A Message of Hope for Survivors

If you have experience dv or sexual assault or if you know some one, this may be worth you reading. I am writing this because you are not alone. There are many people around the world who have experienced similar, who are also thinking and feeling similar. Except we all don’t know each other, therefore you feel isolated and alone. I am one of those people. When writing about things like this, I often wonder whether I am the right person to be sharing my experience and this message of hope? Every day I feel like hiding under a rock, yet my passion to talk about this and empower other women drives me out from under that rock. I have mentioned in other blogs that I was molested by a family friend on and off between the ages of four to twelve. I think it is appalling and absolutely unacceptable behaviour by any one that does that to a child. Yet I’m also aware that there are many other people who’ve had much more horrific experiences than me. It’s not an uncommon thing for people to have their own family not believe them. I’m lucky my parents believed me. I may have been bullied at school but it was mainly name calling, exclusion and I was slut shamed at the same time I was taking the man who molested me to court, but there are plenty of kids out there who are brutally beaten up every day by other kids. I was in a dv relationship from 2002 to 2007. It was mainly verbal and emotional abuse, intimidation and there were a few physical incidents but we didn’t have kids and I didn’t have horrific injuries. There are plenty  of women who experience horrific injuries, who fear for their lives and they also have kids to worry about. Last year I was raped, it was by some one I knew but it wasn’t a violent attack in a dark alley with a stranger. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who may be in a better position to write this but I think what I have to say is worth sharing. There are many forms of abuse, physical and sexual are just two types. There’s also emotional, verbal, financial, social, not to mention stalking. My thought process about down playing my experience is probably similar to many other people who are survivors. I don’t particularly like to go around calling myself a survivor but at the same time I also don’t think of myself as a victim. We  tell ourselves that other peoples experiences are worse, that we should have done things differently and that it shouldn’t be affecting us so much. We not only beat ourselves up but the rest of the world tells us we should be over it by now. We are constantly blamed for what we did and didn’t do. So we carry this burden with in ourselves and become careful who we share it with. We have learned the hard way that people find this type of thing terrible,  they are aware it happens yet it is often too confronting for them to think about it any more than just having some sort of awareness. Often people don’t know how to react when it is some one they know. They don’t have the skills  to support the person and there are many common misconceptions. Yes it’s very frustrating when it seems so many people seem to judge and not understand. It’s easy to feel angry for what happened and angry at the world but often people can’t truly understand what they haven’t experienced, especially if they aren’t very well informed. It’s perfectly reasonable and human to feel anger but it is unhealthy, a waste of time and energy to live in that state. The only person anger will affect is ourselves. It’s not going to make any difference to the perpetrator or any one else. Perpetrators are usually skilled at doing things behind closed doors or when no one is around. Often they are well liked people and there fore it’s difficult to believe they would do such things. It’s much easier for people to believe the person they put on show to the rest of the world than to accept they are a predator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

You may already know this but your experience is real. How you feel is valid.  There is no time limit on healing from these experiences. Trauma may last weeks, months or even years. You were abused, there is nothing wrong with you. Normal human beings don’t go around hurting and destroying other people. You haven’t done anything wrong, they are in the wrong. In fact, you have the strength with in to heal and rise again. When you rise, you will be a much better and stronger version of yourself. These unfortunate experiences don’t define us. As you read these words it may be hard to believe you can get past where you are now. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it takes time. Do what you need to for you so you are in a better space. Whether it be counselling, journaling, art and craft or joining a support group. I’m doing all of the above but my support groups are a couple of Facebook groups, message me if you would like to know what groups they are. There are plenty of people in the groups who have similar experiences, thoughts and feelings. The groups are very well moderated by admin. I’ve found it good to connect with people who understand. Honestly I’m still not entirely over my experiences but I’m fighting to be a better person and to help empower others who are have experienced similar.  A blog and joining a local committee might not be much, but I’m doing my best. We are all doing our best and as I always say ‘our best is enough.’

I thought I might mention here that this also happens to boys and men. The majority may be women but it does happen to men. They are also in need of support. Violence and abuse is awful no matter who it happens to.

(note: I found the wording to this image on Instagram via tinybuddha.com)

Stop the victim shaming!

I find the outcome of the Mullins case infuriating. She was raped at just 18, a virgin at the time and to this day is suffering. Saxon will never be the same again and it is something she will never forget. This is everything that is wrong with out society. He at least spent some time in jail, nowhere near enough time but it’s more than the majority of perpetrators.  Statistics say that only 3% of rapist are jailed, whilst only 2% made up their sexual assault. Yet people constantly question and doubt the victims. People may want to think about that next time some one decides to open up and to talk about their assault. It’s not something victims open up about often and they chose carefully who they open up to.  I find it very  disheartening knowing the majority of women are going to get no where when they report sexual assault. It has taken this publicly known case for people to be out raged and a discussion to begin.

