I testified in court. If you are able to do so, I urge you to. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience or what is best for them. All I can say is that although it was the worst day of my life (or so it seemed) it was also infinitely empowering. I didn’t know how things would turn out but as I got to spell out what he’d done to me and look into the judge’s eyes…I felt real power. The defence smashed it pretty quickly with vulgar and caustic rebuttals but I just repeated the truth – over and over – and he realised that I was in fact a very good witness. It got easier as the day went on. And the result was that the accused asked to plead guilty if the DPP would remove the threat of twelve months jail. Now testifying was fucked up. No way around that. I would have possibly agreed to anything at the end of that day. But I’m pretty proud of myself that before any other evidence was submitted – and his slew of lying accomplices had the chance to try to slam my character in court – he caved. You bet that feels good.
Given that experience, I almost spontaneously combust when I read other examples of victim blaming tactics used to deny claims of sexual harassment, assault and rape. I understand the adversarial legal system on an intellectual level but it can fuck right off in this area (and family violence, child abuse…).
Earlier this year the media reported on a pending sexual harassment case. According to the International Business Times, “Philip Goodman, chairman and sole director of Rivers Australia, is again on the hot seat after a former employee has lodged a sexual harassment claim, his second in a span of two years.”
Today’s brief article addressed the defence barristers claims. Or as the sub heading said, “boss’s ‘counter claims'”. A counter-claim would be if she also molested him. Gross misuse of the term here, editor! After you testify, the defendant and his legal team come at you (in this case, Sallyanne Robinson, a Brit in Australia on a work visa at the time) with anything they can. All of the claims generally centre around mental health and promiscuity. They can’t come out and call you a slut anymore but they paint the picture in other ways pretty bluntly.
As if that would actually BE a defence for unlawful assault.
Here are some excerpts:
Herman Borenstein, SC, for millionaire Rivers Clothing boss suggested to Ms Robinson “that she lacked a sense of humour about the CEO calling her Madame Lash in front of co workers. He asked if she was hypersensitive and over reacted”
Yes, because sexual harassment is just Regular Guy Banter. He was Having Fun. Mucking Around. Geez, lighten up. You’re probably an uptight feminist lesbian.
Ms Robinson complained to her supervisor and Goodman ignored her for a while then approached her, “Do you still think I’m trying to get into your knickers?”
It was flirting and you are an uptight bitch. You think so highly of yourself that you think everyone wants you.
Borenstein said that ex colleagues had a list of “humiliating allegations” he wished to put to Ms Robinson; she “abused alcohol and would get ‘so wasted’ she had to be carried home”
This is to insinuate that the victim was out of control, had personal issues and could do anything if she could get that drunk. Because alcohol always equals women who never say NO. Obviously.
Colleagues allegedly reported that Ms Robinson “was obsessed with her own breasts”
What. The. Fuck. I can’t believe he read that out with a straight face but it was deliberately used to insinuate that the victim was overtly sexual. Breasts! She liked them! Breasts! *old man drool* Ugh.
Berenstein accused Ms Robinson of “urinating on her partner every morning in the shower”.
Well, bugger me. I thought the breasts thing was stupid. Bizarre. Used to insinuate the victim is kinky? Dirty? She urinates??? I can’t believe that a judge would let that through the gate.
Next, he said that Ms Robinson had previously “been a burlesque dancer”.
Slut. Slutty slut slut. They can’t ask if she’s ‘easy’ so they draw tenuous links from gross innuendo allegedly given to the legal team by employees. (Obviously not the employees who have backed up claims of a harassment culture inherent in the company for a decade, as stated in one of the above articles).
Ms Robinson told the court that colleagues had seen her upset after Goodman had made her model underwear for him, alone, with only a towel to change behind.
At first glance, one may ask, How did he make her do that? It’s pretty weird… I didn’t model underwear for the shithead I took to court – I was a school teacher – but you can bet your ass that manipulative men in powerful positions can have you in situations that you just can’t believe are happening…your mind goes in slow motion because who would actually do that? And you need your job. It’s how you are staying in the country. And please, ladies, don’t talk back, make a fuss, say no or rock the boat. Appease.
Who do you think you’re talking to? I own this company.
The links above also detail various accounts of Indecent and Sexual Assault where Ms Robinson was groped and poked like a piece of meat. He grabbed a breast and told her they were ‘good natural ones’.
