Sexual Abuse – The Past & The Court Case

It’s Friday… 11 days since my last post.

Last week I was busy working long hours with my temp job, then I had therapy on the Thursday and gratefully a weekend mindfulness retreat after that.  Since then, the last 4 days… I’ve been anxious… I’ve lost what little focus I had managed to gain.  

Today I am pondering why…

Since I finished my course of counselling sessions with the Suicide Prevention Centre (Pieta House) a couple of months back – I have started with a new therapist. 

I was intent on continuing my therapy, continuing that support.

Recommended by someone to me a year ago, I kept this person in mind.  I remember her saying to me, ‘this is your guy Tracy’.

Previous to this, I imagined working with a woman – older, bright, witty, grounded, authentic.   Maybe a mother figure? 

However, I thought there was merit to this recommendation so booked an appointment with *Jim (not real name) to follow on from Pieta House.  I now see him bi-weekly, have had 3 sessions thus far, the last session was last week on Thursday.

It was a raw session.

Between the ages of 5 and 8 I was sexually abused by a friend of my family. 

It was Rotorua, New Zealand, in the 80’s.   

My family and I would circulate barbecues between family friends of my Mum and Dad.  Kids would come.  We’d play games together, play in the pools, eat food, enjoy the sun. 

This couple and their kids who were friends of good friends of my parents would join too.   The man, who my Mum later described as always being a ‘bit weird’, abused me on what I remember, 5 occasions.

At age 8, my family moved from Rotorua in the North Island to Christchurch in the South Island.  Thank fuck.  It won’t happen again.  I could pack this away, carry on with my little shattered innocent view of the world.

It took me until I was 25 to tell my Mum.  

Until this time, any time I would hear the word secret being used in normal day conversation, my insides would tense, my heart would beat faster, my mind would be saying ‘be cool Trace, no one can find out’.   

I felt an incredibly confusing, uncomfortable guilt for holding onto that secret.

As much as I pushed the memories away… On many occasions I had trouble getting to sleep as I tried in vain to push away the vivid horrendous thoughts that plagued my tired mind as a teenager and young adult.  Countless tears and countless nightmares throughout the years, even as a young child, unbeknown to my parents at the time.  

It was fucking awful.  I hated this secret.  I hated it.

… Fast forward to now. 

After finally telling my Mum, a police statement was made here in Dublin, Ireland.  This it’s self was an awful experience.  Giving a statement means giving explicit details as to the events that took place.  My already not so stable mind was exhausted after this process.  

Thankfully the Irish cop who took my statement was just awesome.  …and throughout the whole process too.

A long story, 5 years and 2 depressive episodes later.. Myself, Mum and my bro were flying off to New Zealand. 

The man had tried touching my bro up too.  My bro rejected his attempt and was now part of my defence in the trial that was about to take place in Auckland in a few days time.  

We travelled 36 hours to get from our house to the hotel.  It was right across from the Court House. 

We met our team.  John – the English cop who had finally arrested the man, Siobhan – our Irish lawyer and Andrea – our court support person.  Our two main guys from our side of the world! 

We had an excellent team.  Throughout the process they kicked ass. 

They couldn’t not have been more supportive to us.  This made the whole process have some intangible comfort in a seemingly comfortless place.   I am forever grateful to them.  

Que the court case.  I now understand how traumatic of an experience this can be for a ‘witness/victim’.  Fucking traumatic.

As much as Siobhan prepped me for what was to come, I had no idea.  

I’m led into a large wooden court room and to my chair in this boxed off area at the front.  Andrea then sat behind it, close to me.

Beside my right was the eerily large Judges bench.  It was a woman judge.  I was thankful for this. 

Across from me there were transcribers, then across from them the jury stand.  Lots of faces.  Men and woman. 

To the left were the counsel desks with my Siobhan and a man representing ‘the man’.  Behind these guys were a bunch of people sitting in the public seating area.  John, other New Zealand police men and some random people…

Then, there he was.  Greyer and more frail than what I remembered.  It had been 22 years.

Sitting beside a policeman with his head down, my quick glance quickly turned back to Andrea.  My eyes widened, my pulse beating rapidly in my chest…  she softly looked at me and asked me if I was ok.  Yes.  

Next entailed a series of questions after questions about the exact details of the events that happened to me as a kid from Siobhan.  Detail by detail.  

Plans of my old house were shown to me, I had to point to where 3 of the incidents happened.  

Then it was the defense’s turn to question me.  

Every single piece of evidence I had given was directed back at me to rebut.  I was lying, maybe my memory was different, maybe these events never happened, how can I be sure all these years later?  They planted alternative events in their questions and tried as hard as they could to falter my words.  

It was fucking difficult.  Inside I am screaming.  How can someone be asking me these ridiculous, dismissive questions?

But I got through it.  Worn out, Andrea led me back to the hotel where Mum and my bro were.  It was my bro’s turn next.  We couldn’t talk to each other.  I went up to the hotel room, closed over the curtains and got into bed.  It was mid afternoon.  I was shattered.  I was small again.

A good while later, there’s a knock at the door.  It’s Mum.  She comes in and says everyone else is outside and they have to tell me something.