The law taking the perpetrators side and society victim shaming is deeply ingrained in our society. In Saxon Mullin’s case she has been doubted, questioned ‘why did she get down on all fours’, ‘why didn’t she just say no’. She did repeatedly ask to go back inside. Why is she being the one being victim shamed? Why aren’t people asking ‘why did he act in such a disgusting and unacceptable manner’? After all he is in the wrong. It is an all too common scenario where the victim has suffered enough but society and even often those closest to them add even more suffering. I am absolutely gob smacked at the level of ignorance and victim shaming that I have witnessed in my life. I have experienced it to a bit myself. Often the first reaction to sexual assault is all about what the victim was doing, not doing. Where she was and what she was wearing. I’ve heard and witnessed things like ‘why is she bringing it up now’, ‘why did she give in’, ‘why didn’t she do more’, ‘why did she freeze’,  ‘she shouldn’t have been wearing what she wore’, ‘why was she at his house’. Based on this theory nearly every one would be raped at some point in their life  What the person is wearing and where they are is irrelevant. Clothes and locations don’t rape. It is the perpetrator who chooses to abuse.

People are becoming more aware about domestic violence, sexual assault and mental health. However it is too common for people to not even know what sexual assault or domestic violence really is or how trauma and mental health impacts people. There are a lot of common misconceptions and I wonder why every school and every work place doesn’t have mandatory training on these things? We need to move beyond awareness to education. No wonder victims suffer in silence. Why would people want to talk about their experience, why would they want to report it when it is likely they are going to be victim shamed and then 97% chance that nothing is going to come of it? Victims struggle enough with their own trauma and  beat themselves up enough with guilt, shame and wishing they had done something different. They don’t need any one else beating up on them. They are fighting to live like a normal person, feel a spark of happiness and regain a sense of self-worth. The trauma can take weeks, months or years and the struggle is real. Yet people try to constantly diminish their experience, diminish their trauma and how they are feeling. It is a very isolating experience. I have witnessed victim shaming of  women I know. Women I  who are seeing psychologists, counsellors and struggle to put on a happy face. It just makes me want to say a big FU to any one who has tried to minimise mine or any other person’s experience.  It is most likely you who lacks understanding and who is in need of being better educated about these things.  I’m passionate about this sort of stuff because I know what it’s like to suffer and I too often see this type of ignorance. I find the statics of sexual assault and domestic violence alarming and I have so much empathy for the people who have endured violent and traumatic experiences.  I feel for any one who has experienced any type of sexual assault or violence. Everyone’s experience may not be in a dark alley with a stranger like Saxon Mullin’s but it doesn’t mean it is not valid. Their experiences are still real, their feelings are valid and the perpetrators are the ones who are in the wrong. This is an opportunity to have a discussion about consent and why aren’t people (especially boys) better educated? Why is victim shaming and rape culture so acceptable? At the end of the day, every one has a right to say no. It doesn’t matter whether they know the person or not, it is still every single persons human right to say no.

Equal and Worthy

This is a photo me when I was thirteen years old. My Mum took the photo on my grandmothers wharf.  I have chosen this photo because it a very vulnerable time for me in my life, I have gone into more detail in another blog

This is a photo me when I was thirteen years old. My Mum took the photo on my grandmothers wharf. I have chosen this photo because it a very vulnerable time for me in my life, I have gone into more detail in another blog ‘My Version of 13 Reasons Why’My Version of 13 Reasons Why’.

As a mother I don’t know how many times I’ve heard comments like ‘your lucky your husband helps around the house’ or ‘where are the kids, is your husband babysitting’? Isn’t looking after your own kids called parenting regardless of whether you are a man or a woman? If the kids are both ours, we both work and both live in the house, then isn’t it fair that he would do some of the house work? The other thing that bugs me and I know also bugs many other Mums is how a Dad can take the kids out and get comments about how he is such a good Dad. Which he probably is, but the Mum never gets any compliments. She usually gets comments as to what she should or shouldn’t be doing. The exact same thing happens when Dads post on social media compared to when Mum’s post. One of the first questions I was asked by many people after I had my four babies was ‘when are you returning to work’. These days there is a much bigger expectation that women who have kids work, whilst those who don’t tend be judged more for staying home. In the past women were judged who didn’t stay home but now it seems the scale has tipped in the opposite direction. I know many women who feel guilt for staying at home because they don’t feel like they are contributing enough and they have also experienced judgement from others. It is fantastic that women are able to work but there is no need for all this guilt and judgement. I also wonder why there aren’t more jobs available the are within school hours. Because fitting into a standard 9am-5pm job means that we have to cover costs such as daycare, before and after school care. These costs take a large amount of our pay. The other cost of working 9am-5pm means the kids no longer have parents walking them into school when being dropped off and picked, then being there for them in the afternoon to give them afternoon tea and do homework with them. It is a mans working world and women with children are trying to fit into that instead society making more family friendly jobs available. The gender pay gap is also another issue for many, I personally am not affected by it but I think it is worthy mentioning here considering it is an issue.

