Familiar Feeling

Sharing this because I understand the feelings, because I am so happy for Portia – that she doesn’t need to ‘go there’ as often – I think blogs on these topics indeed move in ebbs and flows (I have done the same) and because the links at the end are a pretty neat summary of the women of twitter that make the place a community for me (more so in my ‘other’ twitter handle). Thanks, Portia! All of the love to you! xx

Portia Smart

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I haven’t written a blog post for a while and I was wondering why – it’s not like the patriarchy has been dismantled and women are now liberated. Sadly every day is filled with male violence against women. Every. Day.

My lack of posts has timed with the rise and roar of many more women’s voices and campaigns. And that is exactly as it should be.

For 10 months I have written 20 posts on violence against women and children and all of the threads that bind this issue. The majority of posts have explored or have been inspired by my own experiences. I have been supported, encouraged and embraced by so many women to have my voice heard. People have been kind enough to share their own experiences with me because of something I have written – I am consistently humbled and overwhelmed by this. I am honoured to…

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Free

Free

Music can nurse you through every human emotion, lift you up and break your heart. There’s a song for all of the defining moments in your life. Some music will always remind me of this seven years. This song linked above is the first that will remind me of The Conclusion, The New Start, A Win. Being free of the vice that is being an injured worker. Let the real healing begin.

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.

Ode To Mental Health Professionals (And Their Funding)

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this International Day of Mental Health awareness it seems apt to pay homage to the two people who have saved my head, and almost certainly my life, on some very hard days.  This is not your typical Thank you Speech.  No one can play the music to hurry me up or cut to an ad.  And Kanye cannot take the mic from my hand.

Through the combined efforts of my GP, Worksafe and the insurance company of my employer, I have sought the help of/been mandatorily sent to see a few professionals over the last five years.  The first GP I saw looked terrified and had a generally nervous demeanour which given the subject matter was problematic to say the least.  I saw his neighbour at the same practice and here we are today.  My GP is always in a hurry, as so many are, but he is one in a million.  When you have to see someone every month for a ‘mental health update’ and a new Medical Certificate for Worksafe you get to feel comfortable.  Our meetings are routine.  A part of my schedule. Every time I go, I think, huh that’s a month gone!  There are other times where I think Dear God, it’s soooo long until I can tell him this. My son has grown up in front of his eyes along the way.  My doctor has an eye on us both and was so amazing when I was pregnant and trying to stay on at work.  I would be crying so hard and refusing a Medical Certificate until he just said NO MORE one day.  I am grateful he was there to stop me when I couldn’t stop myself.  He is always on at me to exercise more and I’m like, Dude…still trying that gym thing?  I don’t know how many people see their local doctor and get to laugh like I (almost always) do.  He’s a gem.  And I am virtually unable to try for a laugh from any crowd, clearly.

There’s one other professional who has been integral to my mental health for a couple of years now.  I have seen so many random counsellors, psychologists and ugh psychiatrists that I know a good egg when I meet one.  This woman is one of the best.  We fit beautifully.  And she knows her shit.

The person I am talking about is a Mental Health Nurse.

Mental Health Nurses work in collaboration with your GP to provide supportive care through a range of services including counselling, home visits, mood and medication monitoring, group work and community integration.  MHN work with people who require long term support and engagement.  You can access the services of a MHN through a referral from your treating doctor.   In my experience, appointments are flexible, forgiveness always forthcoming when you forget the time again and they are always contactable via mobile phone.  There is more about the MHN Incentive Program here.

