What it Takes to go to Court…


My dear friend lives in the city, and she and her husband work hard to build a future for their family. Sadly, sexual abuse featured in their lives as young people, and whilst the scars have healed over, they can occasionally be picked open by recent events. My friend sought the services of a professional, for a sensitive matter. She trusted that what transpired in that room, would stay in that room. Little did she know, that the professional man would bank on that happening. She divulged her fears and innermost feelings, and he preyed upon her in insidious fashion. The sexual abuse happened within five minutes, leaving her confused and stunned. She hurriedly left, stumbling out of the practice, then ringing her fiancee. Within a week, news of this professional man’s crimes hit the media. My friend went to the police, and reported what had transpired at her appointment. She went back and made a statement, the event opening up old wounds, and a fear of whether she could trust anyone in a professional capacity, again.

In the interim, she married and had a baby boy. The week after his birth, she was asked by the Department of Public Prosecution’s to come to their offices for an appointment to run over her statement. She explained that this was impossible, as she had just given birth, and so she was granted a Skype interview. She was nervous in the lead-up, and anxious on the day. I went over to look after her baby whilst she talked in another room. They said that she would likely need to come to court within the next couple of weeks, and she prepared herself as best she could.

The matter kept being pushed back, the accused deciding to plead Not Guilty to all charges. There were over thirty charges, and scores of women and girls had given statements to the police. Finally, it was scheduled. Two days off work for her husband, and two days spent in a courthouse in her last days of maternity leave. These were days she wanted to spend with her baby, and instead they were spent in the company of the accused’s barrister, who was aggressive. Day one, she left after eight hours, without having been on the stand. Day two, she was up, and left exhausted. It took weeks for her to regain her energy, and I was worried that she may go into a post-natal depression. She just hoped that by standing up, he would get as long a sentence as the law allowed.

I was with her months’ later, when she received a text from the DPP, saying that the charges of him molesting her had been dropped. She was devastated, and wondered what she could have done or said that would have made a difference. I assured her that there was nothing that could have been done differently. Even though she was assured that he had been found guilty on other charges, it would have meant the world if they had said that he was guilty of this charge too. It would have meant the world to the little girl within her soul. Validation means everything, though is hard to come by. I took her for a cuppa, and bought her flowers.

Two days of unpaid leave for her husband. The expense of meals and petrol, not to mention the emotional toll. Hours spent giving statements, in interviews and on the stand. Time away from her baby. This couple asked me why would anybody go to all this trouble, if the event hadn’t happened? What on earth would they have gained? The law is a tricky business, with sleight of hand and confusing verdicts. This creature is going to jail, for quite a while, nonetheless. I am so very proud of this friend, for standing up and telling of her encounter. It took everything she had, and then some. Somehow, within the telling, it has freed this little girl, regardless. You fought the good fight, and your courage caused other’s to stand up and go to the police too. Your clarion call was heard, sweetheart. Those who have found their voice, shall never be silenced again.

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For those that have been Betrayed


I see you, even though you feel invisible. You are trying desperately to hide, even whilst yearning to be found. I sense the psychic wounds; the blood-letting you have endured. You are surrounded by pretty photos of pretty times by pretty lakes. There were pretty hotels in pretty, faraway lands. You have retreated from Instagram and Facebook, feeling you have nothing to contribute by way of pretty stories… Not anymore.

You had hoped that none of this was real. It can’t be real, for that would be intolerable; unthinkable. Your heart is pierced with wire, barbed and cruel, another searing pain striking whenever you think of him, and what transpired.

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Pain that sees you crawl into a ball in the shower, undone by wracking sobs which seem unworldly. What to do with the pictures, strewn about your home? The albums filled with memories? Hell, you even learnt the art of scrapbooking, so the stories were inked on pretty paper, in an orderly fashion. Each chapter had it’s own album, as great stories should.

I can see your collarbone, your flesh receded, along with your appetite. When did you last eat? I can see you haven’t slept, your eyes hollowed and red.