The next textbook question is ‘if this is true, why didn’t you tell someone straight away? Why wouldn’t you tell your boyfriend?’ because unless you screamed it out in a staff meeting or called the police on day one, it couldn’t have happened, right? Ms Robinson said that she didn’t tell her partner for a long time as he wouldn’t have wanted her to go back to work and she was also concerned about her visa status. I believe her 100% I didn’t tell my boyfriend until I gave a statement to police. Eight months after it started. He saw me upset, was at my house when I got late night phone calls from my boss over and over, saw the creepy text messages. But I lied. I said it was manageable. The guy was just a pest. I lied because I preferred to be in denial. And my boyfriend would have been at the school the next day to bash this guy’s head in (I’ve had days where I regretted avoiding that). It was my first professional teaching role. I loved my job. This was a career at stake. I was on a six month contract. Very dicey ground. The boss makes it clear, as all abusers do, that no one would believe you. Some, like mine, take proactive steps to set up their defence as they go. I worked up the courage to seek help the first time and I was met with derision and rejection. ‘Actually, he’s already approached me about that. He said you’d say that’. Gobsmacked.
In one of the articles about this Rivers case, Goodman (just seen the ugly irony in his name there) claims that Ms Robinson had mental health issues and exhibited problems during the entire course of her employment.
The Other Ultimate Dismissal. If you’re not The Slut you are The Crazy Bitch. Probably both! Classic strategies. Up yours, Freud. Hysteria. Hysterical. You can’t trust females. Hormones. Probably a ‘bunny boiler’ and all that.
Suddenly the victim crying on the stand medicated for her PTSD might be a horny, vindictive woman with loose morals and a permanent hangover. Same thing. All the effing time.
The upside? They all use the same bullshit. It’s standard. They don’t care. Just got to ‘muddy the waters’. Cast aspersions. But don’t worry too much. Those bastards use the same defence tactics and prosecutors and support people know this. They can help you prepare. There is some small comfort in the sameness of their approach.
We know that sexual confidence or emotions have sweet eff all to do with whether someone is a sexual predator or a criminal. But how often do we hear that a child ‘led a man on’ to contribute to her own vulgar rape, or the way we treat rape and murder of sex workers with minimal outrage and barely an inch of media column. Because sexual. Women. Sluts. Made him do it.
We need to smash this shit into a thousand pieces. And that means talking about it in all its gory detail. It takes women like Sallyanne Robinson, Kate Shea and hey, even anonymous me, to make some noise when the worst happens. To hang in there through the shitstorm that follows. Be The Slut and The Crazy Bitch in some people’s eyes. Vocally support others when their turn inevitably comes around. Sometimes people are really ignorant and it takes what happened to Jill Meagher to rattle their cages.
We may never reach a freedom and safety utopia but my fervent hope is that we make our voices heard until our last breath. And encourage all others to do the same.
Which reminds me…
Walk through the city of Melbourne tomorrow, everybody, shouting loud and proud for SlutWalk 2013. Some may not like the name, nobody likes the word but fighting is fighting and I can tell you from last years experience, it feels really bloody good to yell your heart out and demand respectful attention with some of the best women in the country by your side!
Do it. Do it for Sallyanne Robinson, Kate Shea, Jane Doe from Steubenville, Jill Meagher, Jazzy O and everybody in between. Do it for your mum, sister, the daughter or niece you love. Do it because it’s the right fucking thing to do.
Speaking out and being heard helps every single woman feel stronger, more supported and less alone. When they need it the most.
If you don’t walk tomorrow, there are so many other ways to help. Just talk to those close to you. Talk to strangers on the Internet.
Know that if you are the one needing to tell, there is someone out there who wants to hear you.
- “I’m Sick of Talking about Sexual Harassment!” (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Bikram “Yoga” Choudhury accused of rape, sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, and unsafe practices related to the color green (boingboing.net)
- One In Five Women Have Been Sexually Harassed By A Boss (thinkprogress.org)
- 19th Woman Accuses Mayor Of Sexual Harassment (4umf.com)
- Belfast Businessman To Pay £36,000 For Sexual Harassment, Homophobic Slurs (eile.ie)
- Speaking Up: McKee, Goddard, KnightSec and KYAnonymous (fromawhispertoaroar.com)
The other day I was thinking about writing on a blog like this. It is a unique form of communicating about vital, deeply personal topics which can struggle to find a genuine forum amongst the general public. Recent comments from others on here and twitter have reminded me of the power of exposing a bit of your own struggle. You take a little risk but when you connect with someone it is extremely satisfying. For me posting on the blog is like silently screaming from deep inside. Any relevance my words may have for another person can feel like a salve for the hurt. Soothes the screaming beast. *better than drugs*
I wish I wrote about another topic, mind you, and that I could connect with others on a serious but slightly less difficult note. But…here we are and thank the stars for that! I often recall the first night I typed through snot and tears to compose what became my first post on here. I was too chicken to just share it so I sent it to @edenland in an email first. (She had no idea who I was or wtf I was forcing confessional prose on her) I think people like Eden Riley might get random communication like that a bit, in retrospect. If you have not seen her writing please just go now. What are you waiting for? Seriously. Go there.
