Posts tagged ‘Violence Against Women’

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.

  

TIE A YELLOW RIBBON. 

  

For over a week the media has been full of words about and images of Stephanie Scott. Pretty, smiling, dark haired Stephanie who disappeared over the Easter long weekend, a week before her wedding day. Photo’s of Stephanie in a veil and bride’s sash on her hen’s night; Stephanie with the childhood sweetheart fiancé she was to marry a week after she went missing. I read that she’d bought a new swimsuit for her honeymoon shortly before she disappeared. In news reports I learned she was twenty six years old; the same age my Daughter Number One would be if she were still alive. A teacher, teaching high school students subjects my Daughter was passionate about. As much as I try to avoid the news Stephanie’s was a story that permeated my consciousness and filled me with dread even while I hoped she would be found safe and well. 

She wasn’t though and my heart aches for her fiancé, family and friends. Reading the speech Stephanie’s sister wrote for her wedding on the day after her body was found and hearing about the memorial service held for Stephanie on her wedding day; there was nothing about this story that didn’t break my heart. 

I knew I wanted to say something here and pay my own simple tribute to all the Stephanie’s; the daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, aunties, nieces, grandmothers, friends, lovers, fiancées  that smile out of us from news stories. The girls and women we know even though we’ve never met them because they are us. What could I say though, really? What hadn’t already been said? And Stephanie’s story had hit me with a force that rendered me almost mute. 

Then in the last twenty four hours there was a different angle to the story. A photo of Stephanie’s alleged murderer was released. And I thought ‘Oh hell no!’. I do not want to see his face. I do not want to speak his name.  Stephanie’s name and Stephanie’s face; they are worth seeing! Her name should be spoken and Stephanie should be remembered. 

Also worth remembering is the fact that not all men perpetrate violence. There is no disputing the statistics on violence against women but I know good men and I am trying to raise my sons to be good men so they are worth remembering too. With that in mind I want to share with you the story of twenty three year old University student Tommy Connolly who assumed care of his homeless, teenaged, pregnant cousin and cares for her and her newborn baby as he studies and works to provide for them all. You can read Tommy’s story here and I encourage you to do so because we all could use a little more good news and kindness in our lives. 

Rest in Peace Stephanie. Safe onward travel x 

  

Shout.

 

I’m Speaking Out about Domestic Violence on November 18th 2011. Speak Out is a collaboration between BlogCatalog and Wanderlust and is an international Domestic Violence awareness campaign and fundraiser. My post will not make pleasant reading and may be triggering for those of you who have suffered traumatic events. SPEAK OUT!

Eight and a half years ago my Daughter Number One, my fourteen year old, beautiful girl, left with my husband of almost ten years, her stepfather, to go to the movies to see The Matrix Reloaded. She was wearing jeans with a black stretchy skirt over them, and a fleecy blue jacket with New York in red across the front. Her hair was dyed a purple/maroon colour. On her wrist she wore a silver love knot bracelet with the loop in the shape of a heart. She attended a selective performing arts highschool, and was also gifted academically topping her year in Italian the year before. She was an amazing big sister, and she gave the best hugs. Her bedroom was full of Winnie the Pooh stuff.

On that night, eight and a half years ago, my daughter was repeatedly raped and then murdered by her stepfather, my husband of almost ten years, in a murder suicide. On the night they died I found out that when he was around thirteen or fourteen he had been forced at knifepoint to have intercourse with his mother, by her extremely violent de facto partner. I had not known about the sexual abuse. What I had known about was that he and his mother had been subjected to years of physical violence, as well as the associated psychological and emotional abuse, at the hands of his mother’s partner. Violence that as a child saw him beaten with vacuum cleaner pipes and cricket bats amongst other things.

I say none of this to excuse his actions. He made his choices. What I know though, is that his mother decided it best to keep their abuse a secret, and not speak of it, and his sexual abuse he took with him to his grave. What I also know is that my Daughter had been touched inappropriately during her earlier childhood and that she, whether she was threatened or misguidedly wanted to protect her family, kept her secret. Secrets and silence protect no one. Secrets and silence hurt many.

Secrets and silence mean one day stepping through the looking-glass, which splinters into a million itty bitty shards that pierce your skin and become embedded there. It means life as you knew it is over and everything you thought was real, including who you thought you were, is gone. It means you walk into your sons bedroom one morning to tell them that their Sister and their Daddy will not be coming home. That you have reporters on your doorstep, asking for photographs, and telling you to be glad they weren’t printing all they’d heard about the case (the things they just alluded to) when you refuse to feed their frenzy. It’s having the ballet school your Daughter had attended six years previously take it upon themselves to release a photo of her, and make a statement, because any publicity is good publicity, right?

It means liaising with your Daughters thirteen and fourteen year old friends to organise her funeral. It means not being able to view her body or dress her in a favourite outfit, because they hit a rock face at high-speed on the freeway and the car was incinerated; the love knot bracelet melted into her flesh. It means decorating a coffin in glitter and Winnie the Pooh stickers because it is the very least, and the very most, that you can do. It means dressing your sons in the Spider Man and court jester outfits they elect to wear to the celebration of their adored big Sister’s life, and looking out over the sea of her friends dressed in all colours of the rainbow, as they are forced prematurely and brutally to confront their own mortality. It is hearing her friends speak, so eloquently and with such love, of the person my Daughter was.

It is knowing every year, as your eldest Son celebrates his birthday, that ten days later is the anniversary of your  Daughter’s death. Knowing that eight and a half years ago she was by your side helping you decorate a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake, and then she was gone. Gone forever. Gone for always. It is being glad that the Harry Potter series came to an end because you used to read those books together and every book released after she was gone was like a physical blow. Things that were the source of much joy now cause such pain. Christmases – oh I used to be a Christmas freak! Watching her friends finish school, get jobs, get married, have babies. Watching her siblings grow older than their elder Sister ever did.

The sheer waste of it. The absolute and complete waste of it. This beautiful, talented, intelligent, compassionate girl. Gone forever. Gone for always. That is such a very long time, when her story had just begun. 

So, I will stand. And not in silence. I will speak, because she can’t. And I ask you too, to speak. Speak Out for those who cannot speak for themselves. Speak Out for yourself, because you can. SPEAK. Please.

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