33. I want to kill myself…
As we hit the 12 month After mark, the process was really beginning to take its toll. We were still no closer to knowing a court date, the kids were still seeing counsellors, life was rolling on, but there didn’t seem to be a silver lining.
The further we got from Jen, the more withdrawn Kate became. She was almost unrecognisable from the charismatic, confident and vivacious little girl she was.
The following is from the Victim Impact Statement that we had to prepare for Kate, during the sentencing process in court. Some of the content is difficult to read, so go gently with it.
“I have prepared this Victim Impact Statement on behalf of my daughter Kate. Though the majority of this statement is prepared on her behalf, Kate has made some contribution to it, in the form of letters and statements that she has made in the time since her experiences came to light. Kate began making her statement, but found it too difficult to continue and asked me to help her with it.
Kate was born in 2005. She was a beautiful, yet spirited, baby girl. At the age of 11 weeks, Kate began day-care 2 days a week, as I was ineligible for maternity leave at that time. Besides my husband and myself, her day-care mum, Jen, became the most important adult in Kate’s life over the next 8 years.
She was described in her day-care reports as a strong-willed, exceptionally happy baby, with a unique spirit. She developed her language skills well and was speaking in sentences by the age of two and a half. She liked routine and coped very well with them by this time also. She could be temperamental, like most kids this age.
By three and a half, Kate had shown that she was stubborn, had a thirst for knowledge, always wanting to know the answer to things and usually giving her own opinions if the answer was not to her liking. She was confident and articulate and loved playing with other children. If she was tired, it was best to stay out of her way. Kate was at times infuriatingly determined and didn’t like accepting help when problem solving. She was a very good debater. My younger brother lived with us during this time and Kate could revert him to juvenile behaviour with constant verbal sparring. She would talk about anything and everything and had a thirst for knowledge and random facts.
By five it was clear that Kate was a very confident little girl and was fiercely protective of other children, particularly her little sister Ruby. Kate mixed well with other people and enjoyed playing with other children.
Kate was the most attentive of all my girls. She was quick to show affection to her family and friends and was always keen for a snuggle. She was a very social little girl and enjoyed having fun with her friends. By the time she got to school, she was less moody and stubborn and didn’t let too much phase her, though we still saw glimpses of our spirited little girl if she thought things were unfair or unjust or if she was tired!
Kate thrived in her first few years of school. Her teachers described her as well-mannered and pleasant. She willingly participated positively and confidently in all activities. She was able to work independently and was described as a motivated worker. She took pride in her work and was dedicated to working diligently and achieved high assessment results in both literacy and numeracy.
Socially, Kate was popular with her peers, polite, helpful, sensitive and considerate of others. She was described by her teachers as having a very caring nature. She was always invited to parties and was often leading other kids in activities and games.
Since the 27th October, 2013, I’ve slowly watched the little girl I’ve described above, disappear.
Initially, Kate says that the greatest impact of this crime for her was the loss of her relationship with Jen in her life. As stated, she was one of the most important adults in her life from an early age and was a surrogate grandmother figure for Kate. Kate constantly asked if and when she could see Jen. She worried over Jen’s welfare and hoped that she would come to her and say she was sorry for what was done to her. When her dancing concert came around, Kate got very upset as that was something that Jen would come to. Kate doesn’t dance anymore. Likewise, when grandparent’s day occurred at school, Kate got upset in the lead-up to it and has refused to go to school on that day for the last three years, as this was another thing that Jen would attend with Kate.
Kate’s relationships with other people have suffered significantly in the wake of her disclosure. Kate is not the snuggly and affectionate child she used to be. She has said that she struggled particularly in her relationship with her grandfathers and it has taken her time to feel comfortable around them again. On the rare occasion that we have had to leave her in the care of other adults, Kate finds it hard to be with them and doesn’t like Brad and I to go away together. She has difficulty trusting other adults.
Her relationship with other children has been greatly affected. Because of the nature of abuse, Kate has been discouraged from talking to other children about what has happened to her. She says she finds it very hard to have a huge secret that she is unable to share with anyone. The times when she feels sad, angry or anxious, she is unable to disclose the reasons why to her friends, which has caused her a lot of angst and impacted severely on her relationships with children her own age.
She has had to internalise a lot of her feelings and in turn has isolated herself from her peers. She is rarely invited to sleepovers or parties and tends to choose to spend most of her time on her own. On the odd occasion she does invite people to our place, she struggles to maintain conversation with them for a sustained period of time and relies on her sisters to help entertain them. She has lost her ability to socially engage with her peers.