What was it about Eden that I felt an affinity with? What excites me about 2012 Australia’s Best Blogger? To be honest, more than I can share here…but that woman is a pocket rocket of raw, gutsy truth. It’s really wonderful for a human being to share and learn and speak her truth. We really are surrounded by bullshit and spin everywhere we look.
I probably sound star struck. I don’t care. I think it is wonderfully life-affirming to come across people who remind you about what matters and that you should own your truth and do whatever the hell you want with it. I want to live a life with as much honesty and integrity as people like Eden.
When she replied to my random email with encouragement I was in bed. I looked at the phone and my eyes popped out! Then I shed a few Happy Tears, clicked on *publish* and that is when I truly began to tackle PTSD and start healing (instead of just managing), from this place right here. That’s an *amazing* impact to have on someone.
I’m forever grateful to Eden for being herself xxx
- Winners of the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition (prwarrior.typepad.com)
- Love, Support, Positivity, Connection – Welcome to the World of the Mummy Blogger (prwarrior.typepad.com)
- People In Your Neighborhood: Mental Health Edition (poemsandnovels.blogspot.com)
I read something that got me thinking about feeling worthy and where I feel my worth comes from. Is my worth what I produce/complete/have to show (external)? Or is it entirely separate from what I project into the world (internal)?
It sounds a bit obvious to say that self worth is an internal entity, more consistent and valuable than simply the output I can produce as some kind of evidence. But I read the words and thought, How have I been viewing my own worth?
“If your worth equals your job…how will you feel if you realise you have already gotten your last promotion..? Your feelings would probably go beyond the normal and appropriate sadness and disappointment. When worth is in doubt, depression usually follows”
*I must find the exact details to reference this text correctly. I only have one copied page at the moment
The above statement could be true of many significant life roles and events. What resonated for me was the experience of Workcover, or being made somehow unable to be the person you were before in the workplace.
I am someone who has probably often measured my worth externally if I’m honest.
What do my parents say? How would I feel if someone knew that I thought this way/did this thing? What do people see in me? Do they see how hard I try? That I always try my best? That I want so much for them to be happy, and I’ll behave accordingly?
I measured my self worth based on external feedback. To be fair, I think that is an understandable error. You only know what you know, and what I learnt growing up was that I could fall out of favour in an instant. I could be dropped, ignored, made to feel redundant depending on the whims of others. That probably reads quite morbidly (see, trying to judge what you might think when you read what is essentially a tool for healing and learning which I made for my own SELF) but I’m just trying to look at the landscape, not roll around in self pity. The main messages I got over a long period of time were ‘our happiness depends on your actions’. And the consequences were so dramatic.
A parent says, “I’m done. We’re not family any more”. The other parent hasn’t spoken to me in four years as I type this. He can do that with people. It’s his thing.
“Your sibling behaves like that (harmful behaviours, anger) because they can’t live up to your benchmark” So I’m wrong to have enjoyed study? Uh oh, I’m confused.
Call it First Child Syndrome if you like. I always wanted to try hard, do my best and improve as I went. I thought everyone wanted to be better as they got older (and wiser?). Didn’t everyone seek self improvement and mutual understanding? That’s a positive trait? Isn’t it?
“My God, you’re so into yourself. Read another psychology book, did you? Gonna fix everyone like Oprah?”
Hang on, I’m lost now. Doing well is wrong. Trying to encourage others to feel worthy and proud is wrong. How do I become worthy here? I need to see a Cheat Sheet…
The rules changed so often. I couldn’t work out what I was supposed to be striving for. Do you praise me when I work really hard or is that when you tell me I’m a Smart Ass, Know It All who Thinks I’m Better Than You? Do I encourage younger siblings to stay in school because I am a good example or am I shaming them with my ‘lofty’ ambition, so that they are destined to fail and so choose to embrace a life of bitter regret and improper blame for their lot? Are you proud of me or intimidated by me? Isn’t this what people should do? Try?
