This blog post contains distressing details and may be triggering. Please scroll on if today is not the day for you to read this. It is a story of hope and recovery and I hope will help others to look for more joy in their lives.
Deep breath here goes….
Yesterday I took a day to self care. I’ve been learning that making my world small and trying to protect myself by pulling into my turtle shell isn’t what I want to do anymore. I now need to put more joy into my life. I need to eat more food, more fruits and vegetables, more of what is good for my body, so there is little room to fit in those foods that aren’t so great.
Pulling myself into my shell hasn’t worked in making me safe or improving my mental health. In many ways it has amplified the negative. Now, I am focusing on putting in more things that bring me joy. The more joy in my life, the percentage of negative becomes smaller. It’s taken me almost 55 years to learn this.
One of my oldest friends sent me this quote, I have no idea where it comes from, for her and I it was a ah-ha moment.
The moment we realise that how we react to our kids behaviour has more to do with how we’re feeling than what our kids are doing, is the moment we understand that our main job as parents must be to keep ourselves emotionally healthy.
The need to look after my own health is paramount to being the parent I want my children to have. The parent who can be kind, guiding and supportive of my children growing to who they need to be. The parent who can be their mentor, support and biggest cheerleader inn life. The parent who can stand up and do the hard work to get their needs met by schools and society.
Back to my self care day. I made a plan for my day. I removed my social media apps off the phone and switched the phone to do not disturb. The night before I booked appointments to get my nails done and have a massage.
I started my day with coffee in bed and listening to music. I chose hits from the 1970’s to get me bopping. A long leisurely shower followed. Then off I went to Port Pirie for the day. I gave myself a budget and visited my favourite shops, taking my time to browse. I bought totally frivolous things, that I would normally not. Magazines, paper crafting supplies, paints and inks. Had a very healthy and leisurely lunch, reading a new magazine. Then excitedly went to get my nails done.
I had a lovely time in the nail salon. The lovely young woman who did my nails was a delight to chat with. The family atmosphere of the salon was warm. Monica, my nail technician was one of the youngest members of the team. Her mum, aunt and cousins where all part of the team. I thanked Monica, she did a fabulous job and I had a laugh when Monica’s mum made a comment about her not always being so good! I could see it was in a warm and teasing way us mums can sometimes be. Maybe we don’t want everyone to know how perfect our children are, incase they get stolen from us.
Next was my massage. During the massage I got chatting to another lovely young woman in her late teens. We both have an interest in #Vanlife and both have converted vans. This young woman was talking excitedly about her future trips around Australia, we talked about places to camp and how to find safe spots to camp. A comment she made struck me. It was along the lines that as a young attractive woman she would need to take greater care than I, in where she chose to camp. I didn’t correct her and maybe a long time ago I would have had the same ageist bias as her.
This is where the story will become triggering so please do not read passed this point if this is not the day for you.
The assumption that is is only young attractive women who get raped, is so so wrong. I was 29 and over weight when I was raped. Rape has nothing to do with your age, gender or how attractive you are and it’s a dangerous untruth to perpetuate.
Females and males of all ages are raped. People in nursing homes and day care. It can happen at anytime in a persons life. Rape has nothing to do with sex, it is all to do with another person asserting their power over another for many reasons.
Rape isn’t a dinner time conversation and many of us who have gone through it will never disclose. Many never get help to recover. It changes who you are and that is for me the most significant consequences of my rape. It changed me. It changed my personality, it changed how I interacted with the world and the people within it. It wasn’t the first time I had had a signifiant trauma in my life but it was the moment that reinforced the need for me to be small. To be invisible, I at 29 was still very young in many ways and still believed that rape was somehow my own fault.
I was in outback Australia when this happened to me. I was teaching in a one teacher school, two hours away from Tennant Creek and three and a half hours from Alice Springs. The memories of that night still come back in nightmares, all these years later. I was in shock and with the local governess drove back to the school the next day. Stopping to throw up, I couldn’t stop shaking.
