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

System: FAIL

**All of the trigger warnings**

*And sweary words may ensue*

There are stories in the media that are triggering the living hell out of me at the moment.  The most upsetting in a long list of sexual violence examples currently being discussed is Jill Meagher’s violent rape and murder

The picture of his smiling face makes my guts churn.  We have watched CCTV footage of Ms Meagher being chased down the street by this man and read graphic accounts of her torturous end.  It is quite literally a horror story, the one you are always warned about as a young woman.  What is so incredibly disturbing about Ms Meagher’s terrifying ordeal is how the justice system in Australia ignored Police attempts to have *him* locked up.  More than 20 convictions for rape, spanning 20 years, which were deemed by one sentencing judge to be violent and deliberately (more) humiliating for the purpose of *him* getting his rocks off.  

And so you wonder, how did he only serve portions of his sentences, handed down by an already grossly inadequate system which over twenty years FAILED TO DEEM COMMUNITY SAFETY MORE IMPORTANT than…anything?  This man’s ‘right to a second chance’?  22nd chance, perhaps?

I have avoided media reports as much as I can.  There have been some useful pieces written about the Utter Failure of the concept of ‘justice’ and sentencing of violent sexual offenders in Australia.  Amy Gray wrote here on how women have been failed.  She said,

“Women know that Australia’s legal system will not protect them, with 60% of sexual assault investigations marked as unresolved after 30 days or that only one in six rape cases even make it to court. This is largely why sexual assault is underreported. Our legal system does not provide appropriate and just protection for victims of sexual assault and can be just as traumatic as the actual attack”

I advise you DON’T read the comments, however, as they immediately turn into victim blaming, ‘the feminists did it’ and something something prostitutes.  Well, if that doesn’t show how fucked some people are, nothing will.  I ache for the loss of that beautiful lady and the poison some people carry which enables them to use such a forum to talk utter heartbreaking shit.

Derryn Hinch wrote here about the Parole Board and just how many times they grant parole, including for a man with 20+ convictions for sexual violence spanning 20 years.  It doesn’t get any more believable the more I type the words.  There is incredible trust placed in the individuals who make up this board and Hinch asks, what is their agenda?  The last judge to release Ms Meagher’s murderer ‘doesn’t recall the case’.  

Oh, the howling rage.  It burns.

What is this nonsense about contrition and ‘rehabilitation’ of life long, sadistic rapists?  Does that sound right to you?

Some years ago I worked at length on a piece of research about how to deal with alleged sexual offenders in the context of child safety.  I’ve probably mentioned it.  I read through research and offender interviews that you just would never imagine existed.  Horror stories. I trawled through victim statements, Family Court transcripts and newspaper reports of The Worst Kind.  Do you know what I found?  

There is actually quite a body of research on this topic.  From different ‘stakeholders’, victims, legal representatives, medical professionals and even studies with offenders themselves.  What was the thing that linked them altogether, do you think?

Almost every piece of information I found in my research drew the same conclusion.  (With the exception of Court transcripts, which show a heinous disregard for the evidence we clearly have)  

Rapists rape because they can.

Power.

Rapists lie as often as they breathe and spin a web so convincingly that so many of us are fooled.  They are very good at it.  They have to be.  

This shows knowledge and intent.  Grooming, preparing or setting up a victim are elaborate schemes.  So is covering your ass and pleading for mercy to your parole officer (whom Hinch alleges actually tipped off Meagher’s murderer when Police were closing in – I can’t even…).  Sexual violence and certainly stalking and murder are not accidents.  Not Random occurrences by Otherwise Good Guys.  They are deliberate, malicious and conniving betrayals.  Why do we not treat them as such?

Evidence from perpetrators and attempted ‘therapy’ was conclusive: there is no such thing as curing a rapist.  They cannot be rehabilitated (for what that term is even worth!).  Many  perpetrators that were studied thought this was a humorous proposition.  They laughed at the idea of being ‘cured’! Mostly because they still felt entitled to do what they had done, and would probably continue to do. They played the system after playing the victims and laughed their way back onto the streets while their victims hid inside, became addicted to drugs or ended their lives.  

