No Direction. No Closure. No Bloody Idea.

It was always used against me, that I was so determined.  That I was a good student.  That I was so enthusiastic.  That I seemed so confident.  They pat you on the back with one hand and stab you with the other.

The passion I once had came from following my heart – I was born to be a teacher.  It’s as simple as that, really.  I was a mature age student, I’d travelled the world and worked in a variety of roles which seemed to naturally lead to this point.  I have (almost) always had the pleasure of being taught by teachers who were there for the same reason.  Students can tell!  Parents can tell!  Other like-minded educators can tell.  It has been such a crushing blow to discover the hard way how many school employees are there for other reasons – and they are usually in positions of power.  An accident?  I think not.

I can’t remember what I’ve called Him on this blog before but He explicitly said, “I’m a teacher now because I have a penis.  I’ll be principal before you’re an Accomplished teacher” (pay level after Graduate).

But graduates are always extra enthusiastic, you say, that’ll change.  Even if you allow for the fatigue of years in the role versus Brand New Enthusiasm, there is a genuine difference in motivations to teach that affect professional behaviour, values and workplace interactions.

In the early stages, they lapped it up from me, as they did the other graduates.  She wants to volunteer for that extra role?  Yes!  You’ve learnt about this new way of team teaching?  Great!  You can help lead the reluctant ones who just want to do it their way!  You bring new life to this school!  We are all better for it!

Until you speak up about something.

Until you say ‘too much’.

Even when what you’re talking about is criminal behaviour that everyone saw and commented on UNTIL you took it further, outside The Group.  It should have stayed Just Between Us.  You’ve just Ruined Everything.  How could YOU do that to US?

Then you’re trying too hard, cocky, speaking “above your station” and “talking about people (they’ve) worked with for years so you’d better watch out”.  But that’s just the beginning.  Warnings.  Subtle and blatant warnings that you don’t want to be A Troublemaker here…Mud Sticks…You’ll Never Work Again.

You always acted like a Slut.

Cocktease.

Over emotional.

Misunderstanding.  This is all just crossed wires, yeah?

Why was it such a fucking horrible, drawn out experience?  I can hardly choose one reason.

Because I was followed, touched, undressed, physically penetrated, cornered, bullied by a senior teacher?

Because it all happened around a primary school, on a camp with your young kids?

Because the children themselves witnessed so many inappropriate things that they voted to put a sign on the door of the classroom banning Him from entry?

That their parents approached me, saying that their kid was worried about ME and what He was like?

That I endured so much on my own because I loved my job so much?

That every single staff member in this small school found Him inappropriate, unprofessional or had questioned him before but when things became formal they vanished into thin air and lied during each level of investigation?

That the people; teachers of small children, that I eventually begged for help to be safe, that I’d cried and shared humiliating truths with; turned it back on me with the click of fingers?

That they used every clichéd slur and excuse in the worn out book?

That they bullied me and talked about me, told staff NOT TO SIT WITH ME AT LUNCH?

That the cumulative result of their actions was eventually to break me?

That despite my confidence, belief that I was meant to be a teacher, letters thanking me for the difference my efforts made with individual students…I wanted to be dead?

I said I was determined.  I moved to another school.  But information like that makes its way around, too.

He pled Guilty.  And I was the one disgusted with MYself.  I was revolting, a failure, a joke.  Everything I’d worked for.  Gone.

I thought I was in a different place.  That I had purged it all.  It’s 8 years this year since He started what he did to me.  I am still at home.  I still have no job.

I have had all the counselling, medication and researched every goddamn way to process and progress towards something.  Anything.  But this shit is like a cancer in your guts.  It’s toxic and it’s scary.  If you’re really unlucky, it’s wrapped around the core of who you are.  You can’t really get away from it, because you are it.  It has become you.

I have to live.  I have to earn money at some point soon.  And I can’t picture that woman in my head at all.  To be out there is to be extremely vulnerable again.

