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.

Possible Possibilities

It’s been nine months since I was here last. I’ve been studying for my Masters and working on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ideas. It’s been wonderful to fill my brain with new theories and texts but reality bit when it came time to do field placement in the workplace. I freaked out. What I’ve been telling myself is progress may also be distraction…until now. I have another six months before I have to face that demon again. Maybe I’ll volunteer somewhere first? Baby steps? *teeth clenched* A new career possibility was my new dream…power in being useful and contributing again.

But actually I just want to be a teacher. Still.

I’ve braved some primary school functions for family members and once I determined that there were no familiar faces, I felt the same thrill. I’ll say it. I enjoyed a whole-school assembly.

Fuck it.

I felt like it was my home planet. I smiled at the students. Bit my tongue so as not to redirect some behaviour. Tossed out a few encouraging ‘thumbs ups’. School feels NATURAL and full of potential. Like it used to. Once.

So I did something the other day.

I printed out the application to Enrol To Teach.

It’s been more than five years since I was assessed by VIT standards so I would have to start again as a Probationary teacher. That means extra work but I’m not that bothered.

I don’t know whether I’ll go through with it. But I met a *lovely* school Principal recently and it occurred to me that a different experience in the workplace is possible.

Possible.

I don’t know where I will end up yet but this has been a big step.

Oh, and my beautiful lawyer sent me a christmas card this month, which marks one year since the YES on the financial settlement. What has the money enabled? I’ve avoided homelessness. I’ve paid for immediate help rather than going on waiting lists. I’ve set up a new home which is free of the drama and paranoia associated with a long work cover case. I’ve paid for text books and internet to keep me connected. I have paid for lots of relaxation massages to battle the physical tension.

I’ve started to lay the foundations for the version of me that I didn’t want to become – I was happy where I was before this – but that I’m now very proud to be.

Seven Years

It is almost seven years exactly.

Seven years since I walked into that school and felt all of the pride and excitement that comes with starting the job of your dreams.  Especially after returning to university to get there.  Giving up a professional income to study for this because THIS is where your heart is.  Where all of the best things can happen.  The classroom.  And it was mine.

Seven years since I moved into my first real home on my own.  Not a granny flat or weirdo share house.  Mine.   Two bedroom unit I would pay for with my dream job in the school I had chosen, in the beautiful small suburb on the edge of town.

I was in a relationship.  I had my home.  I was happy.  All my ducks were in a row.

Seven years since the school year started but I see now that by that day, I was on his radar.  He was a predator from very early on, if he has ever been any other way, I couldn’t say.  Certainly the gossip from those on his interviewing panel were that his references were questionable.  Inappropriate relations with staff, in general, were part of his MO.  But hey, they knew him.  He was a Nice Guy.  Further complicating my experience, the power plays and existing alliances amongst such a small, long term staff list would ensure I would not get any of the support that was rightfully mine when the time came; ethically, morally, legally or as the profession standard.

Seven years I have tortured myself.  First with denial – This revolting creature could not possibly be serious?  But I will never forget how he asked for a ‘team photo’ on school photo day and as they took the shots his hand slid down my back and squeezed my buttock.  But I look so happy in the photos.  My hair was shiny, my eyes bright.  My belief that I was in the right place with important work to do with students as a caring, empathic teacher was at peak level then.  And I fought it’s demise every step of the way.  Then I tortured myself with the guilt and shame spiral that I’d come to know well working in welfare with child survivors of sexual abuse.  No amount of reasoning and research means a thing when you feel so stupid and trapped in your own skin.  That theoretical knowledge probably makes it worse in some ways.  Another thing to beat yourself with.  How could I miss the signs?  How could I be fooled?  How did I get to this?  I am an educated adult in a fair country in 2007.  I am a Union member who knows my rights by heart.  I can talk.  I know who to tell.  How the hell can you have all of that and still sit at the bottom of your running shower every night and wail?  How?

It really has been seven years of screaming into people’s faces as they stare blankly ahead and pretend they can’t hear me.  I did it that first night.  We had the children on a school camp, you see.  While you wondered how your kids were on their first big camp away, they were tucked up in bed but the most senior teachers were both in a dark room with me.  One trying to remove my pyjamas, one joking about how I was young and “probably giving HIM an erection” as I fought him off and yelled about how much trouble he would be in.  She was awake.  She did hear me.  I fucking told her I was upset about it when he left the room and she said, “He’s just an affectionate guy” – hard to say in your sleep.