From the beginning of time it  seems sexism is rife. In this age where men and women are supposed to be equal, there are many ways women are just not equal and this starts from a young age.  Boys and girls see their mothers doing the majority of the house work and cooking whilst their Dads watch football and drink beer. I know that is a very generalised comment, there are some men who are very good cooks and women who also like to watch the footy. I’m just trying to paint a picture and I’ve have actually witnessed this a lot. The 2016 census results revealed women still do the majority of house work regardless of whether they work or not and a whopping one in four adult Australian men doen’t do abosolutely any housework at all.

A lot of kids are given gender appropriate toys and are scolded if they play with a so called in appropriate toy. I think fair enough if kids are drawn to certain toys, there is a lot of argument that they may in fact have been conditioned to be drawn to certain toys. I’m not going to argue whether they are conditioned or not but I have known little boys who aren’t allowed a toy kitchen, to play with ‘girls’ toys or to do dancing class because they are girls things. They hear phrases like ‘such and such is for a girl’ and ‘don’t be a girl’. On TV, the internet and magazines little girls and boys are bombarded of images of what is considered beautiful and most models are pretty skinny, tall and with all their make up they look glamorous There is nothing wrong with being skinny or wearing make up but they do not reflect all women. A large percentage of women do not look this way and  are not this body type. A lot of time  the women they see are sexualised.

As boys begin to get older their peers make sexist comments, sexist jokes and inappropriate grabbing is thought to be ok by many teenage boys and some young men, they just brush sexual harassment off as just a joke. Girls are much more likely to be slut shamed than guys. In this age where both men an women are supposed to have equal sexual freedom to participate in casual sex if they wish, the woman is still judged more harshly. It is much easier for a women to fall for a guy they have a casual encounter with, This is because we release a bonding chemical during sex. However with men, emotion and sex are in different regions of the brain. There for he won’t see or feel the same way for a woman he hooks up with, compared to a some one he feels something for and wants more from. A guy is also  less likely to not want any more from a hook up because he’s already got all he can from her and doesn’t want to be with some one who sleeps around. However it is much more acceptable for a man to engage regularly in casual sex until he finds a partner. This whole hook up culture is supposed to be women’s chance to explore their sexuality and feel empowered but many women’s experiences are far from empowering. The hook up culture is more beneficial for men. About 80% of males reach orgasm whilst only 40% of women do. This being partly due to the guy not making as effort with some one he doesn’t care for and not understanding how to satisy a woman sexually. Women experience a much higher rate of negative emotion afterwards. Emotions such as regret, shame and feelings of worthlessness. A big part of this post hook up hang over is due to societies double standards and because of men’s, especially younger men’s lack of understanding of the sexual and emotional differences between men and women. There is equal opportunity for both sexes to participate however it is more beneficial to one of the sexes because we are different. Yes some men have more feminine brains and some women more masculine, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation. What  I’m talking about some of the basic differences in how we are wired and it is something that people don’t seem to talk about or educate our kids about. It is always the girls who have to protect themselves. They are told they are ‘just being boys’.