My gorgeous MHN works from a variety of locations and makes home visits.  I am permanently wondering if I’m at the right place (possibly, so is she) but I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the flexibility and accessibility of such a service.  Now most days I am pretty together and making myself presentable is a large factor in feeling confident enough to go out and be seen in public (lest any of the school community argh see me).  I don’t mean that in a rude or patriarchy-victim way – just to say that it is a part of my coping mechanism and how I work.  The people a MHN sees in a day make up one motley crew, I can tell you.  The needs and quirks of each person would cover such a spectrum that a Mental Health Nurse requires broad training, experience and a personality that is able to engage with all of us successfully.  This woman: she’s got it in spades!  This isn’t a love letter but here is what she offers me.  She is so warm and gentle, always smiling and engaging.  In her eyes I see focus, on me, on what I’m expressing.  I see empathy.  Genuine care and concern.  Once or twice I have seen them get a teeny bit watery when I’m really getting raw.  I cannot speak for anyone else but when you are raging about being silenced and lied about and there you are, just a pile of stripped back hurt, to see some feeling reflected back in the eyes of the person you’re confiding in is extremely important.  Acknowledgement.  Validation.  Life.  Thank Christ!  you think, It does sound as shitty as I think it does!  I’m not imagining it!  And you don’t want to tell just anyone about what Your Weakest feels like so it is important to know that they have human feels.  (I’m giving a nod here to the psychiatrists in the Worksafe system.  Well done, you, on becoming robots with prescription pads!)  My MHN also wears jingly-jangly silver bracelets and asks if she can eat her mandarin in front of me and I completely adore her.

The critical difference I have found that sets this service apart from the rest (when I’m not dazzled by shiny objects on her arm) is the combination of supportive counselling practice and a genuine knowledge of medications and therapies.  Supportive Therapy as opposed to Prescriptive (hi, psychiatrists!) or simply Analytical (Worksafe – how you doin’?).  She cares.  She hears me.  She notices little things that may be cause for celebration or alarm…she keeps tabs on me.  She explores new avenues of help, ideas from her colleagues and frequent training and I also benefit from the wide range of service users that she works with.  People young and old, intellectual and physical differences, addicts working on getting sober to war veterans with PTSD.  This broad knowledge of mental health practice and human experience she bears witness to through her work makes for a completely wonderful form of medicine.  Human Medicine.

Who’d have thunk it, eh?  People do better when they are treated by and as…individual people!  Hurrah!

Dear lady, whose name I can’t use (and it’s killing me, Mum always said “‘she’ is the cat’s mother!”), I am so grateful for your presence in my life.  You have helped me in so many ways.  I am better and stronger for having spent time with you and whoever else you work with is equally blessed.  Your positive impact on lives cannot be measured…who knows how working with you may affect my ability to make changes, take risks and build a new identity for myself?  It cannot be quantified nor given monetary value.  Which brings me to my next point.  This.  Australian.  Government.

The MHNiP is facilitated by Medicare Locals and Federally funded.  I pay nothing (nor does Worksafe or the insurance company, mind) for this assistance.

Introduced in 2011, there are 61 Medicare Locals in Australia — independent, federally-funded offices that co-ordinate primary health care at local levels.  That may sound like bureaucrat-speak. But it’s a solution to the fact many communities have disconnected health services that don’t really talk to each other or share information.  Medicare Locals bring them together, facilitating things like after-hours GP care. They also tailor services to individual community needs — think non-English speakers, Indigenous Australians, the socio-economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and so on.

Source: PolitiFact website
 

In 2012, the Liberal Party (that’s conservative for you international folks, not ‘liberal’ as you may know the word) announced they would “not proceed with” the Medicare Local system if elected, questioning its validity and suggesting it was an unnecessary “layer of bureaucracy”.  By May this year the position was officially that the system would be “under review” by an incoming Liberal government. I think we know what that means *arched eyebrows*  The future of Medicare Locals, after so much work to introduce them without disruption to service users and umpteen changes to the workplace for the Mental Health Nurses themselves, was raised during the recent Federal Election campaign.  The man who would become our next PM (that’s Tony Abbott #sadface) stated to a surprised audience that he guaranteed no Medicare Locals would close under his government. Abbott said they had initially wanted to abolish the program but now would concede to conducting a review – but no offices would close. At the official launch of the Liberal Party Health Policy (Australians, LOL with me here) it was declared that official health policy launch that “while the Medicare Local system may not be shut down, individual offices weren’t guaranteed” (source as above).

I don’t feel full of confidence – do you?