Tired and confused, I sit up in my bed as my bro, John, Siobhan and my mum all come in, one by one, to stand around me in my bed… suited up, looking sharp, their faces wearily looking at me.

What is it?

Siobhan proceeds to tell me that the prosecutor asked a question to my Bro that was not permitted, a piece of ‘suppressed evidence’ that had been ruled as “inadmissible” and forbidden to be presented, was seemingly tried out to sway the jury.  The judge stop the court case.  The jury members left the room.  The trial was over.  It was to be re-trialled at a later date.  

Usually there’s a 6 month delay between trials.  However, as we had travelled all the way from Ireland, the Judge overturned this normal procedure and scheduled the re-trial for the very next day.  

Re-trialled?  What? 

I’m confused… I’m in shock.  I shake my head… does this mean I have do go through all of that again? 

Yes.  We’re sorry.  

Later, downstairs at dinner, I felt an intense wave rush over me.  I slumped down and began to cry.  I didn’t realise I was in shock.  To my knowledge, I didn’t know in my adult life what shock felt like.  I was pretty quiet until that point at dinner.  Then it just hit me.  I was exhausted.

The very next day, I’m back in the court room in the same chair with the same people, except for the new Jury.. and luckily, the same Judge.  

This time I’m ready.  I’m calmer, more prepared and more present.  I’ve got this.

Siobhan started off.  I answered the same questions again.  Just as I had never heard them before.  In the eyes of the Jury, this was the first time I was sitting in that chair.  They couldn’t know what happened.  I did what I had to do, I played along.  I did good.

In the interim between the lawyers questioning of me, there was a bit of movement in the court room and light murmur as the lawyers changed over.

I’m scanning the room… I scan to my left where ‘the man’ is sitting.  He’s adjusting his position, as a lot of people are.  He looks up.  He looks at me.  For a split second our eyes locked. 

BOOM

It hit me with a tonne of force. 

My body ceased up, my head went down to my head went down to my knees and I cried like a little kid.

Before I know it, the Judge has called for the Jury to be taken away and a break to be taken.  Andrea is taking me out the back.  As the door closes over, I collapse to the floor and cry scared tears.  I’m weak and I’m finding it hard to breathe, .  Andrea just holds me. 

In that moment, my power was gone. My autonomy was gone.

Just like it had when I was a young kid, being molested by that man.

My throat, chest and stomach have just ceased up as I write this.  My body has not forgetten.

After recuperating I’m back answering the prosecutors questions.  I don’t look left again.

This time, on one of the questions I felt I didn’t quite nail the last time, I had my chance to say what I needed to say.  This time I was able to put any doubt as to one of the incidents occurrences by retelling the story of exactly where it happened, what I didn’t say before… it happened beside my favourite tree.  

It was a feijoa tree.  It lay on my neighbours side, an older couple that had become like grandparents to me during my time in Rotorua.  This green, egg shaped sweet fruit that tasted like a combination of pineapple, apple and mint, became my favourite.  I loved them.  My stand in grandparents who nicknamed me ‘Topsy’ said that any fruit that dropped to our side of the fence, I could have.  There was plenty of them in season… I was the happiest kid finding and eating my feijoa every Summer.  

And that’s where this last incident happened.  Beside my favourite feijoa tree.  There was no question as to the conviction in my voice that retold what happened in that court room.  Silence.

Back at the hotel, I was elated this time.  This time I got to say what I needed to say.  As horrific as it was to go back in there… all those thoughts I had of ‘ahh I should’ve said this, I should’ve said that’, were no longer plaguing my mind.  I took my chance and used my voice this time. 

This time… I was finally saying no.

‘The man’ was convicted on 4 of the 5 counts I could remember.  My description of certain details of one of the events was successfully contradicted.  He was to spend time in jail.  I’m not sure how long.  I think he got a bunch of concurrent sentences that meant he would probably end up serving just 4 years.  Our detective said sorry.

4 years for a lifetime of horrific memories and an emotionally scarred body.

And you know what?  Previous to my court case, he was already tried and imprisoned for some years for exactly the same thing.  The exact same thing. The Jury were not allowed to know as it may have influenced their decision.

Later we found out that the trial was actually already halted early after one of the Jury had to pull out due to triggering something personally for her.  Normally, a full new Jury would be called in and a new trial would happen.  I, thankfully only had to do the one, not two retrials.  Again, the kick ass Judge that we had motioned for the case to continue, minus one of the Jury.  

This ‘man’ was a family friend, a scout leader of my brother and many other young boys over the years and fuck knows what other ‘trusted’ positions he had held.  I was just one of his victims.  

On return to Ireland, it took me 3 weeks after the verdict to send my impact statement to our Detective in New Zealand.  It was to be read on my behalf.  I sent it on the 20th of November, 2012.  9 days later our Detective informed us of the sentencing. 

I did just re-read my victim impact statement there now.  Phew.

I remember taking my time with it.  It needed to be strong.  It needed to give my hurting throat a voice.  I feel like it did.

As much as  that trial and further counselling provided some sort of closure… I’ve come to realise it’s effect on me.  This shit doesn’t go away.  

I’m back in counselling… and this year at age 36,

I’m only now understanding the immense impact this has had on me…  

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