw. What’s wrong with these people? In my nightmares and in real life, when my screaming is ignored…I keep screaming. It hurts that no one notices. So I scream again because how much more can you hurt me?. Stop! Listen! Someone just stop this game. Every week that ticks over makes the pain worse.

My employer, the largest public sector employer in Australia, has denied, dismissed or excused what has been done to me at every level. I keep repeating it because I just cannot believe that it’s true. I researched who my boss needed to contact, where he could get information (I knew he was utterly out of his depth in the job of Principal at all, and I thought if I pointed him in the right direction, he’d do the right thing). That bit me on the arse later because when his conduct was investigated (cough) one of the things mentioned was that he called the right people. I fucking know he did. I printed out the fucking numbers.

What do you do with this anger? Mindfulness would tell me that I can accept the anger as a feeling and still exist as I am. I am more than this white hot rage and endless scream. I almost believe that now. But now what? Do you open it up? Let it out? I have some pretty weird thoughts and feelings. I imagine revenge and retribution scenes which I would never act upon. But I can honestly say that I understand how that gate opens for some people. Bad things will happen. But if a group of people with some power collectively tell someone it was their fault; they are liars, isolate and lie, pervert investigations and spread malicious gossip about the victim; they violate them over and over. And it is worse than the original violation. Good people can only take so much. That kind of intense pressure, the whole world grinding you down and taunting you, might turn you into a diamond. But it might crush you for good. Make you crack. Explode. I remember the day I fell out of the car after working all day at school and dodging him, having him watch me through the window all day. I sat in the driveway and thought, This is why people cut themselves. This is the feeling. Every cell in my physical body is exhausted from the fight. I need to release this or stop this or distract myself or I will die.

I realised the other day that I could feel the deep, deep desperation that eventually snaps people. You don’t have to call anyone. I’m not going to light a fire. But I’m afraid I have an understanding of how people get there. It’s a scary feeling. Terrifying. I think that this feeling is closely linked (for me, anyway) to suicide ideation. It’s desperate. It’s agony. It’s the end of the endless scream.

I’ll keep fighting for another end to the endless scream. But I’ve been reminded lately that the screaming girl is actually just a blink away. With additional pressure, another insulting hoop to jump through comes the raw, aching, hoarse screams. The anger. The frustration. The hurt. The howling.

It is what drives me on when I could quit. But it is also my outer limit. A reminder that I might reach that point one day. I’m getting ready for the next round of appointments and justifying my state of mind to prove that the psychological injury is *still* there. And it reminds me that it most certainly is still there. I have got to find out what to do with this anger. It’s contained by force right now, inside my chest. I’m sitting on it, jumping on it, telling it to shut the hell up. But I have to admit that I need to get help to make sure this thing doesn’t escape. God, this is scary, holding this force inside. I need to make some calls tomorrow…

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What Say You, WorkSafe?

This won’t be a long one but (insert scream here)…

Image credit here

Firstly, WorkSafe sent a letter asking if they could use me in their research coming up.  Not me in particular, just any workers.  But do I have anything to say which could help others?  Why, yes I do, sir.  Please contact me.  Or, employ me to design and conduct the research project – as I am also qualified to do so.  But now I just blog instead.

Photo credit here

If I get the chance, I will explain to the good researcher that there is a problem with insurance companies.  Professionalism.  Duty of care. The critical role they should play in getting people back to work.  I find mine lacking in this area.  This makes ‘recovery’ more difficult when it needn’t be.

Also, could we possibly have a bit of recognition for psychological injury?  Not to suggest that a physical injury does not harm and affect the inside, too, but WorkSafe, you are involved with me because I was sexually assaulted (etcetera) by my boss, and then heavily influenced to keep it quiet by others in charge.  This is not a simple injury.  It did not actually ‘happen on a Wednesday’.  I cannot go back to a school on ‘modified duties’.  At the heart of the issue, when you have me assessed every 90 days, you are essentially undressing me and requiring me to talk about my own body.  Not in the mechanical sense.  It can move.  In the violated sense.  The deeply personal sense.  The embarrassing sense.  The retraumatising sense.  Am I painting a picture for you here?

