Not the Model Victim

“I admit to being naive. I admit to being too optimistic. But I won’t buy into the idea that ill-treatment in these organizations should have been expected and somehow this is all my fault.”

As I write things down in chronological order, searching for the legal implications in each moment, encounter or reaction, I watch myself as an outsider would. I see myself reacting emotionally, out of fear and in desperation for safety. I see myself making mistakes like not documenting, not requesting a formal investigation and not pursuing criminal charges. I see each issue in their rightful light filled with sludgy prejudice, barely veiled disdain and constant micro-aggression. I don’t know why I’ve started to notice these things only recently as I sit and record notes for my legal case. I guess, with hindsight, I see now what I was blind to then.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s not just hindsight. It’s also the connections I’ve made with other survivors. The reality is, it’s more than just me. we are all not over reacting or making things up. It really is that bad.

I refuse to believe that somehow all my fellow [insert diversity characteristic here] colleagues deserved it. That we are so many disabled and hurting from the trauma of a toxic and hostile work environment. We suffer through and are devastated by the hate we receive because of our gender, race or nationality. We all find our stories have too many features in common…and we have no justice.

Reviewing my reactions, emails and conversations…I was far from the model victim. My responses certainly weren’t compatible with an internal redress system that’s set up to protect the Organization and its traditions. I can see how a third party could say this all doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to me at all.

Just like it doesn’t make sense that because I ate eggs for breakfast on two occasions that were the worst days I was harassed and attacked, I’m allergic to it now.

I vividly remember being so sick to my stomach on both days, that I rushed to the bathroom but didn’t make it before the bile flooded through. I remember the repugnant smell and ghastly lumpy yellow. I won’t gross you out further… but needless to say that reaction still happens to me anytime I smell or try to eat eggs. It’s unbelievable that eggs were once my favourite.

The association is imprinted in my brain and the mere thought makes my stomach rumble with a low unstable quickening.

Did you know that anxiety and the fear incited by the stress from trauma are linked to your gut?

But I digress…or have I?

The fact is, I didn’t get the chance to establish years of service so that I would be seen as credible enough for the internal justice system to care about me. When I was going through it and as things escalated month after month for two years, I was too worried about my pay cheque, my career, my reputation and my competence to risk anymore reporting than I already did. The reality is after I reported abuse that fundamentally shook me, the investigating unit deemed an apology was enough. I was told to leave it in the hands of Management. I trusted the system, I trusted the people who said I should let them handle it, I trusted that I would be treated with the dignity of any other human being. I was betrayed.

To avoid looking weak, I took the advice I was given “never let them see you sweat.” I tried to soldier on even as things got worse. I begged them to let me go, to let me leave the job at the pre-agreed given time. When they wouldn’t, I begged them to move me to a different work office. There’s a level of duty of care that was breached. A level of humanity that was ignored. A level of basic justice that was denied. But I have little recourse, because I was too traumatized and too hurt to defend myself in their formal systems. I pushed on for another 6 months before I collapsed, and temporarily lost my sight and sanity. Those a part of the system are making me feel as though I’ve stayed too long in my damaged state to do anything about it now.

So many of us have gone through so much. So many things that are so wrong. So many slights that keep us locked out. I just don’t know what to wish for anymore. I just know that I don’t want anyone to ever experience anything like what I went through. I just know there’s something wrong with the systems. I just know that things must change.

I’ve learned, but have I gotten wiser? But if nothing will change, then what’s the point? There are others that need help but what can I do?

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