Next we have anger. Why didn’t you see it coming, you rage at yourself? Why did I believe their lies? Why did I think it was possible to retrieve our life together? It was concealed from you, dear heart. They only reveal what they want you to know. Lying is a game for one, and you weren’t privy to the rules. Anger extends to the partner. How could they take your family and carelessly shatter all that you had? They aren’t there to deal with the aftermath.

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I see you trying to adapt to being a single parent, and a single person. I see you having to navigate the legal system, locate counselling, and deal with financial matters. I know it feels overwhelming. The evenings are lonely, but then, so are the mornings. There shall be many firsts. The first time you attend a dinner, where you are the only one solo amongst your friends. The first walk, the first Christmas, the first mothers day…

There will be immense sadness and there will be grief. You wonder if the whole of your relationship was a lie. How much of it was ever real? Hindsight is a cruel teacher. It is only through it’s looking glass that we are able to see the complete picture. How can they love you like you need and like you deserve, if they don’t know themselves? If they came to you as an incomplete person, the union had to break. You aren’t responsible for filling up the mental and emotional needs of a partner who is punctured. It isn’t your job.

Your job is to tend to your own wounds. To discover the simple pleasures of a bubble bath or a solitary stroll. The kids are at sleepovers and you are alone. Now is the time to discover how decadent it feels to prepare a nourishing meal for one. You can curl up with a novel, or Netflix, unimpeded. You can play whatever music you desire. You are free now. Free from betrayal, and from the years of subterfuge. No more deceit, and no more wondering. You are worth far more. Now it is time to heal.

Go gently into your new world, and lean on your inner circle of friends. Slowly, you will begin sleeping through again. You will start eating more and cry a little less. You are going to show this world what a single woman can do. Right now, if all you did today was  go through the cycle of bewilderment, denial, anger, hurt and sadness on a continual loop, you did okay. You are still here, and have much to build on.

Remember the young woman who lived before this relationship? Open that photo album. Find her, retrieve her and offer her revivification. She has been there all this time. What does she want? What did she sacrifice or put on hold? Take all her dreams out of mothballs, and bring them to life.

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Stay…


Last week, Sydney lost a talented chef to suicide.  Bronzed and seemingly healthy, his smile could light up our city. There was much commentary after the news hit social media, but what pierced through the rhetoric was the notion that when alone, he’d fallen into a worm hole, and hadn’t the resources to stave off the impulse his depression looped into. These holes seem to have no end, and can be hard to extricate oneself from.

I know a person who was close to succumbing, in January, 2019. There are as many pathways into anxiety and depression as there are people in the world. Hers wasn’t initially caused by a chemical imbalance, rather circumstances conspiring against her. It were as though her mind were a strudel, with layers of pastry piled on top of one other. The apple promised sweetness, and she held the layers of stress in her hands, waiting to reach the filling. All it took was another day of calamity- not of her making- to break her resolve. Heart beating wildly, hands shaking and a mind unable to see a way out, she reached for the phone. Once a playdate for her child had been arranged, and she was alone, her mind led her onto a dark stage. There was no audience, nor were there lights. There were no solutions here.

She had done all that she could to make life better, more secure, and she couldn’t see her way clear. All of a sudden, a beam of light hit the centre of her brain, insisting that she send a text. She asked what her friend was up to, and if she may join her. “Of course!” came the enthusiastic response. They drove to the beach, singing along to the radio. She made herself focus on all the beauty surrounding her. The Bird Of Paradise, alongside hibiscus, in reds and oranges,  dotting the landscape. She closed her eyes and felt the salt air caressing her skin. Her bottle of chilled water felt good as it hit her neck, the Cheezels they had bought, decorating her fingers like rings. She had gone against her wildest impulse, which was to not experience anything at all. It had frightened her, how her brain insisted that the stressors couldn’t be balanced against beauty.

They were gone for hours, away from home and everyday life. She was dropped back revived, just in time to make calls and forge a path through the thorny brackets of which she had been stuck. The next morning, she woke at dawn, and saw something similar to this.

Morning light and lorikeets greeted the new day, alongside the help needed to extricate herself from overwhelming concerns. Within a month, she had begun a new medication. It was a small dose, but enough to chase away the anxiety she had been battling alone, without armour. She could now see her way clear, and a path opened up in front of her. Happiness returned, and she started to engage with the world again. To her amazement, she had been missed. Depression in an active state is renowned for the crap it feeds us. Looking back, she shudders at what she would have missed, in just a couple of weeks. The mundane joy of a cool change after stifling heat, through to her child’s laughter.