Medicare Locals provide frontline services in consultation with GPs and other healthcare professionals which are flexible and seek to meet the needs of the diverse Australian public.  Programs such as the MHNiP support vulnerable people with a variety of mental health needs to remain functioning parents, employees and even tax payers. They assist soldiers and returned servicemen and women.  This should appeal to a man who created an entire portfolio for a Minister for ANZAC Day, should it not?  These services actually save dollars by diverting users away from other, potentially more costly medical interventions.  There is also the preventative aspect which you cannot measure.  Early intervention.  Immeasurable benefits in dollars and human lives.

That I may not have had the opportunity to work with my Mental Health Nurse and make such progress with her support is a terrifying thought.

That another person may not be able to access this help after “review” and “possible individual office closures” from this government is plain dangerous.

As we talk more openly about mental health and seek to encourage people to ask for help before a crisis, now is no time to be playing semantic games about cost cuts and fiscal policy.  Look elsewhere for your savings, Mr Abbott.  While Mental Health Nurses and Medicare Locals go about their business of saving lives.

 
 

More Information

http://www.acmhn.org

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What Other People Think Of Me Is None Of My Concern

i hate you lemon cake

i hate you lemon cake (Photo credit: kayepants) Fuck the haters.  And eat cake!

You know those nice ideals that fit neatly into a motivational slogan?  Someone tweets it.  There’s a book in the Self Help section of a bookshop using it as a title.  I have just realised that if I don’t watch my words in this post I, too, will appear as one of these examples…better slow down.

I have always wanted people to like me.  I wanted to be seen as helpful.  Kind.  Peacemaker.  Troubleshooter.  The Right Kind Of Girl.

I aimed to do this in my own way – I know I am, er, very enthusiastic and passionate about most things.  I can be loud.  Exuberant.  I just hoped that I channelled these traits positively.  Not a bad fit for a primary school teacher, either, as it happens.  Professional Class Clown + Counsellor/Coach.  Educational, self esteem building FUN!  Welcome to my classroom.

I was always trying my best.  I wanted people to know that I was trying my best.  I am still ludicrously proud of myself when my whatever is acknowledged because … I just am.  It’s satisfying.  The flip side of that feedback is disapproval, rejection and all of the negative responses we generally try to avoid.

There are a myriad of influences affecting an individuals response to trauma.  One is ego, concern over ‘what people will say’.  This is especially true of victims of sexual assault and rape.  It was most certainly true of myself but I am trying really hard to smash that idea to pieces because it is nothing short of torture.  I am a great deal further down the line than I when I started, thank FUCK, and I’m realising now that it is imperative to my mental health to always remind myself:  what other people think of me is none of my concern.

My memory is very clear on that first assault.  One of the first thoughts in my head, literally as he was trying to undress me, was ‘The kids must never find out that there is a problem’.  Bit more than ‘a problem’, but I was terrified of doing or saying anything afterwards in part because I thought there would be a ripple effect that the students would become aware of.  When the bastard would walk into my classroom and make lewd comments about having touched me in front of my students I never lost my cool.  I’ve said before that some of the more ‘aware’ kids questioned me about his behaviour and asked me if I was being bullied.  The Shame.  No, I said, hopefully in a breezy reply.  I’ll speak to him about that later.  I’d shake my head and roll my eyes as if it was all just a pesky miscommunication.  The pressure was on me to make sure that no one knew.  He used the children many times in that way, to humiliate or remind me that he was in the position of power.  That still makes me so sad.  I was operating on an auto pilot of superhuman strength because I think of this now, of him, and I want to burn shit down.  But SURVIVAL.

The fact that another teacher was present during several crimes and making jokes about the perpetrator being ‘turned on’ because I was ‘young and good looking’ most certainly affected my attempts to speak out.  That person heard me fight him off, swear and warn him about the fact he was committing crimes right that minute.  What the hell do you do if the person witnessing it replies that ‘he’s just a middle aged guy’ who’s ‘in a drought’ and ‘not getting any from his wife’.  Like I am a receptacle for use?  A service for over entitled assholes who abuse power and privilege for kicks?  If that person later warned me about ‘ruining his marriage’ and being ‘an obvious cock tease’ (read: I brought it upon myself.  For eight months) then what the hell would other people say?  She created a whole other reality about what happened and the threat was clear: she would repeat it thus if I said anything.

