Posts tagged ‘child sexual assault’

TELL ME, WHAT’S FEAR TO YOU? 

Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence, suicide and loss. Safe onward travel x

– A Day in the life of my PTSD and me.

My telecommunications and Internet provider is experiencing difficulties this afternoon. My mobile phone has been intermittently unable to make or receive calls and my internet is dropping in and out too. I am trying, trying, trying not to completely lose my shit.

And I am failing.

After venting to my facebook friends (during a brief period the Internet was actually working) I know that it is definitely a network problem. Not exclusive to me and so I shouldn’t take it personally. But it is personal. So very personal.

The walls are closing in a little bit and I cannot focus on anything for too long. My thoughts are jumbled.My chest is tight and my breathing is shallow and I can feel a headache coming on.

I walk to the beach and I sit, watching the waves hit the shore and the sun sink slowly towards the horizon. I play Fletcher Pilon’s – winner of Australia’s Got Talent 2016 – album ‘Banjo’ through my headphones. The sea helps, the music helps, the warmth of the slowly sinking sun helps because I feel chilled even though it is a warm day. It all helps and I am trying hard to relax into it but my chest is still tight and my head hurts more.

So still I try. Try to re-establish control and restore my equilibrium. Try to take deeper breaths. Try to stop the rocking I suddenly notice I am doing. And writing everything down helps. Mindfulness, yeah? Grounding myself in the moment. I can feel my heart banging around in my chest. I hear the waves crashing on the sand. I take some photos of things that appeal to my eye.

  
This must all sound an over reaction. Phone companies have issues. Shit happens. First World Problems. But today, after I first noticed my lack of ability to communicate with the outside world the Internet kicked back in briefly and multiple messages from my seventeen year old son filtered through. “Mum, I need my Medicare number please” “Mum, are you there? Do you keep hanging up on me?”

Walking along the waters edge I notice several feathers. Further still I see what I think at first is a dead fish, being pushed back and forth gently by the waves on the very edge of the water. Then I am closer and my sluggish brain returns my gaze to it until I realise it is a wing of a bird. Ripped and torn; it’s white, white bones spilling out and the feathers gently ruffled by the ocean. I recoil as my mind starts to kick in reflexively, and make suggestions about how that wing came to be there. I don’t take any photos of the wing. But it is too late. It is too late for me and for the bird no longer flying. The wing is there anyway, in my mind’s eye. And my mind throws up the picture every so often, like a macabre Viewfinder, shuffling images as I walk.

  
I manage to get through to my son. He is having chest pains. He is heading to the GP. He is young and fit and healthy and I have no reason to think it is anything more than a pulled muscle from teenaged hijinks. So says my rational mind. He has friends with him. This is good. They are good friends. I have good friends too. I am lucky. And yet my chest still feels like I am buried under concrete.

I play the same album, over and over again. I listen to the lyrics, letting each word wash over me. When my internet kicks in I check facebook and see what my friends are doing and try to relax and try to feel normal and try to feel real. I run the sand through my fingers and feel the coarse grains. The sun is losing it’s heat. There is a sailboat on the horizon.

My son has his appointment with the doctor. She says his heart rate is a little elevated but he seems ok. She advises rest and if the pain gets worse to go to an emergency room. I manage a call that actually connects and I hear my son tell me this in his own voice. I am relieved. But my own chest stays tight.

  
I hear the counsellor ask me earlier today “When do you have a rest from this stuff?” And my voice answering “It is with me always. Always.” And it is. To varying degrees in a million ways which can be heightened by anything, or by nothing.

Not being able to contact loved ones by phone does me in. There is the illusion that they are right there, right there at the end of a phone call or a text message. I don’t wait patiently for responses. It is agony for me! All hail read receipts! And I know, better than most, that it is only an illusion. That each and every time I physically let someone leave my sight it may be the last time I see them. Life happens. But having them on the end of a phone line is something, because I can’t handcuff myself to everyone I love indefinitely. Even if I could, life would still happen. I know the security of having them at the end of a phone call is only an illusion. But it is a beautiful illusion and it is all I have.