It made for chilling reading.  That knowledge didn’t help me to avoid becoming one of The Victims.  It does however, help me to deal with things after the fact.  Long after the fact.  Sort of.

A statistic that has forever stayed with me from this work is that of rape committed versus rape KNOWN ABOUT or CHARGED WITH.  The combination of literature suggested that for every incident reported, an offender has committed FIVE MORE sexual assaults/rapes that will remain undisclosed.

*pause*

Jill Meagher’s rapist and murderer was convicted 20 times.  And that wasn’t enough to keep him confined.  

 

What is enough?  Where does it end?  

What is a life worth?

Do others sit, frozen, with images of her struggling to get free in her last moments?  Because  I do.  

The only chance of any justice (not even possible) in this case is if sentencing guidelines are reviewed and amended accordingly.  

We have the proof.

We – unfortunately – have the numbers of victims.

Why do we have to try to justify the hurt caused by rape?  The reality of offenders? The awful evidence is there.  

We must treat this issue with the desperate gravity it deserves.  

Manic Panic

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

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

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

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

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

Then you get there.  

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

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

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

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

When I can open it.

I’m such a nerd.  Maybe tomorrow.

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

 

I’m OK, You’re OK (Except The Bad Guys. They Will Never Be OK)

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’.

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Women, It Is Time To Roar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest In Peace, Little Angels

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Rest In Peace, little babes. May you live forever in your family’s hearts with a smile and cuddle. Perfectly innocent and full of future’s promise.

Brave teachers, you will not be forgotten. Your dedication and quick-thinking undoubtedly saved lives. Parents will take some comfort knowing that you protected their children with love and care.

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May you be there in the floating bubbles, the rainbow colours, the gentle breeze…everywhere, warming hearts forever.

Sandy Hook School, 14th December 2012

And They Also Took My Dreams

Don't Rape - D7K 9862 ep

Don’t Rape – D7K 9862 ep (Photo credit: Eric.Parker)

It’s really nice to say thankyou.  Let someone know that they were kind, helped you out or were there when you needed them.  I am a huge fan of cards, notes…just to say nothing at all, except ‘I’m thinking about you’.  It gives me great pleasure to tell people they are loved.  If they are happy to hear it, all the better.  I don’t think we are nearly as grateful or open with our love and respect as we should be.  When you are at work, no matter what you do, how many people thank you for your efforts?  How many times are you acknowledged for a job well done?  Good effort?  Told you made a difference?

I used to have a job where I got to hear that.  Not from management, silly!  From the kids.  The only people that mattered.

I held on to those precious notes and cards when I did not want to go to work.  I used their sincere gestures as power when I sat in the bottom of the shower in a ball, crying, feeling so pathetic and full of useless rage that I wished I would cease to exist.  Just make the pain stop.  The torture of going back every day to the same experience.  HIM following me around.  Watching me through the windows.  Calling me into his office for obscure reasons to make dirty references and crude jokes.  HIM emailing me, texting me from the other side of the staff room, coming to my home.  HIM making signals and gestures as he led staff meetings which were ‘only for me’ and made the bile rise in my throat.  I knew these behaviours from research I had worked on years previously regarding sexual offenders.  (The intellectual understanding meant zero as it played out in my own life…)  When I was the Social Scientist, someone gave a shit when the victim cried out for help.  That’s what’s supposed to happen, right?  Right?

These days I have tubs of documents related to this saga.  Mouldy diaries.  Torn bits of paper with an acronym of some sexual assault organisation or another with ‘2pm Thurs’ next to it.  A Victims of Crime Information Booklet.  A few copies of my initial Police statement.  Photos.  Photos of the collage of photos he had of me on display in his office.  Photos of me, smiling, with a student when I know what I was feeling inside at that time.  Of HIM, HIS FACE.  He was everywhere, he made sure of it.  I also have copies of the local newspapers that featured an event I’d run at the school or money we’d raised for cancer research.  At the time I was so proud.  Now they make me sad.  Who’s that girl..?

