I have seen a counsellor at CASA (Centre Against Sexual Assault) three times now. The bloody excellent news? She gets it. She gets where I’m coming from. I didn’t like telling the whole story again because it reminds me of so many things that hurt me. I’m not talking about the sexual content. I’m talking about the series of negligent actions taken after the fact by the people who witnessed these things and that I approached for help. I have said before, probably many times, that the response you get when you ask for help about such a personal, shame-filled experience can determine the course of your recovery. There’s research to back that up which I will link to this at another stage.
The psychological torture of grooming, denial, pack mentality and moral corruption is why I’m here now. It’s why I don’t walk with my head held high anymore. It’s why I avoid crowds and I’ve been so secluded for this time. Why I still have such feelings of angry injustice and yet I’m so reluctant to walk away because that is what the bastards want. I’m stuck in a vortex of battling emotions. I hate them. I hate that I’ve lost my teaching career. I hate that people in charge of small children are still so protected from accountability in dangerous wrong-doing, which I made clear involved criminal behavior including stalking and then sexual assault, quite early on. I hate that my ‘mentor’ teacher was a party to the assaults and joked about it as they happened. I hate that when I said something to her, she began a campaign of such slut shaming blame, whilst simultaneously denying that anything happened, and warning me that my speaking up would land her in ‘deep shit’.
When I accidentally find my self thinking about these people, sometimes I hope they get hurt. I imagine they get punched. Their house gets robbed and they’re scared. I imagine that they walk in front of my car and I put the foot down. That in a staff meeting during the holidays, their workplace is blown to smithereens. At first these images really disturbed me. Who thinks like that? I’m a pacifist. Confrontation and violence frighten me. I certainly have no plans to become a murderer. After a while, I realised that these thoughts were fleeting, five seconds of time, and a direct response to that feeling inside of desperately needing to be heard. Mini revenge fantasies, perhaps. A mental release valve. I’m the one still under the legal and insurance microscope, constantly being observed and assessed. When I was the victim. And it makes me feel wildly mad.
That was the first question I asked the counsellor at CASA. “Am I normal-ish? Other people have come here and said that they sometimes imagine The Punisher getting revenge on their abusers/perpetrators?”. Her answer? “Yes, you’re normal. It happens. But together we can work on strategies to help you manage those thoughts that trouble you”.
That is a win. That is why it is so important to confide in the right people. That is what employer insurance companies and Workcover don’t get. Sending you all over town to a list of strangers who want to medicate you. When what you’re really searching for is someone to say ‘You’re okay’.
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.
Have you ever wanted to ‘out’ the person who assaulted you?
When this disaster started, someone (I can’t remember who, lost in the mists of time and tears) asked me, “Will you be going to the media?” I was incredulous. I was feeling such shame and internal torment. Why the hell would I want to call the local current affairs show and share this?
Obviously, now I know why. Because there is every chance that no one else will listen to you. People will in fact go out of their way to silence and deride you. Shame you. Punish you. They will become a gang of Mean Girls like you could never imagine.
Have I thought about naming him? You bet your ass I have. I saw he has started a small business. I had brief daydreams of standing outside his workplace holding a sign – You Have Hired A Sex Offender. That could feel kind of powerful. Humiliate him. Shame him. Because why the hell should I feel shame and the need to hide my eyes? He should.
I didn’t turn up with a placard. And my thoughts at times have turned nastier than a protest sign. If I was not in the midst of legal proceedings of some kind, would I use the Internet to out them all? Name them? It would be nothing more than telling the truth. My story, with names. Why should I hide?
There are probably websites of all sorts like that. I saw that one on tumblr was shut down. I saw someone I knew once on a website called Don’t Date Him Girl, outed as a rapist. Then found out that girl was one of many. I know why she shared that information. I know why this victim/survivor made posters.
If only people listened and responded as they do to victims of other crimes; with care and compassion. Perhaps then victims of rape and sexual assault wouldn’t feel so desperate to get someone to hear them. And save the next woman.
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 is the 50th post on my blog. One or two were images but I’ve sat with the computer in my lap and written in my cyber diary almost fifty times. Let’s be honest, they’re not short posts! I don’t really edit them either, just a quick glance to check I’m not committing any crimes of grammar. So, after more than six months and 49 posts, where am I?
I am excited (then immediately wary) that the shift in me has not gone away. *Furiously knocks on wood* Since that day in the park with the ducks and the sunshine…I feel a sense of possibility. The Future. My Identity.
This is such a relief, after five years or so where at my worst, I believed I would be better off dead. If you have had any kind of experience like this you will know that it is also a little unsettling. What made this happen? Is it real? How long will it last? I imagine myself trying to cup this newness in my hands to keep it, as precious as it is, but like water it seeps through my fingers. How can I make sure I don’t go backwards? I don’t want to lose this emerging feeling of purpose, possibility and even power. Would you?!