  
On the night my beautiful daughter was murdered I rang the mobile phone of her killer dozens and dozens and dozens of times. It was turned off. I didn’t understand. It was never turned off. They were meant to be at the movies though, so maybe the film hadn’t finished yet? I didn’t understand.

On the beach, in the present moment, a gorgeous chocolate brown and caramel kelpie trots towards me. The largish stick it is holding pulling the edges of it’s mouth into a happy grin. It trots right up to me. The orange of the sunset ringing it’s silhouette in a golden glow. The chocolate dog comes right up beside me and then sits down. It stays with me for the few seconds it takes it’s human to catch up and then it trots happily off again. And I give thanks for the chocolate dog who let me touch it’s soft, warm fur and who stopped to comfort me because dogs know, they really know.

On the night my beautiful daughter was murdered I rang the mobile phone of her murder again and again and again for hour after hour after hour. It stayed off. I couldn’t work it out. It was night time and there was still no answer and I started to ring hospitals because the only horrible conclusion I could come to was that there must have been an accident. But there was no accident. It was not an accident.

The sun is touching the horizon now and soon it will dip beneath it. A man sits thirty metres up the beach singing to his crawling smiling baby and watching the setting sun. It is over three and half hours now, since this internet issue started and the service is still dropping in and out. The sun is half sunken and the wind picks up and the waves, like the days, keep rolling in.

  
At about twenty past eleven on the night my daughter was murdered, after I had called the police to say my daughter and her murderer were missing I called the mobile phone again. And my daughter answered. I asked where she was and she said she could not tell me. I asked her yes and no questions – I heard her say to her murderer “She doesn’t understand”. The phone dropped out at her end. I could still hear my daughter but she could not hear me. They were driving through mobile reception black spots. I hung up and rang again. My daughter answered! I kept trying to ask questions that might give me a clue. I asked if she was coming home and she said no. I didn’t say “I love you” because I couldn’t say goodbye. And then the phone dropped out again. She could no longer hear me.

I heard my beautiful daughter’s voice as she said, not screamed, just said “Please Dad. Please Dad. Please Dad.” Over and over again. Still calling him Dad. And then I hung up so I could call the police back to let them know Sam was answering the phone. When I tried to call her back there was no answer.

  
Later, when I got my phone bill and read the witness statements I realised there were probably only seconds between my hanging up the phone and the car my daughter was in hitting the rock face wall on the expressway. When I heard her saying “Please Dad” she was begging for her life as she hurtled towards a rock wall. I just missed hearing the impact and I am glad for that. Because for half an hour longer, until the police car pulled silently up in front of my house in the dead of night, I still had hope my daughter was alive.

The sun is long gone. The light with it too. Who knows when the telephone service will be fully back on line. My limbs are stiff. It is getting cold. I am shivering. My phone battery is almost flat. But while sitting on the beach, writing this, I have begun to breathe a little easier. A chocolate dog, a giggling baby and waves that keep on rolling in.

Sam is with me always. Always.

  

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BELIEVE. 

  
So much has happened since last we spoke. I wrote my birthday message to Sam to commemorate her 27th birthday. My gorgeous friend Eden of Edenland was generous enough to share my post on facebook. Eden had already inspired the title of the birthday post – ‘Beautiful Pain‘ – from a song she had shared earlier in the day. Once Eden shared my little post it took off around the world with thousands of views from dozens of countries. Because Eden shared my post it come to the attention of Kidspot, who published it on their site. I had the opportunity to work with lovely Kidspot editor Alex. And more and more people read my words about my beautiful Daughter Number One, my amazing Sam. 
Some of those people, who read my words, left me their words in return. Kind, loving, gentle words that I pulled tight around me and allowed to seep in with their warmth. There were many kind words from those who know me and love me and the words of beautiful strangers who had let me reach out and touch them. It was a profoundly humbling experience and an awesome birthday gift to my Sam. 
  
