Monday, 5 January 2009

three years...and counting.

I haven't blogged for a few days. It's not laziness or apathy. It's a kind of fear.

What I want to write about today has been floating about in my head, nudging harder and harder at the edges, and I've been resisting it. I'll tell you why later.

On the weekend I reached the third anniversary of the attack that changed me and my world.

Three years ago a stranger called Shaun Burke broke into the house I was looking after, raped me at knifepoint and escaped into the night to stalk his next victim. I was one of several victims in his horrible 5 year "rape-fest".

It's a matter of public record that Burke is now serving a well-deserved 25 year non-parole period of a 37 year head sentence - probably the most just sentence ever handed down to a rapist in the Australian Capital Territory, thanks to the late Justice Terry Connolly of the Supreme Court in the ACT.

I'm not going to say anything more about serial rapist Burke, or about his attack on me, apart from the fact that he was a calculating and evil monster.

What I want to talk about is - gee, this is why I've been avoiding writing about it - it's so hard to put it down and give it a heading. I think what I want to talk about, three years after the event, is why I am finding it so hard to write about it.

After Burke was sentenced I asked the police who had conducted the investigation if there was anything I could do to give something back - to show my immense gratitude for the tireless work that they had put in to catch Burke and build the case against him. And that was the beginning of a very rewarding road for me on my recovery. Speaking up can be very empowering.

Publicly I have spoken twice to groups of trainee detectives, to give them a victim's perspective. I will undoubtedly do it again next year.
I have spoken on radio and television about "sexual behaviour" education.
I have spoken to football teams and groups of schoolboys about inappropriate sexual behaviour.
I have taken part in surveys about restorative justice.
I have helped to launch a government publication to help rape victims navigate their way through the legal system.

I have only ever done this by invitation.

Privately (no invitation necessary!) I speak out against "humour" that uses rape as its basic premise. I'm afraid I don't think there's anything funny about non-consensual sex, no matter how it's dressed up and "funnified" - and I'm speaking from the pointy end of it. Acquaintances, colleagues and even friends who send those e-jokes cop it from me. It's all about making a statement and raising awareness of the fact that HEY, THERE'S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT RAPE.

This is where I tell you about the fear I mentioned earlier.

Why was I reticent about mentioning this anniversary in my blog? After all, this is something that looms large in my life. It's with me every minute of every day. It's part of who I am, whether I like it or not (and I have to tell you, I don't like it one bit.) In my down moments it nearly destroys me. In my up moments it simmers and threatens, and I fight it off by talking about it publicly to raise consciousness, to reinforce the concept of recovery to myself and hopefully to help other victims realise that it doesn't have to be the end of the world. It sucks. It's crap and it's hard and you sometimes think you would rather be dead, because trying to drag yourself out of that shitty mindset is so hard - but dammit, if you don't it means the rapist has won. It means the rapist has succeeded - has managed to demean and dehumanise you to the point where you give up.

My rapist will never win. He is scum, and I suspect that is all he will ever be.

So- the fear I told you about ... why didn't I want to mention this?

Several weeks ago somebody sent an e-joke to a motorcycle forum of which I am a member. I thought the content was objectionable, and the word RAPE figured largely in the punchline. I kicked into activist mode and said I found it tasteless and offensive, and inappropriate in such a forum.

And another woman took issue with it. The private email conversation (initiated by me) that followed ended with her telling me I was nothing more than a publicity seeker, and that she didn't believe (and had never believed) that I'd been raped anyway. She thought that my speaking out against rape "downgraded the real victims". Hello?

Strangely enough, she'd been someone masquerading as a friend of mine who'd come along to one of the hearings. If I had any respect for her I suppose I might've been really hurt by what she said. Instead, I was furious.

Recently I read a news snippet online about the courage of a Miss World entrant who had been raped. She went public with her story to help other victims, and to send the message that it's ok to speak out against rape. I was so thrilled to read about her!

But in the "Comments" section below the story, sure enough, somebody had accused this courageous young woman of publicity-seeking.

And then there's Tegan, an incredibly gutsy young woman who became a victim of gang-rape at the age of 14, but who spoke out, louder and louder. She refused to be cowed by lawyers during the court case - what courage - when the FATHER of her rapists played the race/culture card... She was subjected to cross-examination and scorn by the Defence, but maintained her dignity and integrity throughout. I'm sure I would've fallen apart - that Tegan is a legend. I'd love to give her a hug.

And while there was overwhelming support for her courage in the onlne comments, there were some amongst them who wanted to criticise her...

I suppose it was reading about those things that made me decide I would actually blog the passage of this awful but significant third anniversary for me, and to reinforce the notion that speaking out really does help.

So how did I spend the awful anniversary night? I did nothing. I spent the evening home alone. I felt a little creepy and irrationally fearful as I went around the house checking locks. I went to bed very very early. I woke, unfortunately, at around the time that it had happened... but was able to go back to sleep. That's a plus. Usually when I wake in the night (which is pretty much every night) I have a bugger of a time getting back to sleep.

I take that as I sign that I am getting better.

And as I believe that speaking up has been so instrumental in this whole "getting better" thing, I will continue to do it. And if some people don't like it, it's their problem.


Anonymous said...

Hey Sue, I always enjoy reading your blog entries... love your writing style! This time was a more serious note and I really appreciate that, and your courage to talk about it. Rape, and sexual abuse in general, especially in young girls is an untalked about reality here in the States, I really wish women of all ages felt more free to share their experiences. So brave of you!

Sue said...

Hiya Keryna - really appreciate your comment. Yeah, I think sexual assault is one of the only crimes where the victim is seen to be almost as much of a problem as the perpetrator. We're hidden away behind some kind of weird "veil of secrecy and shame", as though we're part of the problem. The "honour killings" of rape victims in some parts of the world are extreme examples of that mindset.

I do my "speaking out" bit because it helps me to make something positive out of such a horrible experience. It puts me firmly back in control of me (and yeah, it's like giving the old one-fingered salute to the rapist as well, heh heh!)

Hope you've got some good riding planned for the weekend!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue

I'm looking up people for the Melbourne Writers' Festival and I found your brilliant blog - and you're a Canberran, too! I sorted through the categories looking for writing-related posts (which I'll read in a second) and found this. I clicked on it to find out if you were. . . well, an arse making a joke. I'm not pleased you were raped, but I'm pleased to find you're not an arse, but a hero.

Felicity (pen-name Louise Curtis)

Anonymous said...

Oops, I just discovered you're not the Sue Hines, publisher, I initially googled. I'll be reading two of your books shortly, all the same :)


Sue said...

Felicity/Louise - hi!

Yeah, I get the mistaken identity thing quite a bit - the Other Sue Hines and I have had a bit of a giggle about it. It seems there's a horde of Sue Hineses around the place (gee, and I always thought I was so special *grin*)

Anonymous said...

It's not your name that makes you special, it's the way you rhyme "ducted" with "fuckeded".


Sue said...

@F/L: heh heh, I was pretty pleased with that one. I always get a giggle out of silly rhyme, and the sillier, the better...