Therefore, when somebody makes a mistake or an admin person calls to question me; it’s not as clean cut as you might like.  I am a compliant person.  I do whatever is asked of me in this process and apologise the whole time for bothering you all.  I’m also trying to get better when I have a psychological injury.  So please don’t fuck with me.

Photo credit here

I would also like to comment on the process of exiting the ‘system’ roundabout.  I had thought recently that I would like to make some plans for the future.  I know that I will need to continue counselling and medication but I would like to think I might have the chance to rebuild my professional self and earn my own wage, not through blood money.  Now, you suggest I cannot do that in a school environment.  This is probably true, though I will never be happy to concede this.  I would also like to note here that should appropriate action have been taken AT ANY STAGE of this awful experience, I would not have had to forfeit my career, and you could have quite easily handballed me back into a teaching job which I loved.  But even as I type, I have never been approached or addressed with regards to my welfare, safety, wishes…nothing.  The schools, the Institute (especially, I might add), the Department and all parties involved (however tenuously) in my alleged repatriation.  I have initiated everything, every step of the way.  I have followed through despite what everyone around me did to make it harder for me.  And now when I think of my future, you give me this…

I was forced from a professional position which I earned after postgraduate university study.  I wanted it.  I sacrificed for it.  I thought my dream had come true.  When I had to be assessed for future employability options, I was told that I would not be put into a random position.  It would be somewhat commensurate to my position when I left.  I recently made enquiries about retraining options.  To get better, I need something to imagine.  Something to work towards.  I was told that I cannot be retrained until I have been declared Fit To Work.  Here’s the conundrum.  I won’t get better (from a psychological injury) without retraining.  Catch-22, yes?

Photo credit here

So what retraining is open to me when I perform a mental miracle (presumably after a Department-funded partial-lobotomy to remove the memories and flashbacks..)?  Oh, you only fund short courses?  In what?  What if I’d never worked in another role?  I was only a teacher?  How would you fix me then?

I offered to finance my own retraining and seek to complete my Masters in Social Work.  I could study things that matter to me.  Work towards helping others.  Make a difference.  It’s what I wanted to do at the start, but, funny girl that I am – I thought I could work in schools and be a positive adult for children before there was a need for social intervention.  Quaint, aren’t I?  A tragic idealist.

But I can’t do that either, can I?  Because there is a component of Field Placement.  An ‘internship’ providing essential practical experience.  And the chance to get my pride back.  But I can’t be in any workplace.  Even in that capacity.  Because I am certified unfit by my GP with regards to work before.  But I can’t legally make a positive change and become a distant memory for you all when I regain my independence.

Photo credit here

Small balloon of hope: deflated.  Back to the drawing board.  As usual, I’ll do it all myself.

Total Recall

**The contents of this post, like all of them, may contain descriptions and scenarios which may be triggering to sexual assault/rape victims**

There are some things you hope you can avoid in life. Meeting an Anaconda.  Contracting Bird flu.  Surviving a helicopter crash.  You know, because they sound like bad experiences, right?  Traumatic.  Dangerous.  Scary.  Certainly unforgettable.  What if you had to face them TWICE?

I am going to add to that Things You’d Like To Avoid List being cross-examined in Court.  Hands up if you have been in the witness box..?  I don’t know about your experience but I can tell you about mine.  And how close I came to having to do it again the other day.  Which was TERRIFYING.

When the man who sexually assaulted me, ok, raped me, was charged, the case was heard in the County Court in the city.  I had to testify.  And I had to be cross-examined by the defence.  I can remember such acute details of that day.  In other ways it feels like a hazy bad dream.  I was very anxious about testifying.  In one way I knew that it was my one chance at being heard.  Yes, the chance to roar.  But what a way to go about it!  The police officer who was with me from taking my initial statement to that day in court (she was amazing) helped as much as she could.  But there really is no preparation for being a witness in your own rape case.