I just had to stop for a bit.  Seven years and it still hurts.  It is still hard to believe that two primary school teachers acted in that way with kids asleep in the cabins beside us.  He was supposed to be in a cabin on the other side of the camp.  With the fathers who had volunteered to assist.  On this camp so far away from home.  No car.  Only HIS car.

I am in awe of the human mind, how it worked to get me through that camp.  That whole year with HIM, in the office next to my classroom, only windows between us. Six months later, after he was sent home and the Police became involved.  As the Principal held a staff meeting to tell everyone that HE was suspended due to accusations by a staff member.  And the room fell in on top of me.  (Protocol that can be found on a Google search clearly states that this meeting should not have taken place, staff should NOT have been told but apparently the Principal should not be reprimanded because “he was new to the job”.)  I printed out the guidelines for him, you know.  Highlighted what he had to do next and the ‘chain of command’, if you will.  I spoon fed it. I knew enough to have little faith in either his abilities or interest.  And he pretended I hadn’t. Because they went to school together as kids.  He knew HIS wife.  HE was immature but harmless, couldn’t I see that?  They were both just NICE GUYS.

For seven years I have heard that.  From every level of the hierarchy.  I have been questioned, cross examined, shamed, blamed and talked about.  I worked for another two years (because I’m stubborn, and I truly believed in Right and Wrong) but this followed me.  Like they told me it would.  When I sat in her office, broken down, desperate, and asked the Principal for help as HIS frightening behaviour was breaking all kinds of LAWS (I thought that would scare him into action HAHAHAHAHA) and he stated very simply, “If you make this known outside these walls, your career will be ruined.  Mud.  Sticks.” I still thought he was being dramatic, or referring to other difficulties.  I did not realise that what he actually meant was that the three of them together would almost kill me from the inside out.  That he would laugh when a temp agency called to ask if I had worked there before.  That I would become unemployable because someone with authority over me in the workplace decided that he would have me, body and mind, whether I wanted that or not.  Every time I got the guts (or pissed off enough) to say something I was “being unprofessional” and “should reconsider whether I am suitable for the job”.  Said the ‘new to the job’ principal.  Was he also new to planet Earth and Australian Law?

For seven years I have known that the only option for me was to fight.  At times I had nothing left.  I considered how I could stop the insanity…only one way that I could see.  Then I would decide again that they couldn’t have all of me, the pricks.  I didn’t try to wipe myself out in defiance because that would be too much of a gift to them.  All gone.  Nothing for them to worry about.  I wanted them to have something to worry about.

For seven years I imagined bloody revenge.  Fiery vengeance.  Sometimes violent retribution.  What else can you do?  I did take myself to a counselor then and ask if I was becoming a psychopath, had I crossed the line?  What had I become?  (It’s particularly disconcerting when the targets inhabit primary schools, really makes you feel fucked up)  Just a normal person after trauma, apparently.  Using anything that my brilliant mind could dig up to release some of that pain.  I don’t think you can ever be the same though, after a mind shift like that.  My tolerance for hearing about other people’s trauma is much lower.  I am enraged.  Angry.  Sick to fucking death of sexual violence and manipulation and victim blaming bullshit.

It has been less than seven years since I first called my union representative and put this scenario to them.  Probably about three years since I saw a lawyer.  The union works with this law firm to aid employees financially and legally in a way I cannot emphasise strongly enough to you.  Join your goddamn union and investigate your rights at work.  That wasn’t enough to help me, true, but I have utilized those venues in the only way they are available to some of us – with the impending threat of a public hearing.  Seeking some financial compensation.  Not to get rich.  Hahahaha you don’t choose Workcover to get rich, kids.  Turns out you have to be a bit of a sadist, or one tough mother.  It’s brutal.  For bringing Rape and Stalking charges against your boss…faaaaark.

Even with all of the evidence that I had, the Police and Court documents, countless psychiatric examinations by strangers and sharp legal representation to face their scary lawyers…seven years to come to an end.  Three years of constant legal action.  He pled guilty, right?  Still three years for that to be recognised.  To prove that I was damaged by what we agree he did.  Prove damage enough that I might get some recognition in the eyes of…well…anyone.  I wasn’t fussy by now.  Only one option.  I had to fight for it.  I knew I couldn’t go on any other way.

Yesterday, I got the call.  My lawyer.  Her voice happy and light.  It IS over.  I’ve taken it to the limit and the other side has made an offer that indicates I was indeed the victim of some hellish wrongdoing.  There was a tussle, mind.  Some initial offers which were insulting to the person reading them out and all of us.  This kind of settlement could’ve meant a much higher one should I have been forced into  jury trial to prove employer negligence.  It could also have meant the same, or less.  Depends on the jury.  It would have meant more public knowledge and opportunities for more abuse and pain for me.  I was willing because I wanted to prove a point but I’m pretty bloody glad that I don’t have to, as I’m sure anyone would be.  Seven years is enough.