In another tub I have some of the letters and cards from students and parents because I know how precious they are.  I have read some on days I needed to be strong for Court or telling the story AGAIN to another detached ‘professional’ who decides my psychological impairment after questioning me for twenty minutes.

I got the tub out of the shed today and I’m going to share some of the things that have been said about me.  The real me.  What I was to them.  The potential I had to do good.  Make amazing things happen.  Work with your son or daughter so that they wanted to be the best they could be.  I came at education from a very holistic approach, a social/emotional start point.  I loved school, I loved to learn, I loved a challenge.  When I said at Parent-Teacher night that I cared about your son’s progress and safety I meant it with every cell in my body.  Make no mistake.  I was meant to be in the classroom.

I am angry about not being able to be who I want to be, who I was.  I honestly grieve for this loss.  It hurts my heart.  That’s what the job meant to me.  It was a calling.  I made connections with kids some teachers couldn’t fathom – and wouldn’t seek or miss.  I know that.  But I have had almost every ounce of pride, respect and self belief torn from me, layer by layer.  You want to violate my body?  Here, have this part of me.  You want to call me a slut, tell me ‘mud sticks’ and I’ll kill my own career if I tell?  Here, have it.  You want me in the Police station when I should be at home coming up with new ways to get the quiet boy to come out of his shell?  Fuck it.  Here you go, here’s some more of me.  Oh, cross examine me about my sexual assaults?  Describe my boss touching and forcing himself onto my skin?  It’s yours.  Fuck you.  You can’t believe that another senior colleague was there, made jokes and SHE ignored my swearing and fighting him off? Trust me.  I cannot believe it either.  I’m a liar?  A slut?  Led him on, you say?  It’s because his wife has young kids?  He’s horny?  This whole deconstruction would be easier if you tapped me on the shoulder and said, “‘Scuse us, going to remove your heart with this blunt fork now.  Right-o then, cheers.  Mind if you could write it down for the fellas back at Regional Office?  Thanks babe”  And THEN you bring me into the office every week to question my professionalism?  Tell me I have to deal with it or piss off?  YOUR friends wouldn’t do THAT?  Tell me I have to sit alone in the staff room in case I intimidate the woman who participated in the most serious sexual assaults and then told me to shut up or SHE would be in ‘deep shit’?  Isolate me, berate me and deny my rape and stalking under your watch?  It wasn’t that bloody covert if the students saw it, was it?  You didn’t miss it, you knew and you COLLUDED AND LIED.  You were negligent to say the least.  I hope that group die a thousand slow deaths.  Each.

But here are the reasons I stayed at work, and the reasons I will keep using my voice in whatever guise I am able.  They are worth more to me than any cliche, misconduct, unprofessional collusion and victim blaming any asshole could ever come up with.  Even now.  Here come the tears.  I am so sorry, kids.  I was not the best teacher that ever lived, I’m not being ridiculous here.  But I only needed to be the one they needed to make a difference.  And I can’t be, now.  I hate you all for it more than the rape, more than lies, more than the humiliation and erasure of all the good I did.  I hate you all because by doing this to me you kind of took away something or someone good from those kids.  That will never be ok.  You didn’t just get rid of that young troublemaker who rocked the boat in your insular world.  As far as I am concerned, you made victims of the kids, too.  What they saw.  What they heard.  What they told their parents.  They witnessed a strong, vibrant person who played a pivotal role in their lives (at least for a year) be dissolved into something else.  And even if I only mattered to one student a year, you stole that from me.  And you’ve stolen it from them.  So I hate you.  And I cry tears of rage and venom.  And sometimes, just primal pain.

This is from a young person who wasn’t in my class, he just gave me some poetry he wrote and we talked about football.  Some poems were beautiful but this one kills me now…

~

Red is the colour of a hot burning fire

Destroying everything in its path.

