Shh shh sweetie, itís all going to be ok...
Some of them didnít survive the aftermath, some are in therapy today trying to cope with their past and many of them moved on with their lives and it gives me hope that it is possible to heal. Maybe one day Iíll be able to admit my past and call myself a survivor. Maybe one day I will be able to heal as well.
It wasnít an easy job. I was on call 24/7 and when they called me I usually dropped everything and ran to the police station. I learned quickly that every day or night I spent there was different. Every survivor was different. Every survivor had his/her own story to tell. And each and every of them was reacting in so many different ways: screaming, crying, panicking, breaking down and losing consciousness or just being silent and not willing to talk at all. After the first few times I had trouble sleeping, headaches and flashbacks reminding me of my very own past. I couldnít concentrate on my work and studies. All I could think of were the people I met, their stories and pain. I came back home and cried cause their stories were tearing me apart. But deep in my heart I knew it was the right thing to do. I saw many translators coming and going as they couldnít stand the pressure and the stress. Very few stayed for longer. Of course the police can always organise an external translator. Unfortunately these external guys even though they were very knowledgeable and well trained, they had completely no idea about working with rape survivors. I assisted few of them at the very beginning during my training time, and I still get sick in my stomach when I think about what they were doing, how insensitive, impatient and arrogant they were. With their ďI donít give a damn, Iím here to do my job, get paid and get the fuck out of hereĒ attitude they were doing more harm than good.
So I stayed. Soon I learned that this job wasnít about being just a translator. I was a mediator, a negotiator and a trouble-shooter. I was a counsellor. I was a messenger. I was the one they were talking to and yelling at. I was the one who they hated as it was me asking all the painful questions in their native language. I was the one who made them going through hell again. I listened to their stories and they put their pain in my hands, they cried their tears in my arm and I delivered the whole package to the police officer. Most of the time I had the feeling that the police wasnít there to help but to do more damage. The way they asked the questions, they tired and bored faces, their nothing bad happened kinda attitude... it was humiliating and horrible. Most of the incidents happened late at night and the officers always seemed to be more interested in getting another cup of coffee and doughnuts than in the hurt people sitting in front of them. It made me sick. So I learned to paraphrase the questions, I used my own words to ask the survivors what the police wanted to know. Iíve learned a lot while working there. Iíve learned that itís not always a policeman or a certified counsellor we trust and want to talk to. There was always a counsellor during the hearings who could speak survivorís native language. But guess what. From all of the adults and teens only 3 of them wanted to talk to the counsellor. All the years Iíve been wondering why. Why did the survivors prefer to talk to a translator? Why did they ask me to stay and to not leave them alone. Is it like in Phil Collinsí song ďyou can tell from the lines on her face, you can see that sheís been there.Ē Iíve never said a word. No one knew I was raped. But could they somehow have known or felt that I was one of them?
I got my answer yesterday. J. called me asking if I remembered her. I do. I may not remember the names, faces or stories of all of the survivors Iíve met, itís been years ago. But I do remember J. Maybe because she was 15... just like me when I was raped for the first time. Or maybe just because I will never forget these big beautiful but scared crying eyes.
J. invited me to her wedding. She is 22 now, a happy mum of two beautiful baby girls and engaged to the love of her life. She moved on. And Iím so happy and proud of her.
She asked me to read a letter she wrote me: ďThere is so much I want to tell you Eve but I feel like I can express myself better in writing so I thought a letter would be the best way to get it all out (...) Iíve decided to write it in English so that you can post it on Pandyís as I was a Pandy myself once and Iíd like to let the people know how much it has meant to me. The greatest support Iíve got was from other survivors. Only survivors can understand survivors. One of them has saved my life.Ē
Here it is. The letter.
My dearest Eve
Itís been 8 years. 8 years, 1 month, 13 days and 6 hours since I was raped. Iíve survived. Iíve survived because youíve showed me how to find the way back to my life. Somehow you knew what to tell the 15yr old girl to make her believe that her life wasnít over. Youíve saved my life.