In the days that followed two more wonderful things happened. I had a message from someone who had not been a friend of Sam’s but who had gone to the same school. He recounted meeting Sam on his first day, how she showed him some kindness and left him with a message that shaped the rest of his educational career. A message that he carries with him still, all these years later. His story was Sam all over and reading what he’d written was like having her walk into the room with me. It was typical Sam; loving, inclusive, champion of the underdog. Sam’s legacy astounds me, then, when I think about it, surprises me not at all. I am SO PROUD. 
I have spoken here before of the police officer that worked Sam’s case and the difference he made to me at such a difficult time. The former police officer also wrote to me after Sam’s birthday. A lovely long message that made me smile. More kind words to keep me warm. He said he hoped my family knew how lucky they are to have me. Are they? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am so blessed to have my family of the heart, not necessarily related by blood but bound by love and loyalty. He said he had seen my strength, all those years ago when we had met under such traumatic circumstances. As I’ve said here before, I do not know if it is strength. My mind rebels at the word because I do not feel strong at all. What I am sure I had then and what I am lucky enough to have still, are people willing to stand beside me and hold me up when I falter. People who love me and believe in me when I am doubting myself. If it is strength that I have, then that is not me, it is all of you. 

  
After Sam’s birthday and my post, a friend disclosed her history of sexual abuse as a child and extended me the kindness of explaining why she had not told her mother. What grace that takes! Sometimes such kindness feels like more than I deserve. 
I was in a taxi the other day, completely hysterical. Absolutely beside myself, contorted with sobs. After about ten minutes the taxi driver said to me softly in his Eastern European accent “Would you like a cup of coffee? I buy you a cup of coffee.”  I demurred “No thank you. That is very kind of you but it is not necessary, thank you”.  After another ten minutes the driver said “This service station here, they make good coffee. I going to stop. Get you a coffee. You wait. I turn off the meter.” So I asked him if he could make it a hot chocolate instead, because it was easier to acquiesce than to continue to resist. And he did. He stopped the cab, got out of the car and came back with a bottle of water, a croissant and a hot chocolate. He gave me instructions to eat the croissant with the hot chocolate – “Will make you feel better!”. Oh guys, people are good! On the whole, people are good. I really believe that. 
I don’t know if I am brave or strong or any of that, and I certainly don’t feel it, but I know that it is a small world. I know that little things matter. I know that in ways we cannot fathom we are connected to each other. I know that when all else is gone love is what remains. 

Love is what remains.

(The police officer’s nephew, Fletcher, is on Australia’s Got Talent in the semi final tonight. He’s fab! Go give him some love x) 

  

BEAUTIFUL PAIN.

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, violence,murder, suicide. Safe onward travel my friends x

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Happy Birthday Sam. You would be twenty seven years old today. This photo was taken in the flat where we lived above a mechanic’s shop in The Entrance NSW. Your first birthday was almost exactly two months after the Newcastle Earthquake. On the day the earthquake happened you had gone back to sleep, so I was sleeping too. Something woke me and I wasn’t sure what had happened. It was quite disorientating and very unsettling and I picked you up out of your cot and dressed you and took you down the road to the shopping centre, and we sat in a café and people around us started talking about what had happened, and then I knew it was an earthquake. It was surreal.

When your second birthday rolled around your Daddy and I were still together. By the time you were two and a half, though, we had separated. Just after his 21st birthday, just before mine. It’s been almost nine months since the day he killed himself. My grief today includes his wife and his three sons, your brothers that did not have the chance to really know you. I know, like you, nothing can hurt him any more and I hope that if there is an afterlife, that you have found each other.

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This lovely birthday cake and yummy cupcakes were made by a friend, not by me. By the time you turned four I already felt that I had failed you as a mother. Everything I didn’t want for you, everything I wanted to give you that I had never had, I had not managed to provide. Luckily you had other people who loved you and who picked up the slack. Hayley, I love you.