She hadn’t the language in her distressed state to tell her friend what the matter was, nor what she needed, other than to be with someone. Perhaps that is all one needs to do; to reach out and say that you need company, even accompanying them as they go about their errands. Anything to not be in alone, battling a pocket of despair by yourself. A wormhole is a tunnel with two ends. Perhaps reaching out to those on the periphery is a way of ensuring we make it back to life. Look out for those self-isolating or who seem to be going through changes. Our psyche can be as fragile as a butterfly wing, and whilst it is tempting to cease all that has ever given us joy, it is imperative that we don’t. The lies our minds feed us tends to be done in secret and when alone.  You are too precious, and life has too much beauty left to unfurl. Let today mark the beginning of us all leaving our particular pockets of despair. If you survived today because you decided to go grocery shopping with a friend, rather than stay by yourself, then that is a miracle indeed. Whatever it takes to keep you alive, do it.

Womens Wave, Sydney


Perusing the commentary on social media, there are apparently people who don’t believe that we need to march in support of women’s rights. That would be welcome news for  the thousands who marched in Sydney last weekend. If only it were true… We demanded the right to feel safe on our streets, our thoughts turning to Aiia Maasarwe, the vibrant young student killed in Melbourne. She will never be forgotten, and was certainly remembered Sunday. It could have been any one of us…We traveled into the city with a woman who had survived domestic violence. She left her marriage when pregnant with her youngest, and has been to hell, lingering to grab other’s from it’s fire. We stood spellbound, listening to Yumi Stynes, Aunty Norma, Jane Brock, Rae Johnston and Bri Lee. If you can imagine several thousand people, silent and keeping space for the speakers, the trees themselves staying as still as the air. The peace was occasionally broken by rapturous applause. As we began our march past the courts, my friend began crying. So many of us had experienced violence in the past, and being part of a collective was in direct opposition to how alone we had once felt. “Things are going to change for our girls,” I whispered, hoping I was right.

I have witnessed girls being too intimidated to play at a local park, right near their home, after boys demanded that they be their girlfriend. They refused, and the boys didn’t like it. Now, they will only go to the park accompanied. I have seen cat-calling of eleven year old’s, suggestive messages left for them in their bags. I had the displeasure of traveling on a train with two teenage boys the other day. By the looks of them, I would hazard a guess that they were sixteen years old. One was talking to the other about sending “a chick” pics of their anatomy, and demanding that she do the same. The way in which they were talking, and the phrases they used to denigrate young women, made my skin crawl, and I let them have it both barrels. Once upon a time, the defence brought up the fact that I was on the pill as an argument in court. Never mind that I was taking it for severe period pain, later diagnosed as endometriosis. Certainly never mind that it had nothing to do with my being raped. I have seen misogyny at work, and felt it’s cruel aftermath. I have met gentlemen and fabulous boys too, many of whom took part in the march. They give me renewed hope.

Do you know how hard it is to leave an abusive marriage? Even if you are the one fiscally responsible, adept at paying bills and stretching money, real estate agents prefer to have a husband’s name on the lease, particularly if you are at home with small children and he works full-time. So many things in your husband’s name, and none in yours. There are many ways to feel trapped in this world, and a lot of rabbit holes to disappear down. My daughter was asked by a reporter why she was here. She said “because my mum was hurt badly when she was a teenager, and women and girls deserve to feel safe and respected.” We sure do, sweetheart. Her friends chatted to the reporter too, adding their heartfelt sentiments. They are the daughter’s of  women who rose like the mythical phoenix, and shall be silent no more.

The call was placed for a Safe State, a list of recommendations put together by frontline workers and experts to end family and domestic violence. You can show your support here.

