I was asked to go to one of the largest police stations in Sydney, and give a presentation last week. A friend of mine was running an investigator’s course, and wanted to give her students new perspective on what it is like on the other side. I looked through the Charter of Victims Rights-devised in 1996, and made notes. Times have changed. There was nothing like this around when I was going through the court system. I didn’t quite know where to start with writing my presentation, so I asked for wisdom and clarity. I wanted to give the investigator’s a clear picture of what goes on in a survivor’s home (I can’t bring myself to use the term ‘victim’), their minds and hearts. What it feels like to be blown apart. I felt a massive responsibility toward other survivor’s. I was after all, speaking for them. The presentation wrote itself. I spoke of what it felt like as a child when the police came to my home, the things they did and said that made an impact. I spoke about the committal hearing when I was sixteen. I spoke of every encounter I had with the police, and how I had noticed the changes, including being given a card with cohesive information regarding support services and also, the name and contact details of an individual I could call whenever I felt threatened. I made no bones about the bad parts of my history, whilst also praising the good. The sergeant who found me the night I fell. Cupping my hand and keeping my awake whilst the paramedics worked. He shall always be in my heart.
It is a surreal experience to go into the carpark of a large station. The heat and darkness permeate every part of your psyche. I got in the lift with my friend, and two burly detectives. They were built like tanks. Long hallways, and dark rooms. Gritty. My friend went to get changed into her uniform and I waited. I had some Rescue Remedy Pastilles to calm me. The nerves came upon me at the last moment. I had been remarkably chilled before. I gripped my speech, as I entered a room filled with investigators. They listened respectfully to what I said, and I felt validated. I had been waiting a long time for this. Afterward, I was given a bunch of flowers, and a kiss! At the afternoon tea, the officers were served doughnuts by their credit union. Yes, they do eat doughnuts! We talked about our kids, about school fetes, about life. Suddenly, I was a contemporary, about the same age as them, and on a level playing field. I was no longer a victim. I was someone who had managed to survive. Some of them suggested that a presentation such as this be done during every investigator’s course. Wouldn’t that be marvellous? They weren’t seeing a “customer,” as the force now terms those who have endured the unendurable. They saw a person, a mother, wife, friend. It was a privilege to see inside my friend’s work, to view the system from the other side.
I had to talk about many terrible things from my past, and remained strong. This freaked me out. Like many with PTSD, I don’t react to stressful events whilst they are happening. It was when I was taking my daughter grocery shopping later in the evening that my bottom lip trembled and I fought the urge to cry. So many memories. I felt emotional for the child I had been. I felt emotional that finally I had been heard. Maybe these experiences would help ensure my child grows up in a different society. I was awake all night, shaking, feeling sick, remembering. They don’t call it the horrors for nothing. The next day, I stayed in bed and slept. Was it worth it? You bet.