When I say this, I’m not talking about absolutely everyone, but the girl being too emotional and the guy not getting it is a common thing. Especially when younger. Too often it is said to girls ‘your too emotional’ and ‘get over it’. If a guy is appearing to be an arse then people often say ‘well he’s just young’ or ‘he’s just being a guy’. Yes maybe young and unaware, but is that an excuse for disrespecting women and treating them poorly? I wonder if some of this ignorance would be avoided if they actually taught the emotional and sexual differences between men and women in high school. Communication would be a good thing to teach as well. A lot of people fumble through relationships not being able to understand each other properly because they don’t have the communication skills. Many times where it seems a guy is being an arse or the woman over emotional is just a lack in understanding of each other. As we grow past our teen years and early twenties, many of us know this and begin to understand the opposite sex a bit better.  I know every one has to go through their own lessons and heart breaks but I think a lot of hurt and misunderstanding can be avoided if high school kids are taught some of these life skills. Instead of just the physical side of sex education and the importance of protection maybe a whole subject on relationships would be beneficial. I wonder if teaching some of these things would also help reduce some of the sexism in our society.We have made great scientific advances, become more connected with our world and people through social media and the internet, yet we are not so good at relationships, interacting on a personally level and really understanding each other. Often the women are the ones who are trying to fit into a man’s world. We dim our emotions, pretend we are sexually the same and stay silent on things that matter. When we don’t feel comfortable with something or as though we are not being treated right, too often we brush it off and tell ourselves things like ‘I’m over reacting’ etc. Young women especially have a tendency to do this and put on a front, yet the guys don’t know how much women are holding in behind the mask. They don’t realise the struggle and often don’t realise the impact of their behaviour. I locked myself up for years afraid to say how I really felt, but in doing this I denied myself and i was taken advantage of too many times. One thing I realised is that usually people don’t intentionally hurt others, they are often unaware of how they are affecting another person and do not realise until they are told. If no one tells any one anything, how are they ever supposed to know? Yes there are men out there who are intentionally being predators. I think it is so important to teach our girls to have a voice, to be assertive, confident in who they are and express themselves with ease. We can talk about sexism and change until the cows come home, but we need to be the change we want to see by modelling that behaviour to our children and confidently using our voices. Using our voices only goes so far, the deeply ingrained attitudes of society can only be changed by also educating our children.

It is quite easy to brush off what I’m saying as ‘making a big deal over things’ but I’ve experienced sexism my whole life. 1 in 6 women has been raped, 1 in 5 young women/teenage girls has been pressured into sexual activities, In a lifetime 1 in 5 women have been stalked or experiences sexual harassment, 1 in 4 has experience emotional abuse or sexual assault and 1 in three has experienced physical violence. I have experienced all of them. Pretty much since I was 12 years old there have been many times I have experience inappropriate sexual comments, grabbing and jokes. I am one of of every one of those statistic I just mentioned. I have been stalked, sexually assaulted, raped and experienced both emotional and physical abuse from different men. I am just one person and many of the women I know have also experienced these things. If you are reading this, then you would also know a woman, at least one, probably more that fit into these statistic.

International Women’s Day 2018

What is international women’s day all about? Officially it is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and a call-to-action to progress gender parity. In my own words it is a celebration of women, a celebration of our achievements, progress, journey and individuality. We are beautifully unique and have something unique to offer this world. Women’s day is about being confident in our own bodies. It is about with out hesitation, being able to do the things that make our hearts sing and be our true authentic selves. So many of us struggle with in ourselves, to and be these things. We are held back and society holds us back. We try to be what we think we should be but are we truly courageous enough to be who really want to be? Are we able to let go of our conditioning about what we think it means to be a woman, the unrealistic ideals and pressures of  the past, the media and even social media.

In many ways we are blessed because we have achieved so much, we have so many rights and freedoms compared to many women in other parts of the world, however we still are not equal.  Women pay more for household items, make 16% less than their male counterparts and are under represented in government. We still shoulder most of the household burden regardless of whether both partners are working or not. Sadly women are more likely to be the victims of stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence and live in poverty. Sexism is still very much alive. From a small child up until now I have experienced sexist comments, derogatory name calling, bulling, stalking, sexual abuse and domestic violence. I am one of the 1 in 3 who has experienced domestic violence and 1 in 4 who has experienced sexual abuse. There are many people out there who have had much more horrific experiences than me but it is still not ok in any form. It was only a couple of days ago, I can’t remember where I read a post by a man and it said:

I said to my “worst scenario with online dating is you have a bad date”
My date replied ‘worst scenario I am raped or killed”
That’s when I finally got it…..

#IWD2018 #Internationalwomensday #PressforProgress

No Means No!

#nomeansno #speakup #sexualassaultawareness #stopvictimshaming

 

With the 16 Days of Activism coming up from the 25th November to the 10th December, I felt inspired to create a video which is specifically aimed at sexual violence. The 16 days of activism is a campaign to take action bring and end to  gender-based violence against women and girls. Yes it does happen to boys and men also. Violence towards any one is a terrible thing. Unfortunately I am the 1 in 3 who has experience physical and emotional violence, I am also am one of the 1 in 5 who has experienced sexual violence. The video I have created is specifically aimed at sexual violence. As a woman, I have spent my life subject to sexism from men. It is something that is so common and it is not unusual for some guys to just laugh it off. It’s not ok and we need to not only speak out and say ‘he it’s not on.’ We need to educate people, especially boys from a young age.