Financial Abuse


I recently met up with a friend whose partner (in secret), had racked up substantial debts, which they were repaying at $550 per week. If you asked her partner what he’d bought, I don’t believe he would be able to tell you, such was the lack of value placed on the items. It has added up to a huge chunk out of their wages. Financial abuse is insidious, tied in with emotional and mental abuse, and at it’s heart, control.  Ultimately, living with someone whose goals aren’t aligned with yours, is unworkable. Being lied to, having money taken out of your account and being forced to withdraw what you have saved in order to live, is more common than most people think. It consists of regularly making up excuses when you can’t afford to go out,  whilst trying to keep the household running and school supplies bought. It is incredibly stressful.

I have seen and heard it all in my time. I have seen people I love left with nothing after sacrificing everything, in order to pay off debts that aren’t even theirs.  I have seen people trapped by ill health and other issues, rendering it harder to leave. I have seen people promised money over the Christmas period, or a partner swearing that they would pay their share, and then not do so. I have seen it all, and wept with those on the receiving end.

I have written an ebook about financial, emotional and mental abuse, available on Amazon. It is such an important subject, and my main goal was to help people feel less alone. The fact that you are still here and fighting for yourself and any children you may have is extraordinary! It takes such a massive effort (and toll), when you are locked out of your own life; financial matters and fines, debts and betrayal hidden from you. If this is you, keep going, please. I have seen lives rebuilt after suffering these particular traumas. I have seen a woman five years down the road- and now financially secure-cradling the hands of another, promising that they too shall get through it. I believe her.

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Get your copy here.

Safety for Girls and Women


This year, I have seen many glorious, smiling faces beaming at me from news sites. Young girls and women with children and careers, friends, family and pets. I have memorized the names underneath their pictures. They were killed strolling home from work or walking their dog on a beach. They were killed at a shopping centre and near their sleeping baby. I didn’t even get to fifteen before being exposed to male violence. I live with the consequences of having being treated as a thing, rather than an autonomous being, with the right to liberty. I was once asked on ABC National radio how I cope with having a girl of my own. I said it was a daily battle to not be a nervous wreck when she is out of my sight. I also said that I didn’t want what had happened to me to taint her future, and so I had to be brave every day of her life. I give her little pieces of freedom as she grows.

This year has seen me fret further. This graph presents the reasons why I am furious.

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We attended self-defence classes for mothers and daughters when she was six. They were run by a former homicide detective. My daughter knows where to scratch and kick for maximum effect, and to call out ‘fire!’ if she is scared, as people apparently look to see what is happening. I hated that my little girl had to be taught to be alert and aware of her surroundings, and I hate that it wasn’t enough for the women and girls I have grieved this year. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I was regularly approached on the street by creeps. I have been harangued, denigrated and worse. Australia is in a deep crises and we need funding, now. Women stay with dangerous men because Centrelink makes it so difficult to fund an escape. There is a lack of refuges and assistance at every level. I know, as some of these women have been my friends, whom have died.

Our whole culture needs to change. We need to call out sexism when we hear it and see it. We need to stand together, women and men, to end this scourge. It has nothing to do with the environment a woman is in, nor what she wears. This is about power, and seeing girls and women as lesser than they. I have friends who have come from places where they tell me they were told never to stop at a red light. They were advised to floor it, to avoid car jackings, rape and murder.

I have done my bit to keep my girl safe. She is a confident young woman, who knows self-defence. I have tried my best to instil in her that she can do anything that she wants in life. I have made my scars my own, and not transferred them to her. Is it enough? How can it be, when there are some men who still hate women; have this unadulterated rage against them. The time for action was a century ago. We have to catch up, and change everything we have known. I believe intent is everything with alcohol. We can enjoy a glass of wine over dinner, or use it as a crutch to amplify our anger. I have known men who take drowning their sorrows to be their creed, effectively making them a danger to all who love them. Cars become a metal prison in which to terrify their families when they are angry. Bills don’t get paid when one partner sees all the money as being theirs to dish out as they please and when they want. It is insidious, and affects whole communities. It is our job to declare that we won’t stand for it. It means having hard conversations when somebody is behaving badly.

I want my daughter to be able to go to the shops, catch a train and walk along a beach, without fear. I demand that she and her contemporaries are able to enjoy simple pleasures. I want her to be able to turn down a boy when he asks her out, without fearing retribution. Can we please be the generation that states in voices that roar in unison, ‘This stops here!?’