The night before Court I had one of my younger sisters stay the night at my house.  She talked to me, held me and let me cry.  That’s something no little sister should ever have to do.  But I needed her and she was there for me in the perfect way.  She can summarise people so succinctly that you would think she was twenty years older.  Wiser.  From a young age, my sister could see right through anyone and tell you what you needed to do.  Her six-year-old self told another sibling one day, “Look, get a job.  Clean your act up.  No one can take you seriously when you’re not helping yourself”.  I like to think we have that in common.  So she was the right companion for a really shitty time.  I had a notebook at the
time (many, really.  First, I was a teacher and they are mostly stationary freaks.  Secondly, I had Court notes, inspirational quotes, counselling notes…anything and everything).  This notebook was mine to help me get through the experience of testifying.  In it she wrote on a random page ‘Every Dog Has Their Day’.  She was referring to HIM being a dog in the derogatory sense and that his day was coming, and I was the one who held the power.  Pretty smart, no?  My siblings don’t read this blog but my mother does, I’d say.  She knows who I’m talking about.  Bravo, again, mother.  Job well done there, too.  That girl is a winner and most of the time, wise beyond her years.  I still have that piece of paper.

The policewoman took great care to keep me out of sight in the Court foyer but the OTHERS, my colleagues who KNEW what I had gone through and how I had come to EACH OF THEM over time ASKING FOR THEIR HELP, walked past me in a pathetic group.  They had to ready to be called to testify and it seemed to me that they clung to each other like the yellow-bellied cowards they are.  Our eyes met once and I like to think that my glare was like lasers, cutting them down.  It was probably more like a sad little puppy at the pound, watching their family leave them, abandoned and facing death.  I tried for daggers, though.  I really did.

I consider myself very lucky that I was able to testify via video link (or however they do it) from another room in the Court.  I think I would have fainted at the very least if I had been able to see his eyes.  I imagined leaping out of the stand and throttling him.  Spitting in his face.  Screaming, ‘You know what you did!’  But I really just would have vomited, I think.

It was bad enough knowing he could see me.  Someone told me that his wife was sitting next to him in Court.  That made me feel all sorts of things.  Was she there because she believed it all to be a lie?  What would it be like for her to see me describe what her husband did to me?  Would she hear something I said and in an instant, know I was telling the truth?  Know that he would say that?  Do that?  Would he watch the screen and see my face?  Or hang his head?

I hugged my sister as tight as I could and was led into a small room far away from the Court room they were in.  There was a lady who was in the room with me, a minder of sorts.  She explained the screens in front of me and what would happen when Court was in session.  It seemed to me to look like the control room at a tv station.  There was a monitor on which I could see the Magistrate and another where the lawyers would be visible as they questioned me.  I sat at a small table and the minder was to my right.  The door out, the one that called to me ‘here I am, in case you wanna run’, was to my left.  I remember I wore a blue shirt that day, buttoned up all the way.  I held a small teddy in my hands, hidden from anyone’s view under the table.  My very little brother had given me that teddy and I squeezed the hell out of it, held it tight.  Of course, I still have that teddy.

I don’t remember the prosecutor questioning me, to be honest.  I will never forget the defence.  He was a round-ish man with grey hair.  Pompous looking.  An air of arrogance and contempt for me.  The inference in his very manner was that I had caused a lot of trouble and he thought my words a joke.  I had wondered if Court would be like it is in the movies.  It was.  Except nobody leapt to yell ‘Objection!’ and save my skin when the questioning got out of control.  I remember the female Magistrate’s face – a floating head on her own television screen – peering at me with her brow furrowed.  I noticed when the Defence became cruel, she moved forward, trying to read me.  Was I handling this?  Did she need to stop him?  I remember thinking she was quite compassionate and her face showed a human interest.  Unlike the Defence barrister.  That pig of a man.  He was rude, vile.  He pushed me.  Mocked me.  Accused me of lying.  He described my body parts.  He described my genitals to the Courtroom.  Yep, my vagina.  How I had described my genitals in my statement.  WHAT HE DID THEN.  It was revolting.  They let me take breaks.  Maybe I looked too upset.  I sipped some water and howled.  My sister told me later that hearing my guttural moans through the wall but not being able to get to me was torture.  I can’t imagine.  The minder was very nice considering she was not there for me, just to ensure I was safe from myself and the technical side of things was working.  I had my head between my knees and she lay a gentle hand on my shoulder, just for a second.  It was a comfort that she felt my pain.  What a job to do!