The video I have created may seem a bit provocative, even controversial for an anti-sexual violence video. It is as though I am saying women are not just objects, we are human beings and we have the right to say no. We should not have to put up with sexism or gender based violence. Yet at the same time I’m dancing sexy in a provocative outfit. Is it a mixed message? No it most certainly isn’t. That is the whole point. To flip the victim shaming on it’s head. It doesn’t matter what woman is doing, there’s still no excuse to abuse. You are the only one who is responsible for your behaviour and actions. No one forces you to abuse any one.

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day!

For me Australia day is all about all Australians celebrating our diversity, achievements and moving forward together in a positive way.

Ever since the beginning of Australia day in 1938, there has always been some Indigenous Australian’s who refer to it as invasion day or survival day because they believe it is a day of mourning instead of a day of celebration. Morning and acknowledging the history of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the trauma caused by government policies of assimilation and separation that saw many people removed from their traditional lands and culture. This also includes recognition of the violence of the Frontier Wars, a period of conflict between settlers and Australia’s Indigenous peoples, which lasted from 1788 up until the time around the Coniston massacre in 1928. January 26, marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet and the beginning of all the injustices against Australia’s Indigenous.* Federation day has been proposed as the alternate date. It was on New Years day in 1901 that British Colonies formed to make a federation.

I am not Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. So it is easy to say, well this doesn’t affect me. It may not affect me personally and I don’t think we should always make decisions based on a disgruntled minority. In this case, I think it makes sense and is the right thing to do. That’s if a referendum showed it is what the majority of Indigenous Australians want. I mean would any one ever say to the families of world war one veterans to just get over it. No way, no would dare to say that. So why can people easily say ‘get over it’ to our Indigenous? The last of the stolen generation were taken in the early 1970’s. That is not that long ago.

The name Australia day wasn’t adopted until 1935 and it was not until 1994 that the day was consistently marked as a public holidays across all states and territories. So I don’t think it’s any big deal to change it. For me I am personally not fussed whether Australia day is celebrated on the 1st or 26th. There are many other possible dates. What is important to me is that it is a day of celebration for all Australians. That there is no longer this division between Australia day and Invasion day. As I said at the beginning of this post ‘Australia day is all about all Australians celebrating our diversity, achievements and moving forward together in a positive way.

Any way, these are just my thoughts. Every one is entitled to their opinions. I hope you all have a great day. What has every one got planned? We are going over to meet my Mum at my Nana’s. She lives on the bay, so the kids are going to have a swim and afterwards we are planning to have fish n chips for lunch 

*Is an excerpt from https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/explainer/australia-day-invasion-day-survival-day-whats-name

Care for the Coast Christmas Drive

Friday night was filled with wrapping a couple of hundred presents, a few drinks and laughs.

Of course I wasn’t wrapping presents on my own. Eight months ago in March I became a volunteer for Care for the Coast. I am the local drop off point in my area.  Care For The Coast is a not for profit organisation based on the NSW Central Coast. It is run by Mums who have come together to help families in our midst experiencing hardship and crisis. Some families are on verge of becoming homeless, some have sick children or a sick parent and others are fleeing domestic violence. Care for the Coast Helps through the collection and distribution of food, toiletries and pre-loved items such as clothing, toys for kids, things for babies, homewares. Care for the Coast also refers people to other local services or groups.

I did not know what to expect when I first became I volunteer. All I knew was I wanted to help people and make a difference. With four young children it is hard to find something I can actually do. So being a Care for the Coast volunteer was perfect. My front door might often look like a tip but I do enjoy every bit of it. I enjoy sorting through it all and knowing it goes to people in need. Some people may drop of stuff that probably should go in the bin but majority are good donations. Whenever Care for the Coast does a call out on their Facebook page for specific things or asking for help, there are always plenty of people willing to give and help. The thing I have enjoyed the most is the Mums and friendships I have made. The Mums (and Dads) who run Care for the Coast are all volunteers and they are selfless, big hearted, witty, fun and even quirky but quirky in a good way. It is so much more than just collecting and referring, it is about community and helping to build people up.  I am in continual awe of Gina who set up Care for the Coast and Runs it. She works tirelessly and also has three autistic boys. She is amazing! .Wrapping didn’t finish on the night I wrapped, Gina has continued wrapping, sorting and getting all the pressies picked up or drop off for days afterwards.

Saturday night was my first time as part of the annual Care for the Coast Christmas Drive wrapping night. Seven volunteers worked until late at night wrapping all the presents. Well done everyone involved in the organising the Christmas drive, collecting, wrapping and distributing. Actually well done for everything you do all year.  I had a great night with lots of laughs, music and of course can’t forget the alcohol.