Realizations


Trigger Warning: A lovely friend with raven hair, beautiful children and an optimism that knows no bounds, left Sydney to live interstate some time ago. She had been almost killed by her beau, after she told him it was over, scared of his erratic, menacing behaviour. She moved after she had recovered, setting up a new life in unchartered waters. She had to return for the court case, and he was sentenced to minimal time. He once again started to seek her out on social media and via phone messages, in direct violation of his parole. He was once again incarcerated. Trouble is, both he and his lawyer were privy to her new contact details, emblazoned across documents. The police recently contacted her and advised that she move, quickly. It was almost 25 years after the same occurrence happened to me… My new home phone number had been given to him too, the result being that the vile abuse I was subjected to several times a day gave me a phobia of phones. I am still terrified of surprises, and unknown numbers.

The other day I went for a walk, and came across an alley. It reminded me of a place and time in Auburn, when I had a knife to my heart. I was fourteen years of age, and my back had not yet been broken. I had stood up to a vile creature, who had recently been bailed after bashing an elderly lady. For over twenty years, I had held onto the pain felt after a security guard had come upon us. Rather than help, he ran. Hey, I was scared too! Did he even care? This guard, in his fifties, ran to save himself, leaving me there. For some unknown and mysterious reason, the realization hit me that this guy had most likely saved my life. He was a witness, and bad people don’t like there to be witnesses. Whilst bloodied and broken, I survived, and I survived what was to come next. This new understanding helped to heal a broken shard of my soul. I had been focusing on this security guard’s cowardice, and hadn’t given any thought to him being a witness. This is the stuff that happens to survivors, whenever they hear a certain piece of music or they are simply walking along the street.

I had a brilliant therapist from fifteen to eighteen years of age. She was acknowledged for her work with abused kids. However, when I turned eighteen, I was on my own. The local community centre organized a few sessions with a generic counsellor and other centres tried to locate a trauma specialist to aid my healing, with no luck. Dymphna House was closed after their funding was pulled and other centres were stretched to breaking point. For the past twenty five years, I have tried to muddle through, mostly on my own. Stuff keeps coming up, aided by a body riddled with battle scars and psychic wounds. I am starting sessions with a trauma counsellor soon. It has only taken twenty years to source the help I have needed as an adult. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being inside a house of mirrors or walking a labyrinth, trying to find my way out. Healing and moving through life has proved enough of a maze, filled with dead-ends and false exits.

My friend is again packing up her life, and twenty five years after the fact, I had a realization regarding my day of terror. They tried to take our world’s away, and yet we stand.  I have no compulsion to take my daughter to see my home town, for it was filled with events of the bad kind. Some people’s home town’s offer pleasing memories, or so I’m told… I will instead take her to my sanctuaries; places where I laughed and dreamed. I shall take her to the places which kept me alive; the cinemas and theatres, parks and beaches. We shall see them all, and I will reiterate that at all these stops, I had dreamed of one day having a daughter. I had dreamed of having her, and I had dreamed of support being readily available for anybody that needed it, and for the broken system to change. The first of my dreams has come true, and she stands beside me. May the other parts come into being now, not tomorrow. Now.

Bree’s Army


A beautiful 21-year-old dancer fell to her death a few years ago on the Gold Coast. When I first saw the news, there was a cacophony of feelings. Sunday Night screened a detailed segment regarding this tragedy on the weekend. They showed us who Bree Robinson was, who her remarkable family are, and certainly who her boyfriend is.

It is astonishing that a certain individual has gotten away with so much, for so long. If you know a little of my history, you will understand why this is personal for me, and I take it very personally indeed. I was hoping that over twenty years since my fall, the legal system might have caught up to public expectation.

Bree’s family and friends have started a Facebook page, Bree’s Army , to collate information, support, and to demand justice for Bree and for many other women. Please like and share the link. This young lady’s family deserves  justice, and her life deserves to be remembered for bringing about lasting change.