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You turned five at the start of your educational career – it was only a day or two after you had started school and I brought this cake to school so you could share it with your new classmates. By this stage we were already living with the man who would become your stepfather, and then later, your murderer.

You had a brother to help you celebrate your seventh birthday. He’s twenty one years old now. Seven years older than you ever will be. He stands over two metres tall and although he still has issues he is far more independent than I ever hoped he could be. He misses you. At this time in our lives I had gone back to studying. I was studying welfare. I felt like I finally had my shit together.

What a smile! From the days of your first smiles until the day you died you had this huge, infectious smile Sam.

You had two brothers helping you celebrate your eleventh birthday. Your youngest brother towers over me now and turns eighteen this year. He misses you too and he doesn’t really remember you, which is another loss. He was so little when you died.

This was the year before you started at the Hunter School of the Performing Arts. Although you were good at school, socially you found it a bit hard sometimes; you didn’t feel like you fitted in. You started at the Hunter School of the Performing Arts in year 6 and there you finally found your home. All the other oddballs who were born the stand out, rather than blend in. These were your people. And they stayed your tribe until you died. Hell Sam, they are your tribe still, and you are still part of them and there are no words for what that meant to me then and means to me now.

The Hunter School of the Performing Arts is the only fully selective Year 3-12 performing arts school in NSW, Australia. You had to audition to get in. Everyone did. I remember preparing for the audition with you. I remember you attending the audition and having the time of your life! And I remember you getting the letter to say you had won a place in your chosen category of drama. That passion was something we shared and your youngest brother also shares it. Your little sister, born four years after you died, has it too. I see you in them.

Just before your twelfth birthday you broke your arm playing basketball at Vacation Care. You had to spend time in hospital for a closed reduction and you shared a room with two girls around your age who had cystic fibrosis. The three of you had a ball! The break meant your ice skating birthday party had to be postponed but a couple of months later it happened, with all your beautiful friends.

Your fourteenth birthday was the last I had to spend with you. There was a school dance that night and your adored best friend came home from school with you that afternoon. I love you Harley. You were so happy, so excited and it was so fitting that you spent your last birthday celebrating with people you loved in a place you were so happy. After you died, Sam, your school was so great. Honestly, I love that school. The care they provided to you continued after your death and extended to us, your family, and they looked after your friends too Sam, which I know you’d be thankful for. Above and beyond their job descriptions.

In the last photo there is a movie poster behind you for The Matrix. Your murderer told us he was taking you to see the sequel on the day, just over three months after your fourteenth birthday, that he killed you. Instead of the cinema he took you into bushland and repeatedly sexually assaulted you before murdering you.

Today is a hard day for me Sam. Some days are harder than others and this one is a tough one. I think about where you would be now, if you were here, on your twenty-seventh birthday. Would you be married? Have children? Be paying off a house? I see your friends doing all those things and more. Someone asked me if it became easier with each birthday that passed. Does it get easier the more time that passes since the last time I hugged you? Does it get easier the more days you do not get to see? The more things I realise you will never do? Does it get easier knowing that next year will bring a point in time where you will be gone longer than you were here for and I don’t even know how I will bear it. No. It does not get easier. Yes, I live with it. I don’t have much of a choice.

I live with knowing that the Monday after you died you were meant to go on an excursion to tour NIDA, when it was your DREAM to study there. And that does not get easier either. I live with knowing there is much I cannot change, but that your little sister and your brothers have flown on many aeroplanes because you never flew on one. Hey Sam, your lovely friend? The one with your name? She flies planes now – as the pilot! She flies sick children in for treatment. She studied really hard for many years but she’s living her dream now. And I’m very proud of her.

