Recently and without any fanfare, my terrible year came to an official end. By that, I mean legally came to an end. Our custody arrangements have been etched in very expensive stone for the next two years and would you believe, the pending DVO was finally withdrawn by the police.
As with all endings, there is grief. It was such an intense journey that I had no time to grieve for anything, let alone the loss of my relationship. It is hard for some people to understand that I would be sad about the end of that particular relationship, considering what happened and what I was accused of.
No one has to understand it I guess. I have had a lot of people say ‘Oh, you mean you miss being with someone’ when I’m honest about how I am feeling sometimes. No. I miss the person I shared my life with for four years. The person who is the co-parent of our amazing daughter and was the step-mother to my handsome, yet terribly bad-tempered cat, Cliff. The person she turned into at the end is what mental illness does to people. You no longer recognise the person you thought you knew and any attempt to find them is often futile. It’s devastating and life destroying and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The most damaging part to last year was the accusation that I was a perpetrator of domestic violence and the fact it took so long for the police to withdraw their application. So why did it take 15 months to shake? Here is my best and non-legal attempt at explaining it.
In September 2012 there were changes to legislation in Queensland. Basically these changes mean that anyone accused of committing domestic violence is slapped with a domestic violence order, no questions. These changes are fantastic for victims of domestic violence who genuinely need help but have the potential, like anything, to be abused by a small group of people who are on what I like to call, ‘revenge quests’.
For example, in one of our appearances, the Judge said that ‘with the introduction of new legislation, everyone in a relationship was potentially a domestic violence perpetrator as sneezing, in the right setting, could now be considered ‘abuse’. I agree.
In my situation, I wasn’t even home (work swipe card records prove this) on the day of alleged abuse and yet no one wanted to make a decision. Please don’t get me wrong. The changes to this legislation offer victims of domestic violence a voice where they so often have none, which I support. However, the system used to prosecute these cases is flawed and wagers largely on who the Judge and the police prosector are on the day.
In my case, it was a combination of the system and the adjournments that my lawyer sought because much to our dismay, every time we went to court or wanted to speak to a prosecutor, no one had read through our evidence. No one.
In one instance, the prosecutor was so confused that we were two women that he couldn’t even get our names right. In another instance, the prosecutor didn’t even have our case with him. We were in court and he didn’t even have our case. You can imagine, this makes everything a little difficult.
It wasn’t until my lawyer threatened legal action against the police that anything was looked at. After that, we were sent an apology email with the news the case was being withdrawn 15 months later. What a system! I’ll stop before I sound too bitter.
While all this went on, I didn’t see my daughter for three and a half months. Can you imagine that for a second? Three and a half months. From March 2013 to June 2013, my co-parent refused to let me see her.
My lawyer wrote letters, we attempted mediation but to no avail. I even did an anger management course at my co-parent’s request, on the promise she would let me see her. She didn’t. It just added further fuel to her intense social media campaign against me.
Later on I was asked why I completed an anger management course if I didn’t have a problem with anger. I said that I would have flown to the moon and back in order to see my daughter if she’d asked me to. I would have joined the circus, recorded an album, danced a jig if it meant that I was going to see her. Wouldn’t you?
When we ended up in family court in June 2013, my co-parent, now faced with the the fact she would have to let me see our daughter, accused me of being a child molester. Yes, a child molester. Terrible stuff and it still sounds like a bad daytime movie. I still have difficulty talking about this period of time and to be honest, it’s still a bit of a blur. The great part – no one believed her. So that’s a huge plus.
So 15 months later, I sit in my living room with primary custody of our daughter and no DVO (and for the record, no temporary order either). It’s been hard to sit still to be honest. Last year moved so quickly and I had to be on top of everything, reacting to every moment like some sort of ninja.
Making peace with the silence and really, with myself after what happened is proving to be the biggest challenge of all.
How do you start life after life? Is it even possible? Is it possible to put all the accusations, all the social media shaming, the very public Courier Mail ‘newspaper’ article behind you so that you can begin again or at least, begin again from the middle?
To put behind you all the doubts you’ve had about your parenting, all the doubts you’ve had about yourself as a person and just keep living? I don’t even know yet.
Time heals all wounds and stuff but how do you know that’s true and not just something we say to make ourselves feel better? How do you trust that it will?
This ‘life after life’ thing is the hardest adventure I’ve been on and I’ll be honest, some days are better than others. If all else fails, at least I’ll have new material to write about it.