I remember that cold January day. I was sitting in the police station waiting for my mum. She was out of town that night and I was supposed to sleep over at my friendís place. The police brought me from the hospital where very unfriendly doctors and nurses ran some tests and collected evidence So I was sitting there crying and panicking, kicking and punching everyone who tried to come close to me. Iíve never been in so much pain in my life before. I didnít understand what was happening with me and around me. I felt neglected, abandoned and so very alone. I wanted to run away from there. One of the police guys was yelling at me in German and I didnít understand what he wanted from me. Today I can speak German so I know that he just wanted me to shut the fuck up. I remember that there was a counsellor who could speak Polish. But she didnít even bother to try to calm me down. She didnít introduce herself, she didnít even asked my name. She was calling me ďkidĒ: stop crying kid, here is a blanket kid, kid this kid that... I wish I could tell her to go and fuck herself. You have her phone number? Stupid certified smart ass. She looked tired and bored. She was drinking something and eating a bagel. And was so hungry and thirsty. They told me I could get something to eat and to drink after the medical examination but they forgot about it obviously as I was just a kid... I felt left alone and ignored. I hated them. And then you came in. Well actually you ran in. No make-up, unkempt hair and you were wearing two different shoes. And yet there was something about you. You looked like a worried mother who got a phone call with very bad news about her child and then dropped everything and came over as soon as she could. You came in and the first thing you did was shouting at the police guy who was yelling at me. God I felt so relieved. I still remember this look in your eyes... I swear I thought youíll kick him in the nuts. He shouted back and then you said something in German and he shut his mouth and disappeared for the rest of the night. What did you tell him Eve? You looked at me, you smiled and winked. Then you said to the counsellor in Polish: ďBlack no sugar for me and a cup of tea for my friend. Oh and jam doughnuts. Thanks hun youíre fantastic.Ē If looks could kill I swear she would have killed you straightaway right there. But few minutes later she was back with everything you asked for. God she must have hated you ;-) You sat down on the floor keeping distance to me. You knew I needed space. I was shaking because all I had on was my short Guns Ní Roses t-shirt and all they gave me was a small blanket that didnít even cover my whole back or legs. I donít remember exactly what you said to me I was in shock I guess and so scared and angry. But I remember you introduced yourself and you said you were a translator and were here to help me. You asked my name. I answered and I wasnít a ďkidĒ or a number in their files anymore. The next thing I remember is you taking off your hoodie and your trackie and asking me if you could come closer. You said: ďSweetie youíre freezing, put this on it will keep you warm alright?Ē I let you come closer, I even let you help me with the clothes. Your hoodie smelled like apple pie (did you make a cake that day?). I found a snickers bar in one of the pockets. You smiled and said: ďoh, you've found my breakfast. Keep it, itís gonna be a long night.Ē I started to feel safe. I looked at you. You gave me your clothes and now you were wearing blue pyjamas with little clouds and moons. The police officers were staring at you like you were a total weirdo but you didnít care at all. You said to them: ďWhat?! Itís 3.30 in the morning. You guys expect me to wear a suit?Ē Then you asked me if I wanted a sip of tea and a doughnut. I did, God I was so hungry. I liked that you were sitting on the floor. You werenít standing over me making me freak out. I stopped feeling invisible and ignored. But I was still crying. You asked if you could sit next to me. Then you looked in my eyes and said: ďI know you probably hate everyone here right now, including me. I know youíre hurt and in pain and I know you donít give a crap what Iím saying to you right now. You probably want me to shut the f*ck up but I want you to know that I believe you, every single word you say, I believe you and I know it wasnít your fault, none of what happened was your fault. I understand how you feel. I really do sweetie.Ē And then for a little moment I saw it, I saw it in your eyes, the pain, the fear and this deep darkness something that no one else can see but a survivor. And I thought to myself sheís been there too, she knows. She understands me. And it felt as if a very heavy weight just fell off me. I fell into your arms crying, you hugged me and I said ďplease donít leave me aloneĒ. And you said ďI wonít sweetie, donít you worry. Iím not going anywhere. Iím here for you.Ē I tried to apologise to you for my behaviour: ďIím sorry Iím crying all the time and screaming and everythingĒ- I said sobbing. You answered: ďAll good sweetheart. Youíre allowed to feel how you feel. Itís too much, I know. Youíre sad and angry and youíre hurting. Itís ok to cry, I understand. Iíll hold you. I wonít let anyone hurt you ok? Youíre safe now.Ē
I looked at your shoes and I said: ďyouíre wearing two different shoes Eve.Ē
ďI knowĒ- you said. ďI wanted to cheer you up.Ē And we both smiled. Thank you for making me forget this horror for a little while... Youíve been holding me in your arms for I donít know how long. And I you sang me a song.