For days now I have been dizzy. All. The. Time. Brought to my knees by tears in the kitchen at 7.30 in the morning, crying in the shower so nobody hears, crying in the toilet after seeing photo’s of Luna Park in Sydney and remembering the time we celebrated your first brother’s birthday there. You were six and walked to the front of the orchestra playing and conducted them, in your jeans and denim jacket. A photographer took photos of you for a local newspaper and I still have copies somewhere. Everything today is too loud, too bright and way too hard.

On the night you were born I was eighteen years, two months, two weeks and five days old. Your Dad was working as a station attendant on the railways and I had travelled down the North Shore line to work with him before coming back to the Central Coast, where we were living, to pack as we were moving out of our first little rented unit. I had fallen asleep on the train back and as I got off the train at my stop I didn’t feel very well. It was around half past three in the afternoon. The flat was only across the road from the station though, so I walked back and continued the work that needed to be done. I really didn’t feel well at all and I started to feel pain. It occurred to me that this could be it, this could be you, but surely not? I rang the hospital and spoke to a midwife who advised me to stay at home for as long as I could. And I rang your Dad and asked him to come home, please.

But he was hours away and there came a point when I realised I couldn’t wait for him so I called a cab and went, alone, to Gosford Hospital. After I arrived I was taken to a room and apart from being periodically checked on, there I was left, alone, waiting for your Dad to arrive. I had been there several hours when I asked the nurse to call your Dad again. He hadn’t left yet. He was settling the till for the day. He was still hours away. And then I cried. And the nurse asked if there was anyone else she could call? But there wasn’t. So I waited, alone. For your Dad. And for you.

He arrived around half past ten and you arrived just before 11.30pm. It was overwhelming. Shortly afterwards your Dad said he was off. He needed to finish the packing and was tired after work. It was just me and you, kid. Until a nurse came in and offered to take you to the nursery and look after you, so I could get some rest. And I didn’t want you to go but I guessed this was what new mothers did? I didn’t want to make a fuss so I just agreed and as I lay there and waited for the nurses to bring you back to me I felt so guilty for letting you go. I feel guilty about it still. Deep inside me there is a little voice that whispers in a scratchy, spiky tone, that maybe if I’d said no and not let you go, maybe if we had spent that time together after you were freshly arrived in the world, maybe you would have been able to tell me that he had hurt you. Maybe I would have been able to save you.

And in my head I know that there would have been threats and promises to keep you quiet. I know that you stayed silent to try to protect us. But that wasn’t your job Sam. It was mine to protect you, to look after you. And I feel like I failed from the start.

But I can’t go back Sam. I can only go forward. So I do. Every day, even on the hard days. And I’ve been asked to speak about you again Sam which is so terribly, terribly important to me. I think, if talking about your life and your death helps just one person then that will be the only sense I can ever make out of it. And I tell it all Sam, even the hard bits. Because you lived it. And all with that giant smile on your beautiful face.

I miss you Sam and it hurts like crazy. But nothing can hurt you any more. I love you Sam, so very, very much.

Happy Birthday my Sammie.

On this day 27 years ago you made me a mother. And I will stay,

Always,

Your Mum x

 

 

 

Neverending Story.

In the years since my daughter’s brutal sexual assault and murder I’ve lost count of the number of times telling my Daughter’s story has led to disclosure from the person I’m speaking with. Either they’ve experienced abuse themselves or their children or friends or parents have. It’s happened again this week, in a place I’d not expected, leaving me a trifle unprepared. And you’d think, would you not, that after all this time, having heard so many stories, and with the knowledge of how pervasive child sexual assault is, that I’d not be unprepared at all. But I can’t be resigned. And as much as it pains me to hear it I’ll always be glad when secrecy and silence are broken down by someone speaking out.

In other news can I say there is something truly healing about watching The Man I Am I Love With with his children. He is such a great father. Watching him leaping to champion for his Daughter, his tenderness with her. Listening to them sing a duet. His commitment to his children, his love for them, shines out of him and is glorious.

Life, hey? Such ugliness, such beauty. Think I’ll sit with the beauty for a while.

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