Turns out that there is no precedent for this scenario in workplace/employer law to get this far.  Has a boss sexually assaulted an employee?  Well, yes.  Was it like this?  Did everyone involved lie, bully and blacklist the victim?  Was that person able to fight this long?  Nope.  When I first called the union they did say, “Um, I don’t know where to start.  This is a new one for us!”

I wanted to make a mark on the world, you know.  And I hope I do it in other ways, too.  But in these circumstances, I have had a big win.

What I am hoping for is that this seven years and yesterday’s outcome serve as a warning to employers and other staff (especially THIS employer) that rape, sexual assault, stalking, harassment and gossip ARE WRONG, EVEN IN YOUR ISOLATED WORKPLACE!  A Duty of Care exists even if you choose to think that young women are “dick teases” who “bring it upon themselves”.  (Yes, direct quotes).  If an employer in the future only acts out of fear for his own hide rather than being a lawful and ethical professional, so be it.  As long as someone’s silent suffering is minimised or prevented.  The moral revolution necessary and thorough smashing of the patriarchy that enables this shit must come also but that’s work far beyond the capacity of the utter bastards in my story.  It was of course their strongest weapon.

If there happens to be another asshole out there preying on a Bright Young Thing who dreams of Making A Difference (and I think we know there is), and she has to call her union rep or a lawyer one day, I want to make sure they know there is a precedent in this area.  You are not lost in the woods entirely.  Because I tried my best to slash my way through and I think I left a trail with a little light.  It’s yours if you need it and I’ll be here somewhere if you need directions.  Funnily enough, in about seven weeks I don’t have to be an anonymous shell anymore.

Persistence

An Anniversary I Can Celebrate

English: This came from New Years Eve 2004 int...

English: This came from New Years Eve 2004 into 2005, it was taken in the borough of Appleton/Dudlows Green, Warrington, UK with a digital camera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the months become years, you inevitably reach days on the calendar that are anniversaries of sorts…ones you would wish to forget.  There are a few distinct dates which always affect me when they come around again.

This time five years ago…

Six.  Effing.  Years?!?!

When I logged on just now, WordPress congratulated me on our two year anniversary together.  Wow.  I remember the exact moment I showed the first soul my fresh post.  I remember the wonderful feeling of releasing so much pain anonymously into the cyber world.  It felt bloody fantastic.  I’ve said it before but it doesn’t hurt to repeat why the decision to blog was so important.

When you find yourself the victim of crimes, one of the dominant struggles is to be heard.  You are revealing incredibly painful and personal information on demand for the legal system (and then for Workcover) but you are rarely HEARD.  No one is listening as they all have jobs to do and the state of your core (and your poor tortured brain) is not on the list.  These kinds of crimes are hard to talk about.  Even if there is someone who loves you who can be there.

Who hears you?

Not everyone would feel the same but I was desperate to spew some of these toxic thoughts out…get them out of me.  Away.

In this imaginary net, I played with some settings and began to eek out a teeny tiny space for me.  For whatever I needed it to be. To cry, to ask for help, to connect, to purge.  I had the control to make it public to varying degrees or shut it all down should my bravery leave me.  There have been moments.

Like a little carver, I chipped away at the space – no plans or idea of the finished product.  I don’t really work like that.  Just trying a little of this, a little of that, and seeing how that felt.  A work in progress.

My work.  My progress.

As the process rolled on in The Outside World, it still affected me but I had a secret release valve.  My little space to be.  It was enough to just imagine I was being heard.  To actually hear from people who have read my words is almost beyond belief.  Incredibly validating, supportive and absolutely crucial to my progress (what IS the best word?  It’s a journey but this isn’t Idol.  It’s a kind if healing but you don’t get better, you work out how to adjust…so it’s progress).  I will always endeavour to reach out in that same way to someone who is crying out to be heard.  I know what that means.  It’s one of the greatest things about being a human being.  Connection.  Caring.