Red is the colour of blood when you hurt

Red is the colour of pain when you cry out for someone to help you

But red is the colour of the rose you give to someone you love

~

This is a letter from a twelve year old after we had Reach at our school, which was incidentally the best legacy I could have left and I’ll preach about that until I run out of air 🙂 …

Dear Miss,

Thank you for yesterday after Reach when you talked to me because it made me feel better, like everything you’ve done over the year.  I know it’s not the end of the year yet but you have been an awesome teacher to make my last year a great one so thanks.  But mainly I was writing because even though I cried at Reach it still made me feel better and Reach was an awesome experience because it was pretty hard for me to say sorry because I’ve done heaps of bad and just to know I could talk to you about it made me feel better so once again thanks for everything.

We worked on a My Hero writing exercise once, looking to pinpoint characteristics of everyday people who students could look up to.  I got one written about me, not in a cheesy point-scoring kind of way, but from the quietest little mouse in the room and  later from the brashest, boldest character, who fought me all the way.

From a mother…

I wish to thank you for making this years camp a brilliant time for (my child).  She was so looking forward to going away with you and has done nothing but rave about her time there.  You have been a great influence over her this year.  So much so I haven’t had a problem with her going to school.  I have not had any phone calls from the school to come get her which used to happen quite often.  It’s got to the stage I can’t even keep her at home.  She relates to you so well and talks about you all the time.  You know how to handle her cheekiness without hurting her feelings.  She can also push the boundaries and you keep her in line.  This is one less thing I have to worry about with so much going on with her (sibling)’s health problems.  She thinks I am not interested in her because of all I have to do for (sibling) .  This is why I am so grateful she can relate to you so well.

I did not do anything remarkable, I assure you.  I just really, really cared.  They mattered to me.  So I looked for ways to help them grow and feel secure.

From the mother whose child told her he was worried about how I was being treated at school (you just can’t feel more broken than when you hear that)…

Thank you for all your support, encouragement and enthusiasm given to (my child) this year.  We have all enjoyed your sense of humour and joy.  You will be truly missed.  All the best in the next step in your brilliant career… *imagine shooting self here*  They knew why I was really leaving.

This from a student teacher I had in my class…

I would like to say a massive thanks for all of your support over my time with you.  You have been an amazing mentor and I have learnt so much from you.  I think you are a wonderful teacher and create a really positive and safe learning environment for all students to express themselves and have fun.  When I graduate I hope and half the teacher you are.  *shoots self here, too*

Another mum (they are great at thank you’s)…

Thank you so much for being so positive for (my child).  He has changed so much this term, it’s been incredible.  I cannot express what a relief it was when you started looking after him.  Your positive attitude has made everyone look at him differently and he has become interested in so many things.  Thank you again.

This one from a twelve year old was framed until last year…

When I began your class I thought I knew what challenges you’d make me face.  You gave me the motivation to pursue the best of my abilities.  You made me see that what I’d choose to seek, I’d surely find.  I thank you now for what you’ve done.  What you have taught me I will not outgrow.  I will remember you for my whole life.  I wish every teacher was like YOU.

I don’t care if she got that from a card or off the Internet…she painstakingly wrote it out in perfect cursive.  I love it.

Mother…

He’s had the best year and blossomed into such a confident young man.  This school really needs teachers like you…

and son…

You are awesome and it will be hard to let go.  Hope the new school treats you like we did… *bless ‘im (SCREAMS)*

One from the girls…

March 8th is International Women’s Day and this made me think about the special women I know, and I thought of you.  You inspire me to extend my knowledge to its full potential.  You care about all the students in our class.  You taught me to work smarter, not harder.  You have helped me to understand that learning can be fun and for that I thank you…

I don’t even know what the point of this post is.  I’m mad today.  Really sad.  Grieving.  Missing the classroom.  Missing the me I was before it got wrecked.  It’s not a thrilling read, but I’d add this to my Victim Impact Statement.  You took this, too, you bastards.  And I don’t know what to do about that loss.  Because it was my job – what I did – but it was also my passion and my dream.