Survival of the Lucky
I spent my morning watching this…
I am speechless. In a case of perfect timing, this show comes when I am at the stage of finally processing all the events of my life that have brought me here. Intensive counselling, a domestic violence support group, and a hell of a lot of thinking time. Memories, dusty and dark, that have been locked away in a great vault for years are slowly and steadily coming out. It’s not easy, but I don’t think it’s meant to be.
Ridiculously, it’s taken years to get to this stage. Why? Because I couldn’t stop moving in order to process; if I had I would’ve been lost. I wasn’t ready. The contents of the vault would have drowned me. The word ‘victim’ repelled me, it still does. I was determined that I was not a victim and believed that in order to process I had to accept being a victim.
I went into this process with ‘victim’ still ringing in my ears. Until last week, when I heard a new word. ‘Survivor’. This show brings home to me just how much of a survivor I really am.
There are so many similarities between the first story and mine. I was in tears, talking to my computer, to all the invisible people in my past, as I watched it. Worst case scenario of my life is that could have been me. If I had made different choices, if certain things hadn’t gone my way, if others had many different choices, that could have been me.
Even the timeline and geography fits. Perth, 2008. I was there. That Violence Restraining Order that flashed on screen? I have three of those in my files; one for me and one each for my children. Those pieces of paper (and it’s true, they aren’t worth the paper they are written on) were hard won, easily breached, and unenforceable. My lawyers told me there was a chance the judge would revoke them, given that the other party was on the other side of the country. I asked, haven’t you ever heard of an airplane? Telephone? Email? If someone is determined enough to do you harm, to torment you, to harass you, to terrify you, distance doesn’t matter. For them, it’s an obsession, a game. For us, it’s our lives. And the VRO itself is like poking a raging bear; it’s seen as a challenge, a flag to a bull.
Threats aren’t considered serious until they are carried out. Even then, when the other party finally does what they have been threatening to do, in my case, the police would not, could not, do anything. It is still incredulous to me, that just because you are the biological parent of a child, you have every right to take that child, any time, anywhere, and it is the responsibility of the other parent to fight. ‘Possession is nine tenths of the law’ my ex husband told me. ‘You can have her back if you agree to fifty percent shared custody’. There is something fundamentally, deeply, wrong with a system that says that is legal.
I wonder how differently things may have ended up for me, with different choices, different actions, different people. Would I have become a 4 Corners story? There is a chance, yes. In a perfect storm, I would have joined those women on that show, their stories told through grieving families, lawyers, journalists, and politicians.
It’s easy, too easy, at the moment, to rest, to forget to be vigilant, because all the pieces of paper are there and I have been protecting myself and my daughter for so long now. The authorities have done everything they can, everything within their power, and I am grateful for everything that has been done by them to protect us. I will always carry with me the memories of the incredible men within the AFP that brought my baby home to me. They sat on the phone with me and listened to my fears. They took me seriously. They understood. They took the threats seriously. As did the judges that gave the AFP permission to recover my baby, after I sat in court for hours, filling out form after form pleading for help, clutching my daughter’s stuffed lion, the only thing I had left, as everyone told me to prepare for the worst, the unthinkable.
But ultimately, our long term protection has come down to me. I fought. I fought for my life and for my baby’s. I continue to fight every day, because believe it or not there are still people who think we are not at risk. And that’s not the way it should be.
The system should protect the vulnerable.
The system should believe a cry for help.
The system should take threats to safety seriously.
The system, everyone, should cry for the women and children that have not survived.
Everyone should ask why the system failed those women and their children.
Everyone should ask why the system continues to fail to protect the vulnerable.
The magnitude of what I have been through is still hitting home. The realisation that I am lucky to have survived, my Bug and I are lucky to have survived together, is dawning.
That could have been me.