Wonder Women? Aren’t we just!
How does being a woman make you who you are today?
I personally, am thankful for being a woman for having overcome something difficult and not only growing up from it, but becoming stronger.
I’m a support worker for adults with disabilities (before becoming a stay at home mum temporarily). A job that was typical of being thought of as a ‘woman’s job’ – but when I started my senior was a male. I actually started this job via an agency where they’d base me in different homes but the agency agreed I could work in this particular home (I didn’t tell them why but I knew this home was offering diplomas and full time jobs and I knew I’d have more of a chance of getting a permanent job if I started off as an agency carer). On my first day this male support worker trained me and I felt I was fitting in well. The home was gorgeous, they were offering qualifications and permanent jobs in the home and was already told that if I continued to fit in as well as I was then they’d offer me an interview, the tenants needed a lot of care and I was told that I had to pass all of my training including epilepsy care and medications (all of the tenants had daily seizures) but I told them I was keen. This was all on day one. They were clearly struggling as they were under staffed BUT the staff that were in that day were so hard working and compassionate so I had high hopes that they’d seen those traits in me after only a short amount of time. I had been waiting for YEARS for a job like this to come my way and things were looking up as soon as my foot got through the door.
(This next part involves content that may be triggering or difficult for some. Please understand that if you are close to me and I’ve never told you, it’s only because I found it very hard to accept at the time and was in an extremely confusing, lonely place. I have never written about it until now but I feel that it’s important to spread the word, not only about assault but the aftermath)
So when my male senior touched me on that first day I felt suffocated. He touched my breasts and forced his hand on my private parts in front of a resident (they weren’t vocal) where they could see everything but couldn’t physically vocalise what they’d witnessed. We were actually in the bathroom giving this resident a bath when this happened and every part of me wanted to run but instead I said loudly to him (along the lines) “I’m sure your wife wouldn’t appreciate you doing something like that” – along came the bullshit answer of being “unhappy at home” bla bla bla. I finished my job and avoided him for the rest of the day.
Of course I was scared and I should have spoken up but in my mind I was too scared to lose an opportunity of a full time job and qualifications to say anything. He knew that too, I was his target. I didn’t want to look like a liar so I chose what I felt was best at the time and didn’t say anything (I urge any victims to ALWAYS report so please don’t panic yourself into a state of silence).
So I chose to say nothing and I got the full time job. That’s when I told Jamie (my husband, he was my boyfriend then) and he was furious. Furious at my senior, furious that I hadn’t told anybody and furious that I’d hidden something this huge from him. It broke us down for a while and his protective instinct told me to speak up or leave the job. He was close to reporting it for me but I told him that it could destroy me and destory us. I just wanted a chance to make something of myself. I did neither and gave myself an opportunity to do this job, pass my training and do it well. Within a short time, I was working there full time. I was going to endless training courses which I passed with flying colours but on my last training course I got a call from a colleague saying “S is on his way to pick you up” (S is the senior who assaulted me on that first day. I shan’t use his real name on here) I said “T. Aren’t you supposed to be picking me up?” I didn’t want to be alone an hour away from the care home (my training was in Cambridge) in a van with that dodgy man. But at that moment he turned up. I quickly text Jamie saying ‘Just to let you know, S offered to pick me up and he turned up before I had the chance to object. I need to get to work so I’m going to have to go with him but if he tries anything I’ll punch him and I’ll report it. I thought it best to let you know just in case’ – fucked up. Fucked up how I just accepted it. How I text my own boyfriend in case I needed the proof via text that I was with this horrible man. What was I thinking?
I needed to get to work so I got into the van and didn’t talk to him. He started almost instantly asking disgusting questions and continued to for most of this long journey. He eventually asked if I was sulking and if he was going to have to spank me (because I wasn’t interacting) so I told him to stop. My heart was pacing with anger. How dare he speak to me that way? I told myself that he can’t do anything as they’ll be expecting us back at work. That’s when he said “I’m finding somewhere to ditch your body after I’m finished with you” as we were in the country lanes. No cars, no people, just empty space. He pulled into a space in the country side and got out (it was like an empty car park but sort of not a car park – I can’t explain it but how he made a turn into such a random place made me feel he had been there before). I told him I was scared, I threatened to run and he said “Run where? You’re in the middle of nowhere and miles away from work.” I made a run for it but was in the middle of nowhere with no signal on my phone. He caught up with me instantly and saw I was absolutely freaking out. He told me he was joking and to calm down but didn’t seem at all alarmed that I’d reacted that way. No, he just laughed instead. I had no idea where I was and I said I wanted to ring someone to pick me up. Some people have insinuated that I over reacted but I disagree completely – you hear stuff on the news and these situations are often how they start. Of course I feared the worst. I just wanted to be safe. I SHOULD HAVE been safe.