 

International Women’s Day


International Women’s Day started way back in 1909, and grown into the massive celebration as seen today. My daughter and I attended a wonderful 30th birthday celebration of a womens’ hub this March 8th. The womens-only centre is the only one of its kind in an area whose population is growing rapidly, and it is very much-needed. Not only does it provide free counselling services, a nurse, doctor and legal advice, but also workshops and groups, caseworkers and a referral service.

We listened to eloquent speakers, and were asked to reflect on the women whom we have loved that are no longer with us. Those who passed after a life of service, and those whom we have lost in tragic circumstances. Suddenly, the wind picked up, and caressed our faces, as though our ancestors and friends had been summoned.

Last year on this date, a doctor I had been seeing was arrested for the sexual assault of several patients. Today as we rode to the women’s centre in a bus, a young mother struggled on with a double pram. She managed to fit the pram into a corner, but the fellow sitting near her refused to tuck his legs in so she could sit comfortably next to her young ones. He had a look of scorn on his face as he deliberately stretched out further, and she struggled to shrink herself into less than half the leg space she should have been allotted.

We got home a short while ago, and I was looking forward to a rest. There was no sleep had last night, due to pain; the result of violence suffered long ago. As we alighted our bus, I sighed. Our neighbour was with a group of men smoking and playing loud music out the front of our place, at the same time as they were revving a chainsaw. They saw us, and continued chopping down a shrub, watching it fall onto our driveway. They then walked over and stood in our drive, ignoring the fact that we were there and had to walk around them. We weren’t even greeted, just glared at, as though we were unwelcome intruders. I was too wary to ask questions, and it can be rather intimidating to have six burly men on your property. I just wanted to get inside, away from them. The irony of it being International Women’s Day wasn’t lost on us. We hadn’t even been informed that they were planning on doing what they were doing. In my room, the music from their van was streaming through the closed window, and so I put on an ambient CD at full blast, resplendent with harps and harpsichords. I can imagine it delighted them, as much as their actions delighted me. Is there any noise more hideous than a chainsaw or leaf blower?!

We still have a long way to go, women and men and together as a community. Attitudes must be checked. Women are allowed to take up space! In fact, we must! As I watched my daughter drumming this morning,  my heart swelled. Here’s to women and girls, and here’s to friendships and the future. May our girls grow into women without shame, unafraid to speak their truths. May they have equal pay and equal rights to men. May old paradigms be vanquished and may we be able to stretch out comfortably in our seats next to men; afforded equal space. May we be able to walk into our front yard unabated.

Living Life on your own Terms


She knew what it felt like to be owned, or rather, how it felt when others presumed to own her. She had never felt as free as when she placed her most treasured possessions in a suitcase and left the detritus of her old life. The wardrobe was crammed with dresses and coats she would never wear again. The comforts of times past were still sitting on the shelves, her linen on the turned-down bed. She looked around her room one more time, and then closed the door, not looking back. One suitcase and a pocket filled with dreams were all she carried. She would never again see photographs of herself as a child, nor read through old schoolbooks. Stories were contained inside her mind, recollected at a moment’s notice. It is much more fun to belong to oneself. She thought of who she might be as an older lady. She hoped that she would have honed her own style, after years of discarding what hadn’t worked. She hoped that she may have found what did. Whether that be becoming a Lady in Pink, or the Chick in Green.

Perhaps, there would be the wistfulness that comes when one has had to make hard but true choices. This Iggy Pop song would take her back.

There is a price to pay for freedom, whether it be emotional, material or everything in between. One must not think too much about the risks, or one would never be brave enough to leave. All it takes is a deep breath, and the knowledge that the centre isn’t holding and is actually giving way. The trip into the unknown is the only way to survive. To be one’s own master, not owned nor contained. Twenty years pass, just as in the song, ‘Candy.’ She is ever closer to reaching her golden years. Perhaps a lady in pink awaits, or maybe she will become a rainbow. She wonders whether she has used up her quota of colours in younger years; maybe she will instead cloak herself in charcoal and grey? She knows that birds, dogs, a wild garden and books shall feature heavily. Wherever she ends up, and whomever she is evolving into, she can say she has lived life on her own terms. She was always an unruly spirit, unconstrained and certainly never owned nor boxed in. No matter what they thought…