I was questioned for most of the day.  When I was done (well after I’d passed done, I’d say!) the Prosecutor and policewoman came in to see me.  They explained that HE wanted to change his plea to guilty if they would remove the Rape and Stalking charges, leaving two counts of Indecent Assault and thereby suspending a probable jail term.  They said that this was a good outcome given the difficulties in getting a successful conviction in a rape case.  I knew the statistics well.  I also knew I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.  I knew that the other people from work, including the woman who’d been a party to it all and gave new meaning to the term slut shaming, would lie on the stand to protect their negligence.  I went to my boss about HIM, then eventually about HER as she bullied and degraded me.  He warned me they were friends and I’d ‘better watch what I said next’.  In the end I had to go beyond the workplace – which also failed.  But that’s another topic.  The legal system, however, did NOT fail me.

Though this experience undoubtedly sounds shitty, and it was, I want you to know that I do not regret testifying one bit.  I would encourage and support any other person in a similar situation (for which I am sorry) to be heard if they can.  You don’t feel brave or strong at the time.  You indeed put yourself at the mercy of another abusive person in the defence for a time.  But what you MIGHT do is slap that bastard in the face with the TRUTH so hard that he changes his plea.  In the midst of the tears and exhaustion, there was a part of me that knew I’d had a victory.

I wrote a Victim Impact Statement for sentencing which took place the next day.  I asked the Police if I could be there but they said no.  I wanted to read it out myself.  The policewoman did, however, call me to describe what had happened.  She told me that the Magistrate had read out my statement to the Court.  What I wrote was pretty raw.  It is also an empowering thing to do if you are ever faced with the same situation.  Another chance to be heard.  It’s never enough but you have to take what you can get.  Apparently the Magistrate said in her sentencing that she wished that the Plea Bargain had not been struck because she felt HE deserved jail.  I can’t tell you how much that matters to me.  So HE got a suspended jail term of 12 months and a fine (I scoff at the fine…I mean, seriously?)

It is possible I will have to testify/explain myself about this issue at least once more before this is done.  This I have reconciled myself with.  Er, in a fashion.  As much as one can.

What I was not at all prepared for was facing the witness box again for something else.  Recently I found myself facing the possibility of this helicopter crash in Family Court.  The similarities between the two experiences are actually disturbing.  I didn’t realise as it was happening (eternally optimistic or deliberately in denial?) but when faced with being cross-examined the other day it hit me like a familiar Mack truck.  And I fell apart.

Knowing you are telling the truth can take you pretty far in life.  Helps you ‘fight the good fight’, though you’d rather be out playing somewhere.  I told the truth then, and I was telling the truth in this other personal battle.  I was feeling pretty strong and (unfortunately) had a routine of sorts to get my mind ready for Court because of what happened to me before.  But there was a second in time when the lawyer was talking to me the other day and she mentioned taking the stand and I said, “Well, I really want to avoid that actually because oh my god I’ve already done it before and I …”  That lawyer didn’t know what I was talking about.  Oh, the feelings inside me.  I firmly believe in cellular memory.  Your body remembers experiences, even ones the mind works had to forget.  Well, my body remembered my first cross examination.  And it FREAKED OUT.

It passed, though.  I survived.  Court is done for now.  A deal was struck – again.  But I am left with a couple of thoughts.

My own ability to move on is more impressive than I thought.  It feels like I’m stuck in this trauma many days but really I am only troubled by SOME (read: more than enough) things which affect my day to day experience.  I don’t think about the legal process all the time.  I couldn’t.  I’d be hiding under my bed.  (If you are/ have been that person, I’m not mocking it.  I understand why you could feel that way).

At the same time I am so fucking angry that I was rendered unable to be a witness in Court FOR THE SAFETY OF MY OWN CHILD due to what these people had done to me in the first place.  I was shaking, crying, ashamed, having flashbacks.  Shit!  In lots of ways, I try to forge a new path and keep on trying.  Life my life and be happy.  Some days I run, some days I drag my ass and wish I had a teddy bear to hold.  The other day in Family Court was a stark reminder that while these experiences can make you stronger, some parts can really just kick your ass.  Damn it.

PS  Really, if you can do it, standing up in Court IS WORTH IT.  You can do so much more than you think you can (and so much more than you should have to!)  Take a swing at the bastards if you can.

A Burn Book

I tried a lot of different methods of releasing my anger and howling frustration during the time after police became involved. This was 8 months after the woman assigned to sort of be my ‘buddy’, my go-to person at work, witnessed and verbally participated in repeated sexual assaults against me by a colleague and refused to help me when I came to her about the stalking behaviour. Time and time again.