There’s obviously more I need to do yet.  What spurred me on until now was the idea that I could one day tell the story.  That they couldn’t gag me or threaten me then.  And I could shout it from the rooftop.  Mostly because they said ‘you can’t tell anyone’ so many times that I thought the only way to beat the shame was to tell – put it out there and it loses some power.  Or they lose some power.  Now I might have that opportunity and I’m frozen with fear/excitement.

Maybe one of the worst things they managed to do is make sure I never knew when to trust anything again, even myself.

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

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.

Liar, Liar

I just don’t want to delve right into this topic because I’m in a pretty good space right now. However, I have read accounts of the ‘not guilty’ verdict for a British actor charged with rape and the cacophony of bull dust that has inevitably followed.

People on twitter and Facebook demanded that the alleged (I loathe using that a word) victim in the case be named, charged, publicly shamed…for “falsely accusing” a popular personality of such a horrible crime.

My first response was to point out the statistics for successful convictions in crimes of sexual violence. I know them well, as I am one of the lucky 2% who make it all the way to a guilty verdict in Court. Yes, two percent. Now you can add ten percent if you like, if you’re one of those people who feels the need to bleat that this stark statistic as if it is exaggeratedly low. As if feminists and victims collude to make “men look bad”. Yep, people actually say that.

My first response, as was the case with many of my favourite women on twitter, was to reiterate that ‘not guilty’ means that there was not enough evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt which does not in and of itself prove that no crime took place. That we should be very careful about baying for blood in this case because chances are that this girl was assaulted and to charge her or name her is an horrendous re victimisation and just bloody dangerous! Would it be a travesty to be accused of rape under false pretences? No doubt. What would it be if we further demonised a rape victim because the law failed her? Why is the ‘reputation of a man’ more valuable than the very existence of someone so vulnerable and traumatised. You just don’t get a case to court with no evidence. You don’t.

It’s what society does to victims who report rape and sexual assault. It seems that we* need to cling to every reason and excuse to minimise such reprehensible acts of hatred because we are uncomfortable with the truth of it. That rape was committed by someone’s son, father, colleague or neighbour. Because they are ALL somebody’s something. They are all men whom we interact with in a regular capacity. Until we hear that they have violated someone so horribly. But the reaction when we hear this? For so many people, the reaction is to question (doubt) the accuser.

She’s lying.
She led him on.
She just regrets having sex with him.
She’s a ‘cock tease’ (Yeah, that one has always stuck in my head. What the woman I worked with kept saying as a reason for what was done to me. Because penises have a life of their own and are out of control weapons..?)
She’s a slut.

In some way, any way, this horrible thing must be wrong. In a collective societal blindness that still bewilders me, it is the victim who is the target of this difficulty we have addressing sexual violence.

So in the case of the British actor, a finding of Not Guilty had the usual suspects making noise.

But do you know something?

It’s even worse than that. People are even more blind than that.

I got my case all the way to the Committal Hearing in the County Court, gave evidence and endured cross examination for a whole day.

And because I was telling the truth and at his core, the offender is a weak prick, he asked to plead guilty at the end of that day. I joke about being an awesome witness on the stand but I know the truth. I’m damn lucky that he caved in.

He admitted to what he did.
He was convicted.
So, we all agree he is guilty, right?

I should have begun my emotional recovery in that ‘lucky’ position of being victorious in Court. The law worked. I did it.

Even as my colleagues walked out of the Court with that knowledge…they discussed why ‘he only pled guilty to stop the drama’ and ‘avoid jail’. They said they knew he was not really guilty. He ‘just said that’.

I’ll repeat that.