Once I was on my own the shaking and retching got worse and the phone rang. It was a friend, she asked what was wrong and she was the first person I disclosed to. She was in Darwin and told me to get myself into Tennant and get help. I refused. She threatened to get in her car and drive the 1400kms to get me if I did not go get help. I said I would, with no intention of doing so. I showered until the hot water ran out. I burned my dress. Was still shaking and crying. It was then I rang Lifeline. The counsellor was calm and wonderful, he asked if I’d prefer to speak to a woman. I liked his calm gentle voice. He told me the shaking, retching and crying where all ‘normal’ reactions I was in shock. We talked for a long time. At the end of that conversation. I rang a friend in Tennant Creek, an older woman who I had worked with before. She offered to come get me. I said I was ok to drive.
The whole trip in I was looking at the trees on the side of the road and thinking if I was brave enough I’d just run the car into one and it would all be over. I probably wasn’t ok to drive! When I got to Tennant, my friend had organised the hospital for me. A rape exam is not pleasant and being asked to repeat the story over and over was re traumatising. My friend was amazing, an ex nurse she put her foot down and told the staff a few truths and informed me I did not have to tell my story to anyone if I did not want too. I was given antibiotics due to the grazing from the rape and the possibility of being exposed to a sexually transmitted disease and a morning after pill. It was the mid 1990’s so there was also AIDS to consider.
I refused to go to police or have the police called. I thought it was all my fault. I went home to my friend’s house. She put me to bed with a sedative and I slept.
I was offered counselling, I only did two phone sessions and didn’t want to do any more. The counsellor was telling me it wasn’t my fault and I thought it was.
Three days after the rape I went to police. I was worried he knew where I lived and I lived in a very remote place on my own. I was scared to go back. I knew one of the police officers from Alice Springs, she and I had been out partying with a crowd a few times. I asked to speak to her not disclosing to the other officers why. She took all the details, was kind and didn’t push me too much. I told her I didn’t want to press charges I just needed them to know, as I was worried he’d come and find me.
After a week I returned to the community and school. It took a while but I started to recover. I still would wake with nightmares. The police had been investigating and the governess had been interviewed. She had told police the perpetrator had come out of the room where he had raped me, flashed himself at her and told her she could be next. She’d never told me this until after disclosing it to police. She also told police she would be a witness. Police contacted me again to see how I was going and assured me if I wanted to press charges they would. I said no. Even now I would say no.
Even now a small part of me blames myself for what happened that night. The thought of telling my story in court and have it analysed and questioned terrified me.
My bosses where great. They sent visiting advisors more often to the school and only those who needed to know were told my story. One of those advisors was Peter. He’s my rock.
Peter has been regularly woken by me screaming in my sleep. When I got pregnant with Fern the nightmares changed. In those nightmares I was like a Kangaroo and could hold the sperm to fertilise the egg at a later date and my baby wasn’t Peters but his. I had that nightmare repeatedly and I was too scared and felt too stupid to tell anyone about it.
For years I have had nightmares.
So why am I telling you this story and what the hell does this have to do with a yarn shop?
I’m telling you this story because others can’t. Because when as a society we do not talk about the hard stuff other people suffer in silence. They have those nightmares on their own. They continue to believe it is all their fault. The myth that it only happens to young attractive women gets perpetuated.
Society has a long way to go and we have seen that recently with what has happened in Parliament and we have seen brave women step forward and tell their stories and today I am adding my voice to theirs. I do not have to do this alone.
I recently told Kate about the rape. She too was working in Tennant Creek when it happened and until I told her she never knew. Back then I thought everyone knew. I was shamed. I’d go to Tennant Creek do my shopping, turn around and go back home a round trip of 5 hours for an hour of shopping. I hid at my little school. I made like a turtle again.
I am not a turtle. I was never meant to be a turtle. I was meant to be me. Brave, creative, happy, outspoken, devil may care, give it a go, finding adventures and living a big life.
Do not look at me as a victim or a survivor. I am much bigger than that. I will not be defined by what happened to me, not anymore.
My yarn shop has always been about community, reaching out and seeking connection with others. I am creative it is the way I express myself, it’s the way I deal with the hard things in life.
After the rape I knitted a toy, one of the Jean Greenhow clowns. I hadn’t knitted in years. I sat in my friends house and knitted all my tears into that doll and then sent it to my friend in Darwin, never to be seen again.
When my dad was dying from cancer, I knitted sock after sock to help me through.
Being creativity brings me connection, it stops me turning into a turtle. It allows me to be out in the world to live the big life I deserve to live.
If any of this has caused you trauma. Please seek help. Lifeline 13 11 14 in Australia
Until next time,
Don’t let the bastards get you down.