It’s funny how the challenges you meet always end up having something really good about them. It’s pretty much impossible to see it while you’re fighting demons, dragons and criminals. But when you’re done, and the demons et al are vanquished, then you see.
On Monday I didn’t have to deal with any demons or dragons, but I did have to deal with somebody of a criminal bent. Criminal in that he promised to fix my car 3 weeks ago and took a R5,000 deposit, saying I’d get my car back in 5 days. Then it was 10 days. Then I couldn’t get hold of him. He wouldn’t answer his phone or return my gazillion messages.
His loyal sister who works for him took my calls but wouldn’t tell me where my car was, and kept protecting her brother. On Monday I got angry and said I’d go to the police. She slammed the phone down. He called and hurled violent verbal abuse at me – then threatened me. It was really quite terrifying to have that filth coming at me as if I wasn’t a human being.
I flashed back to two experiences. The 14 year old girl being molested, and the time just before I went bankrupt, when I was in a vortex of unethical men with excessive permission to do whatever they wanted and mow me down in the process. In both those experiences I had no power at all and no value in their eyes. None in my own. And no protection. Only fear and the most horrible rage that boiled volcanically within, which I couldn’t articulate or let out.
But on Monday I cried a bit at the shock of the abuse. Then I marched down to the police station. It was scary to lay a charge, given that he’d threatened me and knows where I live, but I did it anyway. I wanted a different outcome to being abused. And I got one.
People always complain about how useless the police are here, but my experience was what I wanted it to be. Better, in fact. The officer listened to my story, and called up the car fellow to get his side. The idiot abused the officer! Made my case for me. So now he’ll be arrested tomorrow on 3 counts. Abuse, intimidation and theft. Then the police drove me home to make sure I was safe.
It was a horrible experience in one way, but in another I got the protection I’ve always longed for. And I got to see how I so am not that terrified, powerless 14 year-old or even 40 year-old any more. Back then my inner scream was you can’t do this to me. But they could, they did, they got away with it and I was powerless to stop it. I had nobody to turn to for protection. It was a terrible time.
I wanted to fight my abusers. To hurt them. All my focus was on them. Strangely, I couldn’t fight, much as I wanted to. I didn’t have the resources or the personal power. They would have destroyed me. So instead I got to pay attention to myself, my self esteem, my own lack of entitlement. I’ve learned to respect myself – and how to fight for myself if I need to.
Suddenly I don’t need or want to fight, and the protection I need is right there. This time round it’s the protection of the law. Which I’ve got, with ease. My days of having no options, of being abused by people with too much entitlement and not enough awareness and integrity – of not being able to protect myself or find protection from my community – those days are over. Stepping out of history here.