This went on for some time until I wrongly convinced myself that I’d over reacted and got back into the van with my phone in my hand ready to call 999 at any point and my other hand in my bag gripping onto some hair spray. It was only ten minutes later that we got back to the care home after all – so much for miles away.
So I walked into the office ready to ring my manager and S walked in, grabbed me, pinched my nipples and said the most disgusting things about what he wanted to do me whilst laughing. I screamed and a colleague found (a male agency worker) S run out of the office and myself crying. I told him everything and he talked me through what to do next.
I was about to tell my other senior, T what had just happened (the one who was supposed to pick me up) when S said “mm tasty” and “moist” and wiggled his tongue at me right in front of her. She said he was being inappropriate and looked shocked. Again, he didn’t bat a fucking eyelid. Shortly after, I told her what happened. The two colleagues who witnessed these things offered to be witnesses for when I reported it to my managers. They didn’t know about the first assault but I knew I couldn’t let this continue. He had shown himself to be harmful in many ways without even showing an ounce of remorse. I had a duty of care to protect other people as well as myself so I did the right thing.
I reported it and long story short – I got questioned over and over again by the police, I was questioned by an officer who said to me “He’s an intelligent man. Why would have have done that to you?” Which stunned me. So I asked to change to another investigating officer which they declined but I always had a female officer present after that, I’m not sure if that was a coincidence but I didn’t have to deal with him for much longer afterwards. Some of these questions were infuriating and I felt like I was to blame. One question in particular was “What were you wearing this day? Nothing revealing?” Should that have mattered? Would wearing a more revealing top meant an invitation? Anyway, I had done my moving and handling training that day so I was wearing jogging bottoms and a hoodie. My answer shouldn’t have mattered but apparently that was relevant information. Eventually, I was pregnant and standing in the crown court facing the man I was outing as a predator in front of a Jury.
My manager had proof of a previous report made by a past colleague against the same man, she had a list of inappropriate things that had been reported in the past (about S and his behaviour) that apparently the company didn’t feel was bad enough to have any consequences. I was told that the prosecution and defense argued for two days whether these things should be allowed to be heard in court… the judge said they weren’t relevant. How were past reports of sexual harassment and inappropriate comments not relevant to a sexual harassment and sexual assault in the work place CASE?! The prosecution spoke with me about this decision before we were due in court and he was amazing. He had been fighting for this for days, he looked deflated, angry and told me that no matter what happens I’d done the right thing and have protected other women by reporting what he’d done and facing him.
I was told that if I mentioned the past complaints and reports in trial they’d start a trial with a new jury all over again. It felt so unfair and I suddenly lost all hope but Jamie (now he was my fiancé) held my hand the whole time before I was due in court and afterwards too. I knew the meaning of a real man and he was right by my side!
They questioned me in court, I told them what happened. They accused me of lying which obviously I expected them to do and of course I cried but I got angry and became more confident in my replies.
They had the proof of my text to Jamie when I said “If he tries anything I’ll punch him and report him” and my (four) witnesses stood up and said exactly what they had seen and heard that day. My manager even stood up (despite not being able to read most of her statement or reports as they weren’t allowed) and said she finds him intimidating that he uses his senior status. They proved he stopped the car somewhere because we have to log in with the times that we arrived back at the care home and there was a huge gap in time.
He knew that didn’t add up and admitted to stopping the van. He obviously didn’t have a good enough lie to excuse why he stopped so he admitted to stopping and joking about “finding a place to ditch your body”
He again, lied he touched me in the office but when questioned why he ran out when I screamed he said (wait for it…) “I tickled her and she over reacted” My reply was “Adults and professional adults in the working place don’t tickle each other. Even that excuse isn’t acceptable even if it is a lie” My witnesses also said that must have been a lie as me and S didn’t have a friendship of any sort so tickling would have been a very odd thing to do.