A perpetrator of sexual violence admits he committed these crimes against me. He faced being put on the Sexual Offenders Registry which would mean that he couldn’t go near his kids school. And the majority of people around us STILL claimed to ‘know’ that he wasn’t really guilty. As if anyone on the planet would admit to these crimes if they were not guilty of them, or indeed worse than what they bargain down to. (In my case, some charges were dropped for the deal and the probable jail term suspended)

So don’t worry about a not guilty verdict. You can actually get to the point of a public confession of guilt before the Court and people will STILL call you a liar. Still deny the truth. Such is the power of their denial, at times I have felt that the perpetrator was actually the ‘most decent’ of this group who tried to destroy me because at least he fucking owned up…even in a watered down fashion. The other bastards spent the next two years making my life Hell. And the denial and judgement moved right up the chain to the top person in the state in my sector of employment. I thought with an admission in Court I would be treated accordingly, as the victim of deeply personal crimes.

I was wrong.

The problem we have with the reality of rape and sexual assault is bigger than we think.

The Many Manifestations of Anger

Terminal-Rage

Terminal-Rage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An undeniable part of trauma – life, really – is anger.  I’m still very angry, some days more than others, but I kind of like it.  To me, anger feels more powerful than denial, hurt or pain.  When you’ve been feeling powerless and under attack, beginning to feel anger can signify that you acknowledge that a wrong was done to you (rather than this being your fault) and that it was wrong (despite how many excuses people try to feed you to water down the perpetrator’s responsibility).  It was not bravery but anger that got me through the doors of the County Court.  It was anger that drove me to lodge official complaints amidst so many warnings to ‘forget it’ and that I would be ending my own career by talking.  It is anger that enables me to endure yet *another* psychiatric review ordered by the insurance company to ‘prove’ my damage.

My anger is not always productive.  I am hit with impotent waves of rage when the topic of ‘what makes a good teacher’ is raised, or ‘how the education system should be improved’.  I am by no means narcissistic enough to imagine my experience IS the system.  But the topic stabs me in the heart like a blunt knife.  I want to scream about the parts of the system no one talks about.  The people that are still allowed to do as they wish; threaten, bully and lie – even before the Courts.  Mostly it hurts because I miss my job.  And I grieve for the loss.  The involuntary loss of my dream.

That makes me angry.

In order to move through this murky stuff (anger is also a very heavy emotion to drag around with you) I have done what I always do – read about it.

There are ten common anger styles which are divided into three categories; hidden, explosive and chronic.

Hidden styles are common in people who may underestimate or really not know that they are feeling anger.  There are all sorts of childhood and socialisation issues also at play here which may contribute to how a person manages (or denies) their angry feelings.

Anger Avoidance  Some people avoid their anger, suppress it or try to deny it.  This may be especially so of females, who are invariably instructed from birth that ‘nice girls don’t get angry’ or ‘make a fuss’.  Been there, tried that.  It becomes a cancer in you.  Delays the inevitable.

Sneaky Anger manifests in other ways.  Rather than dealing with feelings of anger, these people mask it behind confusion, hopelessness or procrastination.  I may have appeared this way to the people close to me during the worst times.  I would appear full of rage, clearly struggling with something big, but unable or unwilling to share.

Paranoid Anger could also be called ‘projecting’, I think.  This is when people hide from their own aggression by talking it out on others.  They can be convinced that others are angry and lash out in turn.  Or attack and then use the excuse that they were defending themselves.

Explosive Anger is what it says on the label; quick, exaggerated and quite often dangerous.

Sudden Anger is exhibited by loss of control and waves of rage.  These people do not seem to notice the warning signs that anger is building inside them or indeed know how to manage it when it explodes.

Shame Based Anger is also explosive but pertains particularly to issues of low self esteem.  People that are highly sensitive to criticism may lash out defensively to a real or only perceived threat to their egos.  Hello, perpetrator and asshole colleagues.  This is your stop.  Your shame, your anger taken out on me.  Your.  Fault.

Deliberate Anger is used intentionally by people to manipulate and get their own way.  Domineering people (bullies) learn that it is possible to control people through fear and intimidation.  Perpetrator, groomer…this is YOU.

Addictive Anger are seemingly addicted to the rush of being angry.  They don’t know any other way to feel good, or powerful, and seek pathways which invite opportunities to become angry.

Finally, there is Chronic Anger.  These people are your grudge holders, they stew over feelings of anger and find it very hard to let go.