There were messages of a worth I possessed, but said worth was so often taken back, recanted or mocked. And I just kept right on trying to please people.
Self Worth Score: Pretty unstable, dependant on others
I worked hard in a professional capacity and supported myself through university twice. That’s good, right? Lecturer comments and exam marks gave me what I needed. Validation. Positive reinforcement. Ergo, worth.
Meeting new people, or catching up with old ones, I was proud to say, ‘I’m at university, studying Social Science. I want to work in the public policy sector”. And later, “I’m back at uni. I’m going to teach, which is what I think wanted all along..”
My proudest moments? When I got to say, “Me? I’m a teacher!” My feelings of self worth were inextricably linked to my career. I was proud to have studied. Proud to be an educator. Proud to be a success.
Self Worth Score: Peaking, Feel strong and worthy
So what happens when your job is in question? Your career torn from you? Your dreams of contributing to society and making a positive impact on kids’ lives becomes an administrative issue of psychological injury and monthly assessments?
Well, your self worth is somewhere in the ashes after the fire that tore through everything you’d built up. In short: you’re fucked.
Self Worth Score: *game explodes*
Over the course of this debacle, I have spent so much time fundamentally depressed and disillusioned. I am not studying. I am not working. I am not aiming to achieve a goal. I. Am. Nothing.
‘Hi! So what do you do?’ > Panic attack > Tears > Run > Never leave house again
That’s not a life. And I do believe I deserve to live the best life I can, even while I go around again on this treadmill of bureaucratic and legal bullshit. And wait. Mostly I wait.
So I’ve had time to re examine myself. My role in the world. My worth. Just where I am, as I am, right now.
It has literally taken years to accept, even partially (because I am still pretty pissed off), that I cannot make those famous Wheels of Justice turn any faster. Indeed, I have had to face the fact that those wheels are deliberately set to an excruciatingly slow and painful pace – to squeeze you and increase the chance of you just walking away. Abandoning the fight. It was the first warning from my GP and I laughed bitterly and retorted, “How is that going to be any worse than the situation I’m in now?”
What I still had then, angry and justifiably indignant at the way I’d been a victim of crime and then of bastardry, was a firm belief in my worth. I knew I was a good teacher. I knew students and parents believed in me. I literally blossomed in the role which I barely considered a ‘job’. It combined most of my natural nerdy inclinations and I got to tell jokes which always got a laugh. That’s a win, people!
I was sexually assaulted, harassed, followed, bullied and subjected to what I can only refer to as psychological torture. And it was excruciating. But I knew they were in the wrong. I believed that someone would have to address the issues once I got the courage to raise them. Because ethics and standards would compel them to. Because the law would compel them to. Because at least fear of me taking it higher would compel…nope, I was so wrong.
Eventually my doctor said, ‘No more. You have to leave that place’, and I was at the point where I could only be relieved to hear that. I was determined and convinced that I would be ok, it would be somehow sorted out. But I was also tired, about to break and almost suicidal because though I believed in myself at last – the people who had done the wrong thing were trying every tactic in the book to cover up, deceive and denigrate me. As She (the Evil One who was my ‘mentor’ teacher) once said, I needed to Shut Up. Me speaking up was a Big Risk for them. So they tried all of the ways to shut me up. I tried to work somewhere else – still inherently believing in myself and my worth. But they made sure I knew that I could “never work again”. When they used that phrase I thought they meant at that school. I had no idea they meant any school, ever. I’m apparently not the only individual with determination and drive.
I’ve probably said it before, and if you’ve been assaulted, harassed or bullied in the workplace (or at home) then you know what I’m about to say. You are forced to become another kind of victim. You must bare your soul to strangers, go where you’re told to go, take what you’re prescribed, be assessed, written about, become a reference number and be passed around from case worker to case worker as if the trauma you have been through means nothing. It’s ‘protocols’ and ‘expectations’. It’s ‘meeting thresholds’ and ‘producing evidence’ of personal anguish.
It’s really shitty. Degrading. Draining. Damaging.
Self Worth Score: No, stupid. You need an Injury Scale Score now! How fucked are you? You can’t even think about what your ‘worth’ is! And if you start to hope…don’t mention it to anyone. It might be used against you by the insurance company.