She wrote once that at school she is just an “everyday girl with the blackest, darkest secret”. She said that she finds school difficult. She worries about being in groups of people and when she feels crowded she gets stressed and it triggers memories for her. She says that “hard work makes me stress and worry”. When her teachers raise their voices it also triggers memories for her. When memories are triggered for Kate she has written that “I could barely breath, I had a little stress (panic) attack. I could not calm down”. She said that when this happens at school she feels “stupid”. She gets very embarrassed about having these anxiety attacks at school. She’s written that “when people are being noisy, or I’m in a crowded room with lots of people” she remembers “old, yuck, bad and unhappy feelings it comes to her in black and white, absolutely no colour”.
In preparing for this statement, she wrote, “At school I cannot get through a whole day without being upset or crying once”.
Kate has stated a number of times that she feels her school work has suffered as a result of this crime. There has been a decline in Kate’s academic performance, going from a student who excelled, to one who has lost the ability to work independently. Her teachers report that she needs to be encouraged to approach challenging situations with an open and positive attitude, something that was never an issue pre-disclosure. She is reported to be withdrawn from both her classmates and set tasks. One area that she continues to do well in is that she thrives on communicating her ideas in writing and it is because of this that Kate has been able to let us know how she is feeling.
Kate says she struggles to be on her own and panics if she is in an area where she can’t see anyone. Kate had an incident at school towards the end of 2015 where her teacher rang me and said she wasn’t sure what happened, but Kate had been asked to retrieve a ball from the far end of the playground, as the rest of the class returned to the classroom. By the time Kate got to the classroom she was hyperventilating. Kate told me that she thought that she’d seen Leon and Jen drive past the school and she panicked.
Kate can’t enter our home unless Brad or I have gone in first. She did once last year as we were in a hurry to get to an appointment and it resulted in her having a panic attack, we found her huddled in the corner in her room- rocking herself, almost catatonic. She told us, “At least I tried”.
There are a lot of seemingly insignificant things that can trigger Kate’s memories and emotions. She can’t stand the smell of Glen 20 as that was a product that was regularly used by Jen. We don’t go to café’s that Kate went to with the Jen’s family. When she was still dancing, we had to go the long way as she panicked if we drove near their street. She gets upset when she remembers happy childhood memories that occurred at Jen’s home, as they are now tainted- including her friendships with the children from there. Kate doesn’t like leather couches. We attend counselling almost weekly. Kate struggles to make decisions and answer questions if she feels put on the spot. Sometimes choosing an ice-cream can cause her to have a massive meltdown.
The most significant impact on Kate is that she has repeatedly expressed the wish to “not be alive anymore”. The first time she told me that she wanted to kill herself was during the summer holidays at the beginning of 2015. She told me that she wants it all to be over. She told me that she would go and lay on the soft grass, look at the clouds in the blue sky, take a knife and stab herself. She was not yet 10.
She has repeated this wish a number of times since then. She has asked Brad and I to “kill her and make it all be over” when she has been in a heightened emotional state.
At the beginning of this year (2016), her counsellor and I discussed the fact that Kate’s emotions were appearing to be more extreme. She was disengaged and withdrawn and talking about hurting herself more frequently. This resulted in her having a mental health assessment and making plans around that.
On Saturday 26th March, Kate, her older sister Grace and I were shopping, when Kate got into one of her irrational moods. She was angry about something fairly insignificant and when she was able to rationalise it, she felt extremely remorseful for her behaviour and was apologising to me over and over. She said she was “sick of everything and that I’d be better off without her”.
I looked over at Kate as we were about to cross the street and Kate looked me in the eye and said she was sorry, before attempting to step out in front of a car. Fortunately, I was able to grab her in time. That was her first real attempt to end her life, with her big sister as witness. I can’t properly articulate how that made me feel, so I won’t try.
Kate wrote the following when I told her about this statement:
“I have flash backs all the time and feel dizzy and sick. I start to cry get angry and can’t talk or make any form of contact with people. When I am mad I am depressed and yell and scream. After, I feel so depressed I really want to commit suicide. I tell mum and dad and then I tell them to kill me. They start crying and talk to me about how to fix thoughts like that. Some examples of what they say are:
You only have one life, it’s a gift
Why do you think your life is over?
What are the good things you have got out of the 11yrs you have been alive?
What are some things that are on your bucket list that you have not yet done and would like to do?”
She went on to say, “This (abuse) is by far the worst thing I have ever experienced and I wish I could go back and change everything for everyone”.
My family and I are hopeful that one day, we will see Kate develop in to the happy, confident and determined little girl that we know she is capable of being again. But as her mum, I’m mostly just scared that she will find it too hard to climb out of what she describes as a “deep, dark, gloomy and dirty hole”. The impact of this crime on my little girl is that she is broken, and at times, unrecognisable as the spirited and determined little girl she once was. The good thing is that with time, patience and love, in spite of what she has been through, we will fix her again”.
I can tell you that at the moment, Kate is in a pretty good head space. She is aware that she will have to battle some of these negative thoughts and emotions during her life and that it is okay to have those moments. With maturity and a different mindset, she is now able to understand that things will get better- with time, patience and love- of those of us who surround her.