Victim Empowerment – Hear Me Roar

On Wednesday I attended the first day of a three day workshop on the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP), hosted by the Department of Social Development (DSD) – by invitation only. My understanding was that we were going to look at the needs of persons with disabilities when reporting crimes or needing assistance from DSD.

My first day however, was not what I expected it to be. We focussed on VEP, sexual offences. The initial introduction of the workshop was very good. I was, you could say, the odd one out, I knew no one and most of the delegates were social workers employed by DSD or working with national special needs groups. Everyone seemed to know everyone.

As the morning progressed the facilitators started delving into sexual offences, and case studies which required us to give consideration to the process that the victim goes through. Later we focussed on sex, “what is your favourite sex position” – a question that had all baffled. The purpose of this question though, was for us to later share why this question shocked us, and yes, we were all expected to answer!

Many reasons were given as to why the question was “inappropriate” – sharing your favourite sex position is personal, fear of judgement, inexperience, culture, etc. For some or other reason I was never asked for my answer. Maybe the facilitator could see that I was distracted, who knows?

This first day, submerging myself into a six hour discussion on sexual offences, the victim and the perpetrator, walking in the shoes of a victim. I sat there, I participated in all the discussions, gave my input and all the while I kept thinking to myself.

“Sexual Assault is DISABLING even when you DON’T have a disability”.

During these six hours I was pulled back into the depths of a journey I never expected to relive. throughout this workshop, while listening the questions and answers and the “perhaps the victim . . . or I had this case . . . ” scenarios I relived my own childhood. I found myself back in that tiny room, dictating my statement to a female police officer. I saw the perpetrator as I sat in the dock, testifying and being interrogated by the defence. Being given the opportunity to testify in-camera and opting to face my demons head-on.

I relived my fears, my anxieties and withdrawal as a child . . . my teenage years of fighting and drowning and blocking it out . . . and finally the day when the isolation in my pain, shame and guilt and fear; worst of all, the intense hate for the person I had become and for the person who created the reflection I no longer recognised in the mirror, the person who ripped my childhood from me . . .

This first day, of a workshop for which I was ill prepared, drained all that I am. It stripped me of emotions, and left me tired to the bone. It rocked my psyche and left me empty!

I’ve worked with abused children and adults. I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, but I’ve not had to face it for such a very long time until Wednesday, where it glared at me, and spoke to me for six hours!!!

I arrived home, and I felt a bit lost. I continued with my parenting duties, but inside I was depleted . . . reliving traumatic events in a workshop that focuses on the very issues that rocked my childhood was not what I expected to participate in.

Yesterday, I woke up – psychologically and emotionally still trying to recover from the previous day. I had no will power to go back into the same workshop focusing on the relevant Acts and Registers, I didn’t have the heart to participate in more case studies, I didn’t want to have to be surrounded by it all from 8 am to 5pm. I needed a day to recover from the intensity of participating in a workshop that exposed ALL my cracks, discussions that chipped away at the one puzzle in my life that I prefer to not delve on, dialogue that explored by vulnerabilities. I left the court room almost thirteen/fourteen years ago, FREE and ready to take back control of MY life, and I did not want to relive a time that I’ve since moved on from!

Well, today, when you read this, I will be back, participating in the final day of the VEP workshop and, perhaps, if time allows, I will ask for ten minutes to share why I never pitched for day two . . .

Today is my birthday, and I am celebrating my freedom and the bravery of all the victims who are living victorious lives!! Today, I also light a candle for those who left us to be in a “better” space, and I pray for those who are currently fighting for their psychological and emotional freedom . . .

Feel free to read Living A Life Worth Loving to put this post into context. Thank you for taking the time to read my story – HEAR ME ROAR!