If that sounds depressing, it is. And you get scared thinking, What if this doesn’t end? Or it does, but I’m so far gone, I can’t do anything any more? Could this damage become permanent?
Now, I’m not talking to Them, I’m just talking. I have worth. I am worthy. As a human, a woman, mother, sister, daughter (grumble), friend, aunty…and plenty else.
And also, just because. But I have to build on that concept again, in spite of the struggle to regain a feeling of professional and intellectual worth. I grieve and rage every day in some way over the fact I have to fight that fight. (Mindfulness is a challenge) But I’ve started again through becoming a parent to an adorable boy (see here for my best thoughts on that) and accepting the limitations of what my role as a daughter can be. I’m never going to get the validation I wanted there, so I need to come to accept that. And know that that does not detract from my worth as a person. (Hey, counsellors, check ME out there!) It’s a shame but it doesn’t have to become an impairment. I have sought ways to feel worthy and empowered, such as through child sponsorship and community advocacy (Amnesty International, Reconciliation and Healing). They were great ways to stake a claim, help others while I help remind myself of the power I have in me at any time.
Honestly, thank all the gods and goddesses that there is THE INTERNET. I have made immeasurable gains through sharing, learning and connecting with people via this medium. I quite literally would be lost without access to this space and I have made some brilliant connections with people. I have been inspired. I have laughed (laughing…yay!) and I have built on my own self concept as I have interacted. People talk to me. People are positive and loving. I can quite often contribute to debate and feel intelligent again! People are lovely. I don’t use my name, and I’m not always this Little Lion either. Because I deserve an identity that is not framed around being a victim. The Internet allows that to happen in a safe way for me. I love you, Internet xx
It’s a funny thing. Being stripped right back to raw nerves and rebuilding yourself. However that happens to you. I’m getting to appreciate every little part of the whole as I put it back into place and practice making it stick. I’m working on emerging a stronger, wiser, more mindful version of myself. Worthy now, worthy in the end.
The pattern was kind of the same to begin with. It’s what they like about new teachers; enthusiastic, flexible, idealistic. Fresh confidence and the promise of invigoration. Over time, if you’re unlucky, what they praised you for in emails and at assemblies becomes a danger. ‘You are a breath of fresh air!’ becomes ‘Look, some others find your go-getter thing a bit intimidating..’ and then that becomes ‘I don’t know who you think you are coming in here claiming you’re entitled to help, demanding your ‘rights’ because you are in the Union!’
Again, I am left confused. Wasn’t I supposed to be excited about my job? Bring new ideas? Students and parents giving you positive feedback about what I was doing was The Aim, no? You said ‘be confident’, ‘contribute’. Then you said, ‘Not too much. It intimidates the others who are more comfortable in their routines’. You ended it all by yelling in my face that I was ‘of the generation that was brought up to flaunt the Union entitlements’ and that I should shut up or I wasn’t welcome any more.
Self Worth Score: Deficient enough to warrant medical intervention. Great.
Today was a good day. All day. I did new things, made new plans, felt more confident. Actually, yesterday was a good day, too. I had a lovely experience which made me feel peace in my heart and that is a glorious thing. I am grateful for special people, Mother Nature and pushing through old limitations.
I haven’t written anything for a while because END OF THE YEAR THINGS. And I wanted to ignore this for a while, I suppose. There has been SO MUCH in the twitterverse and Internet generally about rape and sexual assault. Like a trigger party. Trigger here, trigger there. Don’t read that. Can’t stop reading. Emotional overload.
Lately I am exhausted by my own anger and frustration. And then I feel guilty and a wave of utter self loathing. How can I feel these feelings when others have had it so much worse than me? I feel unjustified in being affected by what has happened, what was/is being done to me – not by the perpetrator as such – but the other participant, the enablers, the excusers. The management at every level in this sector which has demeaned and diminished my experience when every time I brought these things to light, I really believed that it was for a purpose. That I would be assisted as a victim of crimes. But I wasn’t. I’m still not. And they all hope I will stop trying. But I won’t. I’m in fact MORE determined, MORE angry at each level’s negligent inaction. So here I am.
Even on my own blog, I feel like I must justify why it hurts. Typing that, I feel pathetic. And so the cycle goes on. I’m doing something in my head now that Jim Stynes did at Reach. I just realised. That makes me smile, underneath. That cheeky Irish bugger. Still there. (Oh my god, thank GOD)
I may have described before that he had us all (teachers) sit in a circle and one by one, stand in the middle and he’d ask questions. Such as,
Jim “How do you feel standing in the middle of us now?”