To have recognition from BlogHer as an Honorary Voice of the Year 2012 was a funny kind of dream come true.  Funny because I’d rather it have been for ANY other subject than sexual violence!  I used to want to write for a living, I adore language and stories in general and have been inspired by so many amazing female bloggers over this two years.  Real talk.  Raw shit.  Real life.  Bravery.  Tough topics.  The idea that a gathering of amazing women who have overcome or developed incredible ideas, coming together on the other side of the world, would even have my pretend name on their radar, rocked my world.  The echo of my first whisper out into the Internet.  Reverberating around the world.  That was a game changer for my mental health, right there.  That was very special.  And if you’ll excuse the cheesiness, it felt decidedly like my whisper became a roar.

Today, it looks like this saga is almost at an end.  I haven’t been updating the details even anonymously here, because the stakes are so high.  This is my only chance for recompense…for closure.  It it too precarious to risk until the ink is dry.  But let’s say I am awarded some dollars.  When I let myself picture Future Me (there was no such thing a while ago) now, she is standing in the room at another BlogHer Conference.  When I go too far, I imagine that they let me read or say something.  I love the idea that I could say out loud and in real life what it meant to be heard in that way.  What it means to be a part of that world.  How much it helped me heal.  I want to thank them.  I want to go to America and sit and hear the other women speak.  Absorb their experiences, bravery and greatness.  Stand in that moment and have it be a defining marker in this experience.  How far I have come.  That I see a future now.

Being able to imagine your Future Self is no small thing, though you might not know unless you’ve ever felt the crushing despair of believing that you won’t be able to live that long, that you have ceased to exist or matter.

I am so grateful for this gift.  Yeah, I’ve made it happen too, and it’s a combination of factors at play, but I sit typing next to my demanding child who is calling for me now and I am smiling.  I don’t know what the future holds, next month let alone next year, but I believe now that I have a future.  That I deserve a future.  That I  feel proud of myself and what I can achieve again.

On this New Years Eve, and my Blogaversary, I am toasting Future Me.  With chocolate mud cake and SpongeBob Squarepants.

Manic Panic

So, the cheque came.  To open a cheque for $65 000 is quite an experience.  That is the going rate in Victoria these days for Permanent Impairment caused while you are just doing your job.  Psychological injury is now recognised and compensated accordingly on the same level as physical injury (it was previously capped at about $10 000).  This is a one-off, tax free ‘benefit’ payment as recognition of the official assessment that you’ll probably never work again.  And I’m not that old.  I had many years up my sleeve.

That’s not the thing I’m trying to celebrate.  I am trying to tell my head that I can celebrate being one of the very few who have been recognised at this stage – the harm done to me has been acknowledged at long, long last.

I’m telling myself that now, that’s one more on the scorecard for the Good Guys.  When another person comes in to the lawyer’s office, crying, desperate…they can say to her ‘It is very hard to win, but it CAN be done.  It happened just this year…’ and maybe that person will feel a little bit more hopeful, right?  The odds have shifted a little.  I’m an example of the exception to the shitty rule in legal circles.  That’s great.  Why aren’t I happy? 

I’m spinning around a la Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes cartoons.  Mentally, I’m feeling Deep Panic and Rushing Anxiety.  I’m a bit sad about that because shouldn’t there be a sense of relief?  I’ve kind of Done It.  I’ve had a Win.  Stupid Anti Climax.  

You tell yourself to keep going when you have something really hard to do.  Come on, you say, it’s worth it.  You can do it.  

Then you get there.  

But you’re still scared.  Still nervous.  Still having nightmares that are so emotional, I wake up exhausted from the fighting and the angst.  Still taking your pills.  Still gotta work hard to calm down.  Be mindful.  

I suppose that is the way your psyche needs to work, to get through.  If you thought everything would stay exactly the bloody same, it’d be hard to summon up the energy to fight.

Ah, but it isn’t the same, is it?  I have some money.  Some power.  Some choices.  That’s a kind of freedom I haven’t had since I stopped going to work.  And in some moments, you can buy some happiness or a kind of Brand New distraction.  I’m not dead yet.  Shopping is still fun!

I kept thinking to myself ‘money can’t buy happiness…but it can buy you a new MacBook to blog about the shit on’.  I spend a lot of time on the computer.  So I did buy one.  And it’s so beautiful and amazing, I can’t bring myself to take it out of the box yet.  It’s on the bench.  But what a thing of beauty!  And I can communicate via the Interwebs like I do on a very beautiful, fast, shiny machine.

When I can open it.

I’m such a nerd.  Maybe tomorrow.

I’ll remind myself again.  I had a win.  I will enjoy having some money.  Choose a better house.  Buy a new couch.  Some stuff.  Buy a badge that says ‘You did good, kid’.  So I don’t forget.  Damn, my head is so stubborn *grrr*

 

If We All Agree…Why Am I Doing This Alone?

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

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.