28. Insensitive…

There are more good people in the world than bad. That is a fact. I don’t have any statistics to back this up…but if it were the other way around, we’d all know about it.

Former US President Obama agrees with me. In his final speech at the White House as President he said:

“I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen, I think there’s evil in this world. But I think that, at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, then the world gets a little better each time.” — President Obama answers his last question from reporters at the White House.

I feel like I’ve seen some of the worst in humanity. I’ve seen a man steal away the innocence of my children, and have watched him, and the justice system, try and lie and manipulate the truth to get away with it.

Throughout this journey we’ve had the most amazing people behind us, reminding us of all the good in the world. We recruited ourselves a team and everyone had a job to do and a role to play. But we also had to deal with insensitivity, born predominantly, of ignorance.

Here are some things that you shouldn’t say to people in our situation:

  • “You need to understand that he’s innocent until proven guilty’.

Imagine if I took this approach with my kids:

“Thanks for telling me that Ruby. Now I’m going to call the police and in about two and a half year’s time, if the court finds him guilty, we’ll go and get you some counselling because then we’ll know it really happened and you’re not just making this up. Until then…sweet dreams”.

To anyone that has been personally impacted by a crime, this is the equivalent of saying, “As far as I’m concerned, you are lying until a jury of strangers tell me otherwise”.

Think what you like….don’t say it. If you don’t think that you can be a reasonable human being and keep your mouth closed in this instance, quickly walk away and gossip to someone else. It’s so bloody hurtful.

  • “If someone had done that to my kid, I would have killed them…I can’t believe Brad hasn’t done that by now!”

This seems to be the natural default statement for many people when they hear about this. Fortunately, Brad is not a Neanderthal and has a highly developed sense of conscience and decision making. He chose to look after his kids, instead of going to jail for murder. I’m proud of him for making that excellent decision.

Until you’re in this position, I think that it’s easy to think that your reaction, in theory, would be to want to hurt the person who hurt your little people. The practical, however, is very different. You want to gather them in close and keep them safe. That’s it. Nothing else matters but knowing where they are and who they are with.

  • “How’s the little incident coming along?”

Someone said this to me at the worst possible time…for them. Upon reflection, I know that the person used the word “little” in this question to try and show they were being discreet. At the time, I just thought they were an idiot. It had been a bad day and it would be fair to say that they will re-think their words in the future. I don’t think anyone reading this needs to be told that there was nothing “little” about what we were going though.

  • “You can’t let them use this as an excuse”

I’m a huge proponent of the idea that people often have reasons for poor behaviour, but they should not use it as an excuse. Some of the people I admire most have overcome great adversity in their lives to become successful, inspiring individuals. Though they’ve experienced challenges and heartbreak, they’ve picked themselves up and made their lives meaningful. This extends to my own kids.

There have been times over the last few years that I’ve had to cut them some slack. I read the play and saw when they may have needed that day off from school, needed to yell at me to let off some steam, required an extension for an assignment or had to lay on their bed for a day staring at nothing. Brad and I allowed them to “be in that space” for a short amount of time and then reminded them that life needed to go on.

We still took away technology when they did the wrong thing, enacted “time out” for poor behaviour, insisted on apologies when required and made them do things when they didn’t want to- particularly when they were committed to helping others. e.g. a sports team.

We tried to parent as consistently as we could, whilst recognising that sometimes sleepless nights took their toll, triggers needed to be dealt with acceptance not frustration, and that we needed to model good behaviour by picking ourselves up and acknowledging that it was hard at times.

A couple of well-meaning people mentioned to me that I shouldn’t let the girls “use their situation as an excuse” a few times. Once was when I allowed Kate to stay home on “Grandparents Day” at school. For her, this day was a direct reminder of Jen and Leon- they always attended that day. Another time, Kate was particularly down around Christmas and was hard to be around. In fact, she was so down that she wanted to kill herself. She could even describe how she would do it. She was 10. I let her chill out quite a bit during those holidays, she simply didn’t have the energy for anything else.

  • “The worst thing you can do is dwell on it”.

I’m not a dweller. I’m passionate about things that piss me off, but that is different. The amount of injustice that we have come across in the course of this process has made me determined to share this story in the hope of affecting change- even if it’s just in attitudes and awareness. Please don’t misinterpret my passion- it might help your children and grandchildren one day.

I refuse to live in anger or fear of Leon. He doesn’t deserve it. He is the worst of humanity and to hate him is a negative use of my time. I am indifferent to him and he means nothing to me. I think to “dwell”, is to focus on something that you cannot change. I will not dwell.

  • “Is that still going on?”

I distinctly remember a good friend of mine calling me during my “Week of Funk” (coming soon- different to “One Hour to Fall Apart”). She chatted on about how we hadn’t caught up for a while and she’d been thinking about us. She wanted to know how Brad was, what the girls were up to, how work was, etc. General small talk stuff.

So I told her that I was having a week off work so that I didn’t have a mental breakdown, the girls were okay- counselling was taking its toll, as was the wait time for court, and Brad was a mess. There was an awkward pause and she said, “Oh I didn’t realise that was still going on”. She then proceeded to make small talk about her own family and work before saying bye.

I’ve learned through this process, that everyone has their own way of dealing with the heavy stuff. It would be unfair of me to assume and expect that people are comfortable talking about the fact that someone sexually assaulted my baby girls. It isn’t a regular thing. It’s confronting and the worst type of “surprise”. I’ve learned to develop a thick skin, to roll with the punches (to an extent) and that I can’t control how other people react to our experience, only my reaction to them.

  • “I can only talk about it when I’m pissed.”

A number of friends, particularly those of the male variety, had a lot of trouble talking about what we were dealing with…until they’d consumed a few drinks. The lubricating qualities of alcohol often had me consoling grown men as they cried about the kids. There were a number of, rare, nights out that saw me giving assurances that we were going to be okay. Bless their hearts!

I don’t believe that anyone ever intentionally set out to be hurtful to us, however, I’ve come to fully appreciate and value the quality of empathy more and more over this journey. Like Obama says if we keep sight of what is true and right, things can only get better. If you ever come across someone in our position, remember what their truth is and also remember that we never really know what other people may be dealing with. It’s far easier to be kind.

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