I felt like it had gone well as he’d shot himself in the foot. It all added up and they had enough proof. The whole time I was in court I had security guards with me and the CPS were incredible – apparently I was under pretty high protection because his family were threatening me and extremely vocal so I was made sure to feel safe. They encouraged me not to watch the rest of the case and to go home, wait for the next few days and thanked me for coming forward. Honestly, if it weren’t for them I’d have been utterly broken that day.
But two days later I got a phone call to say he was found not guilty.
He was free but he’d lost friends, his job (the company believed me and after seeing the case unfold they had more than enough evidence to sack him) and most of all, he had his own guilt. If he ever came across this blog he’d know it was him and he’d know it was true. When the woman told me the outcome I broke down and said “What happens now? What if he finds me? He knows the town I live in. Can I do a lie detector or something?” I knew the answer and I knew that I sounded desperate (hey if he is reading this – totally take me up on my offer and do a lie detector to prove I’m such a big fat liar!) but I was scared. I didn’t blame the jury as it was my word against his but I blamed the system and how they allowed relevant information/PROOF out of the case because they didn’t want to influence the jury. I felt like they’d influenced the jury by leaving it out and was left deflated. He even text a colleague of ours saying ‘Not guilty! We are having celebratory drinks later if you want to come’ but every single woman who worked there had a report, complaint, inkling of things they’d witnessed before (certain things he’d say etc) and they all said they didn’t feel comfortable with him coming back to work. So his job was gone. I had my life back even if I was seeing things a little differently.
But as a woman who was failed by the justice system, I felt sorry that his wife had stood by a man she didn’t know and remained married to a man who sexually assaults women. To her, he was completely and utterly innocent. To him – he had got away with it and was proud. I went back to work, I did my job well and was respected by those who worked there because despite everything, I got on with it. I became stronger. I wasn’t scared to work with other men because they were respectful towards me and I was to them. I never branded them the same because they are not. I also knew full well that these things don’t just happen to women alone. So it didn’t make me scared of working alone with other men. Most importantly I was empowered – I had to accept my own version of justice after he walked free. I had scared him enough to hopefully not do it again (if he got reported for it again then his past trial would be relevant). After all, after nearly losing everything he had (did I mention he brought his young children to the trial?) I hoped it had changed him into a decent man. But I doubt it. I became stronger knowing that I had spoken out and fought.
I’ve never written about this before and I’ve not told many people about it either because after telling somebody I thought I could trust she said “At least he didn’t rape you though” – should I be thanking him for that? Should I be comparing how severe the assault to my courage? No. Fuck that.
I did all I could and I learned to be a strong, outspoken person because of it. We are wonder women! Am I attention seeking? Hell yeah. We all post shit because we want to reach out and attract attention to whatever we’ve posted. So please, share this story. Share MY story. I don’t mind anymore because recently I noticed how often you don’t really hear about how people feel after the justice system fails the victim. Don’t think the only thing I thought was to “just get on with it” because I didn’t at first. Before I got pregnant (but after the assault), me and Jamie temporarily broke up and I was put on citalopram for depression. But after the trial I could no longer live like that and I decided to live as a stronger version of myself because it does take a strong person to confront something traumatic.
Well here we have it. The reason I am who I am and the reason some of you dislike/like the person I am is because this is what shaped me and I’ll never apologise for it. I grew up that year hugely and have never been the same since but that’s MY doing. Not his. I decided how to recover, how to move forward, how to find peace with what happened and to then, five months after the trial, become a mother. We all have things that shape us as women, as humans. But I’m thankful for even being given the chance to fight back for my rights in the court of law. It may not have gone the way I wanted it to but that doesn’t mean I broke. I became strong – and a strong woman is fucking badass.
* I am only speaking of my experience AS a woman and not saying that only women are victims.
* Some details haven’t been added due to family members reading this blog. I don’t want people to read graphic material.
*Details about what happened in the work place have also been missed out due to confidentiality reasons