J “How do you feel saying that you’re embarrassed?”
P “I feel like an idiot”
J “And how do you feel about admitting that feeling?”
P “I feel nervous because I really hate to feel that people think I’m stupid”
J “How do you feel admitting that?”
P (looks around, starts to cry) “You all probably don’t actually think I am stupid. It’s what I tell myself“
…launches discussions into self belief…
Those questions were asked in rapid succession, the focus being, ‘And how does that feel’ not ‘why’. It’s a different approach. Jim kept looking at me and I was getting really angry. I said, “I know what you’re trying to do!” (ie get me up in the middle of the circle) and I was overtly grumpy about it. [On a sidenote, reliving this memory is making me smile. Then cry because he’s gone. But smile again because he once was. And I was lucky enough to be in his sights.]
I did get up into the circle. And blew the group out of the water as my facade crumbled. How do you feel now? How does that feel to say that? What are you feeling as you say that? Not reasons or excuses. I was coming publicly undone. I’d kept the assaults and the stalking and the lies and the desperation inside until that moment. I know Jim didn’t know what he was unlocking. I know he knew there was something big. And he was liberating me. Letting me let it out.
I am having an awkward conversation in my own head now, not saying the truth. But it’s the only way forward, isn’t it? So this is it.
A contributing factor to this current murky Guilt Festival I’m holding is a brief conversation with someone close to me. Some ideas were spoken of. Things were inferred. One was that I am ‘taking too long’ to ‘move on’. Another, that I was not raped ‘as bad as another’ victim of crime. That ‘people’ found my current ‘status’ regarding not being employed ‘difficult to explain’ to people they talk to. When I bristled at these comments, the idea was put forward that I ‘have to be able to hear people’s comments about me/the issue’. If this person ever reads this, my eyes were telling you to please stop talking. I didn’t want to be hurt and I didn’t want to react with hurt so as to be uncomfortable or fight with you. But on that day, you didn’t stop. You reacted with disdain. Said I should be able to handle comments. Then, “Oh, you’re pissed off with me now”. And I tried really hard to apologise for myself and avoid being honest. Which would have elicited a negative reaction and made me uncomfortable. Because despite learning so much about myself, even on this topic, I still get scared of upsetting people close to me. Why? Because I want connection. I don’t want to feel I am fighting isolated from support. It is not a healthy way to live, trying to keep the peace outside of me at the expense of feeling peace inside of me.
It hurt to think about anyone talks about my ‘situation’ like it’s a lifestyle choice. It hurt to think that I have to put myself on a Rape Scale and compare myself to other victims. And that I ‘should be getting on with life’ if someone who was raped ‘worse’ than me has. In less time. With less fuss. And no, I don’t have to hear what anyone thinks about me, my truth and my feelings about sexual assault. I don’t. And the select few close to me should not ask that of me.
I’m not interested in laying blame. I am interested in feeling peace inside.
At my core, I believe these things. I am proud that I ‘still’ talk about these things out loud. On the internet, to professionals and to lawyers. I am proud that rape and stalking make me upset. I am proud that I feel a sense of empathy and solidarity with a section of our community which remains quiet for the most part. I am comfortable with the fact that reading about other acts of horrific assault troubles me, hurts my heart. I want to be someone who feels. I want to be someone who cares. I want to be someone who contributes to the public discourse and possibly helps facilitate change. I am not happy to ‘still’ be dominated by this experience, enveloped by it to such an extent due to the fact that it happened during the course of my employment, by a boss, and that they have ensured I couldn’t apply for a job in the same area even if I felt able. Because I tried. I tried very hard. I’m proud that I tried. I’m proud that I pushed myself until I had to stop. I didn’t want to give up. I don’t want to now. My experience if different from anyone else’s and cannot follow the same course after. I give myself a hard enough time about it.
But I am in the middle of this drawn-out storm because I am fighting. I am fighting for my own dignity and I am fighting because I can. Because others can’t, by virtue of their country of origin or their safety or need. I don’t think I am doing anyone a favour, I’m just fighting because I deserve better. If that immerses me in this muck for longer, that is the price I pay. I didn’t get here by choice but I’m sure as hell going to fight to exit this experience on my own terms.
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.
- Workplace watchdog accused of bullying culture (abc.net.au)
- Increased productivity and dignity at work are achievable (safetyatworkblog.com)
- Momentum increases for tangible action on workplace bullying (safetyatworkblog.com)