I found this extremely hard to process. That she had ‘egged him on’ and made jokes as I swore, SAID NO and fought him off me. That she immediately said he was ‘not getting it at home’ when I said he made me very uncomfortable and was inappropriate. That in her police statement she referred to me as a cock-tease and suggested I brought it upon myself by being confident. She has a daughter a year or two younger than me. I couldn’t grasp that she could immediately dismiss what had happened to me and how wrong her actions were; as a mother, as a female, as a senior staff member, as a decent human being.

Honestly, I wanted to kill her.

I struggle with this still. This is a major factor in my inability to interact, trust, engage these days. The utter shame, the fear, the betrayal. I’m not safe anywhere, am I? How can I be? I can’t even trust another woman in such a situation.

To get the anger out I bought a red exercise book (to signify the anger, the purpose of it) and sometimes wrote down some really raw thoughts in it. These days the exact thoughts aren’t always explicitly in my head as I fight the anxiety and helplessness that strangles me. I get confused, feel stupid for still feeling so vulnerable and hurt. But I just read some words out of the red book about her and I realise that my feelings make perfect sense. Thank god I DON’T think of the origins of my angst every day…I’d been in much worse shape.

In the interests of psychology (or psychiatry, your choice), I thought I’d share a little bit. Why? Because it’s how I felt. How I feel. It’s uncomfortable to feel such dark, violent thoughts. That’s not me. I’m a bit of a tree-hugging hippy, class clown type. I was. I try to be now. Sometimes the old me sneaks a moment and I think, what the hell is this feeling?. Then I remember. It’s happiness. How sad that it has been foreign to me since this all happened. Putting the dark thoughts out there into cyberspace feels like I am releasing some of the darkness, like fetid balloons of grief. I let them go here tonight and I feel lighter. Thank you for being there as I let some more of this go. Anywhere but inside me. Away!

Excerpt One

You blame me because you don’t want to feel responsible
It is easier to lay it all at my feet
Than admit, personally and professionally, you behaved so heinously
Time is slow
But I will make you face yourself
And it will hurt
You will never recover
But I will
Soar like an eagle
My conscience clear

Excerpt Two

I have drawn her tombstone with regard to her being dead to me from now on (was trying to draw a line, end her power)

Excerpt Three

Some day you will ache like I ache (lyrics from a song by Courtney Love)

Then my scribble…

I want you to feel the pain
The fright
Unable to sleep
Fear and trepidation
Trust no one
Violation and trespass
Exposure
Shame
I wish you were stripped bare like I was
Exposed like I was

I would take your eyes so you couldn’t see what was coming next
Because you refuse to see the truth

I would take your ears
Because you ignored my cries
Mocked my struggle
Denied my voice

I would take your brain, leaving only memories you don’t want
Be stuck with flashbacks that scare and trick you
I want you to feel how it feels to be trapped in such a scary place in your own head
I would take your arms and legs
So you cannot defend yourself from anything
You are never free
You are vulnerable and helpless

I would expose you
Humiliating you
Like you have done to me

Excerpt Four

You are a liar
I tell the truth

You ignore the struggling
I am a loud voice for myself and others, always have been

You say NO means YES
I know different

You are scared of being found out
But I will be free soon

You are guilty
I am innocent

You are worried about your reputation
Mine is shot in these circles due to you, but I will look after myself and try again, rebuild

You bring sadness and lies
I bring love and laughter. I care. I matter

You will keep getting weaker as you wait to be found out
I will only get stronger the more I speak out

You twist the truth, repeat your lies
I don’t need to, the truth is in me

You will frown, worry, watch over your shoulder
I will one day smile and triumph
I will overcome

My thoughts on these things now? As I read them I can hear the force with which I meant every word. It was like a vow. I WILL SURVIVE. Now I hear a bit of hopeful desperation in the words, like, ‘but I will be free soon. Please?’

But I think writing down my raw thoughts and feelings about her helped a lot. Certainly a case of ‘better out than in’ for the sake of my health. I would like to hear from anyone else who has ever felt such a darkness, the ‘other side’ of our human nature. Or have you written/created/painted etc these or similar feelings to let them out? I’m on the lookout for another outlet… X