Photo credit here
What is responsible for this move forward? Not ‘time passing’, as that in itself is not nearly enough. It is not medication or psychiatric intervention. That only made me sleepy and vulnerable. It is not the process of Workcover/Worksafe…which I noticed in a newspaper today has come under fire for staff bullying and workplace stress amongst themselves. And these are the people deciding my fate? Hmmm…
It is in spite of the insurance company, the legal process, the copious assessments and reports on me. The forced story re-telling. Running into members of the school community, even today at the shops, and feeling right back there in my head. It is in spite of fearing surveillance on the Internet or in real life. That part really makes me feel uncomfortable.
I know what’s making a difference, little by little.
Talking therapy. Supportive, constructive discourse. The only professionals who I feel comfortable with are ones that listen, feed back and help me lessen the emotional load. In my experience, this has not happened with psychiatrists but counsellors.
You’d think I wouldn’t have anything left to say after all the talking but writing here on this blog has really been the greatest factor in my er, improvement. It’s more talking, it’s allowed to be raw and uncomfortable. Sometimes people say something on here and what that means can’t even be described. I don’t know who’s reading this but knowing that someone is allows me to be heard, when I have been fighting for that so hard. Weaving the events into prose lets me feel like I’m kind of reporting on it as I type – which creates a sense of distance for a minute. Creating this blog has introduced me to twitter. There are hundreds of people and organisations on there which I can tap into, browse and express myself about via that medium. When the topic is so personal and taboo, this kind of communication has saved me.
Websites that I have linked on this blog are places I have found inspiration. I looked at edenland after finding Eden on twitter, then Band Back Together and had a play with WordPress themes and ideas. And here we are! I started something which gave me a place of my own again, which means taking power back. And I could talk about the unmentionable. Power back. A place to use my words, do a bit of research…using skills I missed being unable to use in a workplace. Power back.
Photo credit here
With an example right in front of me that I could speak and be heard, contribute to discourse…I was ready for a bit more. My ability to affect change with regards to my own fight is constrained, but I came to realise that I might be able to use my voice to affect change for other people somewhere. It started with a knock at the door. A British woman was talking to people in the area about Plan International. Child sponsorship. For a lot of reasons I would normally say, ‘Thanks but I can’t right now’, but I ended up inviting her in (I was burning the dinner). We talked a lot about what Plan do and the countries they are working in. It is something I had always wanted to do, particularly with a child of my own. I felt sick as I filled out my bank details and I didn’t want to tell anyone that I’d signed up. I thought they’d mock me for ‘falling for it’ or say that your money doesn’t make it to the kids. But the first person I told congratulated me and said that it was a great thing to do. Ha! So I explained a bit about where my sponsor child lives and the challenges he and his family face. I had the power now to make some kind of change for the better and that made my enthusiasm grow.
Then there was a series on SBS called Go Back To Where You Came From. I wanted to watch it because I didn’t see the first series but I had stumbled upon the ‘reunion’ show where the individuals came together to talk about how they had been changed by the experience (or not). You can’t watch that show without being emotionally effected. It was spell binding. Shock and awe, indeed! By the end of the first episode I had signed up with the United Nations Refugee Agency. There are a variety of ways to help financially and I chose a monthly contribution which provides a family with an Emergency Survival Kit; including blankets, mattresses, a cooking stove and soap. I did this because I want to and I feel very strongly about compassion and community. But guess what? More power back. For me.
A bit more research and I’ve signed up with my local Amnesty International committee and Indigenous Reconciliation Working Group. There are email based groups which write letters and address urgent human rights issues. Have a look at the Amnesty website. There are things you can do and petitions to sign in one minute. It even says that on the site. Think you can’t be a part of change? Help someone to be heard? Turns out you can. Power back. Power back. Power back.
Photo credit here
In some ways, what I am trying to do is small. It is not obvious when you see me. Lots of people do it. But for me, I am rebuilding who I am almost from the ground up. That woman needs to not just think about things she wants to do ‘one day’, but attack them with passion as soon as possible. These things are ways I can use my voice – advocate – channel the passion for good rather than possible evil (mental explosion). I’m also a role model for my child and I want him to grow up with a strong sense of community and humanity. And personal power.
I am hoping that this will be the foundation of my future. These things have brought me some joy and purpose that I have been so desperately missing. Maybe with a bit of confidence from this, tackling the next stage of the Workcover process may be just a little easier. Because I can do things. I can participate. So there’s plenty more of that to be done, surely?
Some articles on how helping others is good for your mental health: Win-Win!
- Why ‘Go Back’ is compulsory viewing (unicef.org.au)
- Children’s drawings depict the horror of Syrian conflict (amnesty.org.nz)