When the Principal walked into my colleague’s office where I sat, hysterical, saying that I couldn’t keep up the facade any longer, I didn’t want to tell him either.  I knew he was a weak person and offensively ill equipped for his new role.  I had also been present when he laughed at the perpetrator joking about “Which of the Mums you’d ‘do’ at assembly”.  Or which of the staff were “too fat to fuck”.  The principal never said a word to stop him saying those things and indeed laughed and nodded.  They had gone to school together themselves when they were kids.  This ‘history’ was often the subject of references in staff meetings that made others groan but it was more than that to me.  It said that there was an alliance already present that would make me even harder to believe.  It was going to be almost impossible.  And that bastard wove a web in readiness for that, playing the principal and other staff like a puppeteer.  So that when I said something, though he was so sure I never would, I’d be met with derision and ‘He told me you might say that’…   But the principal exceeded my own low expectations when he declared it a ‘team issue’ and set a meeting for the next week so that the three of us could ‘clarify things’ as we’d obviously been ‘miscommunicating’.  No, fucker, I just told you that your assistant stalks me, interferes with my property, has assaulted me (I did not describe the touching or implicate the other colleague as witness to the most serious assaults at this time), tried to force me to kiss him, turned up at my home and said “Every time I look at you I just want to bone you” and will not take no for an answer.  I’ve just told you that I struggle to come to work and that I cry myself to sleep every night because I love my job but I can’t (nay, shouldn’t) do it under these extreme conditions.   I didn’t go as far as describing my genitals or the sequence of fighting him off then just freezing and floating away in my head.  I didn’t do this because I was sure it wasn’t necessary to raise a red flag – I’d said enough to be of concern, no?  The other reason was in the room and had not five minutes before warned me that to tell that part of the story would put her “in deep shit”.  I was losing control to spill that much but not so much that I didn’t see her staring at me as I revealed almost all to the boss.  This is when he looked up and saw the perp watching us all through the window like the creeper that he was.  “Oh my God, he’s watching us now” says this grown man, leader, my career in his incapable hands.  I knew I was fucked, really, but I truly believed that if I spoke, I’d be heard.  I worried very much what my boss would think of me but I was thinking from a ‘why didn’t you tell me sooner?’ angle. Ha!  I was ashamed to have to explain being touched, followed, harassed and have him imagine my body in this way in his tiny little brain.

The fact that these two senior colleagues both deny this discussion even took place to this day has had a greater impact than the crimes committed by the other one.  After this day I was warned repeatedly to “be professional with them or go” by the principal.  When it got to the point that I had to put the details to the Department formally as no one inside the school was appropriate or ethical, he STILL called me into his office to “be a professional”.  By this time he knew that the other teacher had been in the room, etc, throughout and he still threatened that my job was becoming untenable as “she’s not going anywhere.  I’ve known her for years.  She’s the kind of teacher who puts extra photocopies in your pigeon hole” WHAT THE FUCK?!  Truly, I entered the Twilight Zone as the three of them tried to out-gaslight each other around me.  I cannot believe I finished the year.  I simply cannot.

The perpetrator was sent on paid leave while Police investigated so I did finish the year without his physical presence, though the other two made it far from an easy ride.  The two friends I had made were told not to be seen sitting next to me (seriously) and I endured the last term of school on medication and stubbornness.  During the final months there, some parents of students approached me asking about what they’d heard happened, the ‘disappearance’ of the perpetrator and what their kids had told them.

The principal held a staff meeting especially to tell the staff that the assistant was “on leave because someone here has made a complaint about him”.  This was against protocol as complaints are to be kept confidential to protect all parties involved (and may come to nothing) and it was excruciatingly obvious that I was the complainant.  Other staff had made unofficial remarks about his inappropriate behaviour and that they were uncomfortable with his innuendo but I was definitely on my own now.

So, those above me are thinking about me and judging me.  This is my first teaching job.  My only possible reference if I had to leave and start again.  I had a folder of letters from parents and students, newspaper clippings and excellent Performance Reviews.  My contract had been extended early on.  Now my bosses were just talking about whether I was some kind of Lolita or if I’d messed around with him and was crying wolf.  Mortifying.