Habitual Anger is used by individuals who have perfected it like a fine art.  They don’t know the difference.  They are angry all the time, over big and small issues.

Moral Anger may be rigid in their thinking and come across as self righteous.  They become involved in endless ‘crusades’, are driven by a sense of justice and what is fair in their eyes.  This is me, whether it be my ‘crusade’ or the plight of others.  I admit it.  I reckon if you have to be feeling angry, though, this one is alright.  But I am biased.

Unresolved anger can morph into resentment and Hate.  People like this always see themselves as the innocent victim and are caught in the grip of the beast.  Which is invariably not their fault.  Ever.

Now I am after all only human.  I’ve dabbled in a few forms of anger expression.  It is however Moral Anger that drives me/drives me crazy.  I know what is right and wrong.  I know how many times I was treated badly…criminally…in my workplace.  By people who always knew that they had a moral, ethical and legal obligation to behave in a different way.  The right way.  The legal way.  So I am still angry.  And searching for a sense of closure.  A point where I can stop trying to be heard and start just being me again.  I’m pretty determined/stubborn/unable to stop until I have taken it as far as I can go.  I don’t know what I will do then.  How I will feel.  But I will know in my heart that I tried everything I possibly could.  That I pushed things in every direction and took the flak that came with that.  I am trying to exorcise this bubbling anger but also I’m just being defiant.  Don’t tell me to stop!  How dare you tell me I will lose my job!  I should ‘get over it’ and let you carry on without ‘rocking the boat’ for you guys?  Will I fuck.

Still here.

Still talking.

Still fighting.

Hopefully there will come a day soon where I can stop being so angry and just look back and feel a bit proud of myself.  While I work for that, there is plenty to keep me busy.  It’s tragic how far Moral Anger can take you, in the area of assault and victim blaming in particular.  I’ll stomp some out at Slutwalk 2013.  Sometimes it feels like I have hardly moved since this started, but since I ‘came out’ and marched with the others at Slutwalk last year, I’ve come a long way, baby!

Safety House

I’ve been spinning around like the proverbial top for a few weeks. Still going.  I have bursts of happy, mostly of the potential for something different from how I have been living.

 

Money is a form of power and choice.  Until now, I worried that my payments would be stopped, that someone was watching me, how would this end?  Now, for a moment, I can concern myself with making investments in our future with the money in my hand.  Money owed to me ten times over, not enough compared to what I could have earnestly earned, but I’m choosing to look at it like some kind of Extreme Savings Plan.  They…did me a favour and kept some aside so that I could have a lump sum to set up a new home.  Or something.

 

I loathe applying for rental properties because you have to share your private details and try to be chosen over the others like Annie at the orphanage.  And I haven’t been rejected in that area before.  This first one hurt.  Made me panic.  What if I can’t get accepted into a decent house now?  I’m permanently like this?  A financial loser?  A non-contributer to society?  Not number one any more.  *need for approval evident*

 

I talked myself around.  The right house will be mine.  What is meant to happen will happen and all that.  And I think it has!  The house I wanted the most, with a view of Autumn in the mountain ranges, is mine to live in.

 

This is what this new home means to me…

 

A home for my child, with space to be together and also slightly apart when the need or desire arises

 

A backyard to die for.  Half of the space is dense greenery and foliage – our jungle.  The other, grass crying out to be filled with a swing set and a cubby house.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a few of these dollars than setting up a place to laugh

 

A safe place.  I live in a property now which is wide open to the street and I feel exposed.  I can’t relax.  I can’t enjoy the sunshine through the open window because I can’t afford to Be Seen.  The new house has sensor security lights.  The doors are secure and have no glass.  I quite fancy having the windows open and taking in the colourful view.   I so hope I feel this way when I am in there.  With a happy, safe home base, I believe this will be the New Start we all hear about.  Hope for.  My safe, comfortable house.

 

From here?  It’s only going to get better.  I have a good feeling about that.

Safety House logo

Safety House logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)