17 months ago, I applied to the New South Wales Government Victims Support Service for recognition of childhood rape. Today I received a reply and I literally burst into tears. 40 years of emotion exploded as I read these words from the Assessor acting under the delegated authority of the Commissioner of Victims’ Rights.
“Ms Gibbins was the victim of an act of violence and as a direct result of that act, she suffered harm. I have determined that Ms Gibbins was a primary victim of an act of violence under section 19 and 20 of the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 (NSW) (‘the Act’) and has established eligibility for victims support.”
Why the tears after all these years? Why does a stranger writing to me make any difference?
Because belief matters. What we believe determines how we act or react in any given situation. And being believed connects directly to our core. Not only are our values and beliefs the foundation of our life, they are deeply rooted in our psyche. So, when we believe that someone in authority will protect us from harm, we rely on them to act accordingly. When the person is someone we love and respect, we believe their protection is guaranteed. And when this guaranteed response does not happen, the only logical conclusion can seem like, ‘I must have done something wrong’. When that person is physically bigger, manipulative or threatening in behaviour, it also results in feelings of fear, helplessness, and paralysis. When we get strong enough to tell our truth and the individuals do not believe us, it is devastating on many levels.
Going through the process of writing down my story was brutal. Choosing to unpack and release 40 years of painful memories – extremely distressing, but for me necessary.
It was necessary because I needed closure. I was exhausted from the emotional trauma of keeping other people’s secrets. I was emotionally and physically sick from being called a liar by those who felt threatened by my truth. I hated feeling like the bad person when I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Desperately desiring unconditional love is a powerful force and sometimes illogical in nature. As a mature woman, who has been happily married for 33 years and raised 5 beautiful children while juggling university degrees, career, and family, I repeatedly asked myself why I still felt the need to be believed.
Apparently, while my healthy adult self knew I was a highly competent, capable, and loving human being, my inner child still felt abused, abandoned, and rejected. I learnt that at times of stress my default thoughts and feelings chose to activate without permission and the physical manifestations were a consequence of that innate response.
This learning was hard, very hard, but it allowed me to deal with my reality.
To live a healthy adult life, we need to be comfortable with our authentic self.
Our truth sets us free.