Talk to me softly
There is something in your eyes
Don't hang your head in sorrow
And please don't cry
I know how you feel inside I've
I've been there before
Something is changin' inside you
And don't you know
Don't you cry tonight
There's a heaven above you baby
And don't you cry tonight
You gotta make it your own way
But you'll be alright now sugar
You'll feel better tomorrow
Come the morning light now baby
Don't you cry tonight
There's a heaven above you baby
And don't you cry tonight
I guess you noticed my Guns Ní Roses t-shirt while helping me with the hoodie. I stopped crying. And I fell asleep. I woke up screaming and fighting you, kicking and scratching. The police officers came to take me away from you but you didnít let go. ďLass unsĒ you said in German which means ďleave us aloneĒ. I remember you saying ďshh shh sweetie itís ok look at me. It's all going to be okay. J. please look at me! Itís me Eve remember? Youíre safe, itís ok.Ē And I saw tears rolling down your face...you quickly wiped them away hoping I hadnít noticed. But I had. I stopped fighting. So sorry for scratching your cheek...:-(
My mum arrived few minutes later. And you explained me what was going to happen next. You said theyíd ask me few questions about what happened in the car park. I remember exactly what you said: ďJ. Itís just you and me alright? No one else here speaks Polish but us and your mum. You donít have to feel ashamed or embarrassed. I understand and believe you remember? Look at me and talk to me. Donít look at them, donít listen to them. Tell me your story in your own words. And Iíll do my job and give them only the information they need to know, nothing more. I wonít lie to you honey itís gonna be very painful. But they say if youíre going through hell donít stop, cause you want to be out of there as soon as possible right? So take my hand ok and please donít stop. Iím here. You can trust me ok?Ē
And it really was like going through hell. It was like reliving the rape. But I felt so much better knowing that you were there with me. I know my mum was there too and I knew she loves me but I knew you understand what Iím going through and my mum, well she had never really understood me...
When the whole thing was over you gave me your phone number and said I could call you anytime. And you said: ďJ. youíre stronger than that. Remember, never stop when going through hell.Ē And you hummed:
You'll be alright now sugar
You'll feel better tomorrow
Come the morning light now baby
Sometimes I called you in the middle of the night. But you always listened. You never made me feel like I was too much. It helped.
I started seeing a therapist and after 3 years I finally felt strong enough to move on. Today Iím 22. I feel much better. I think I can say Iím happy. However, my past is still a part of my life and know Iíll never forget what happened. But I also will never forget this seemingly regular girl rushing through the door of the police station, wearing two different shoes and taking care of me when I needed it the most. I still have your clothes. And Iím wondering how many hoodies and trackies you gave away while helping people like me. And how many Snickers bars you didnít eat yourself. Have you ever counted?
I donít know how to thank you. Iím short on words. I wish we could meet one day. Youíd have black coffee (no sugar) and Iíd have a cup of tea. And jam donuts.
Thank you Eve
Iíve been reading this letter over and over again all night long. Have so many thoughts running through my head right now. Jysus she remembers all the details. And Iíve never realized that what I did has meant so much to her. Looks like sometimes we donít need a ďcertified smart assĒ. Sometimes all we need is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
We all need someone to hold us in his arms saying "Shh shh sweetie, it's all going to be okay..."
"What must I do, to tame you?" - asked the little prince.
"You must be very patient" - replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me--like that--in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."
(A. de Saint-Exupťry, The Little Prince)
Thank you J.