Now every colleague who didn’t already know there was a problem knew that I’d made a formal complaint against him.  They were thinking about it, talking about it in their own small groups and making their judgements, also.  Many were shared with me (thanks).  I got a few messages of support but they were in secret; one a note left for me with chocolate saying ‘Hang in there’ and a couple of nods.  Isolating and punishment upon punishment when I was the bloody victim.

The students and parents were talking about me, him, The Something.  I’ve written before about how some of the kids were affected and went to their parents somewhere here.  Mortifying and deeply concerning regarding student welfare.  Just my little opinion.

I will never forget the phone call with my union representative when she said, “Look, have you thought about just letting this go?”  Until that moment they had been staunch, if slightly awkward, allies.  If the union thinks I should just ‘cop it on the chin’ who the hell is going to stand with me?

At the Christmas lunch at this school before I left, the principal handed out jokey awards to staff.  Can you believe this prick read out a “Red Neck Award; for always being red in the face, on the verge of tears or about to explode” Staff clap.  Yeah, that’s funny.  She is always upset. ROFL.  

When the Department itself conducted its own investigation (loose term, yo) the letter attached to the findings from the head of the region stated that I “probably misread a lot of situations due to being emotional” and that I should forgive much of my alleged treatment as people involved “were new to their roles”.  So, I know what he was thinking about me and my situation then.  If that’s what he wrote on official letterhead…

The professional Institute/body then began their own investigation and I gave evidence in disturbing detail, made to go through my mouldy diaries and be extremely direct and exact.  About everything.  That started about three years ago now.  I’ve never heard anything.  They must have thought it was no biggy, either.  Thank you.

I realised that people were talking about this region wide…well, when some other teachers who worked in head office told me that.  That’s a large chunk of the state I live in.  Hideous.  I actually moved out of the entire region briefly after this but my whole life is here.  My family.

I made contact with a teaching agency.  I’d be an ’emergency’ teacher, fill in when they were sick, etc.  The word back was I didn’t have a prayer.  No one at that school would agree to be named as a referee.  I did it all for nothing.  If you have a think about it, you’ll remember at least one sub teacher who was an abomination, not a teacher at all.  I was now lower than that person.  Pretty fucking low.

I have spent a long time with my head down.  Dreading running into a student or parent.  Feeling so ashamed and sad.  Also pissed off that the others were still teachers, doing what I loved to do, while I shopped at the petrol station or drive through places.

The longer this has dragged on I have slowly realised that all I can do is be me, and be comfortable with that woman.  I cannot control the opinions and gossip of others no matter how awful and unfair they have been.

The words from others are useless unless we believe them in our own hearts

I know who I am.  I know what happened.  I know who did what.  I know they are horrible, unethical assholes.  I have to accept that this knowledge is all I am going to get.  The knowledge of all I have lost through this treatment at work, in my dream job, I must face alone.  Without vindication or public justice.  Which I wanted so desperately.  The gossip, investigations and my deterioration was public.  Why the fuck can’t my absolution?  I suppose because assholes are assholes and sometimes human beings suck.

When you’re worried about how others think about you, you are in their domain.  And if you’re busy living in their domain, how can you be present for yourself and your own domain?

This one’s a cracker, because I do NOT want to be anywhere NEAR the domain of those people.  Their domains stink.  They’re poisonous.  And I would be wasting a lot of greatness on losers who don’t give me a second thought anymore.  Until they get a call or a letter about me pursuing compensation now.  Hehehe.  May their domains be sleepless, full of tears and abject fear for their careers and reputations.  Especially her.  I hope she is inside out with worry.  Because she knows all of the truth.  And they underestimated the fight in this kitten.

When you live according to your truth and stay in your own mental sphere, others are more likely to honour you and the truth you live, too, whether they agree with you or not

And the added bonus is, with practice, you give less shits what those people think of you.  That’s not at all easy given the personal nature of this topic and experience.  Not. At. All.  But I feel the shift and I will keep reminding myself.  Though their thoughts and judgements have screwed my career in this field…they are not about me, really.  Their shit is about them.*

PS  Fuck the haters.  Kick some ass.  Yell your truth from the rooftops*

*Repeat daily, as often as needed.  See your doctor if symptoms persist.  I believe you.