I was raised by a very strong, confident and assertive mother. She taught me to be strong, confident and assertive. Despite that I have still had many experiences that have made me feel weak and disempowered. I have been sexually assaulted twice but still cannot bring myself to relive the scenarios enough to write about them.
My mother’s boyfriend for 13 years from when I was 3 was physically abusive and intimidating towards me on a regular basis. He was never abusive towards my mother as she was equal to him, preferring instead to take out his anger and aggression on a smaller and weaker subject. My mother never knew how abusive and intimidating he was. Because she was ok with corporal punishment, even if just the “odd light smack” it was easy when I complained for her partner to defend himself by saying I was exaggerating and that I had done x wrong and he was just responding with appropriate punishment. To me it seemed like my mother always took his side, though she has told me since that she would often have a go at him in private for going too far. She believed it was important for adults to show a “united front” with children as her parents always did with her and her siblings. That made me feel like I wasn’t being heard and that I would be the one in trouble when I complained. I stopped telling her. One time things got really bad and I was thrown into the corner of a table and ended up with a lump on my head. I ran out of the house and all the way to where my Dad worked. I told my Dad what had happened and Dad believed me and was angry. He wanted to do something but him and my mother were not communicating well and he was worried about making things worse for me. Within a couple of hours, while Dad was still thinking about how to respond, Mum’s partner called me and apologised and got my sister on the phone to convince me to come home. He told me he had been to the supermarket and bought all my favourite things. I went home and didn’t tell my mother until years later. It took me a long time but I no longer harbour any anger towards Mum’s ex though I certainly wouldn’t want to have any contact with him. I know his father was physically abusive towards him when he was growing up and there are really only two responses to that – 1. Realising it was wrong thereby breaking the cycle or 2. Internalising it, believing you deserved it, and then continuing the cycle and punishing your children when they “deserve it”. Forgiving Mum was relatively easy – I always knew deep down that if she really knew what was going on she would have put a stop to it. I just didn’t know how to communicate it to her at the time.
I have always been someone who needs to know someone well before entering a relationship. I have always hated unsolicited sexual advances. As a tween and young teenager I mostly dressed like a boy. Baggy jeans and T-shirt. As I became an older teenager I would sometimes want to dress up and look nice. I would almost always regret it – along with that came toots, whistles, and yelling out of cars; being groped in a bar, a crowd, or just walking down the street.
When I was 21 I started a relationship with someone I had known for years. A year into the relationship I found out that he was actually being paid a regular salary by the police to infiltrate and gain intelligence on me and most of my friends (due to our political activism and none of his 10 years worth of intelligence resulted in any criminal convictions). All those “shared values” I thought we had were just part of his cover. During our relationship he used me to get intelligence on people who I was closer to than he was. The Special Investigations Group (SIG) of the New Zealand Police knew that their agent, Rob Gilchrist, was in a relationship with me but chose not to take any action. I dread to think about the conversations they had possibly laughing about the whole thing at my expense. After I found out I launched a counter-intelligence operation to get the full story and was disgusted at what I found. There was an email Gilchrist sent to the police saying “She’s working from home today, I’ll let you know when I can escape” – referring to the fact that he couldn’t speak to them while I was around. In a text message he talks about using me to ask questions he can’t really get away with, “Bit mean but hey what the hell”.
I believe that the SIG, from their years of intelligence gathering on me, would have known full well that I would not have consented to a relationship with Rob Gilchrist had I known who he really was what he really did for a living. The police took away my right to consent. The police are, according to their own policies and procedures, responsible for the actions of their employees and contractors and should have taken action. In the UK there are a dozen women suing the police for their relationships with undercover police officers from the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). I wish I could join their action but don’t feel like I have the resources to fight the police on my own here in New Zealand.
I would like to finish my story with some quotes from the UK court case and which apply to my situation too. From the Statement of Claim:
“The sexual relationships conducted by these state agents in their undercover role as activists was deeply degrading and debasing of the Claimants. The agents’ deceit as to their identity was sanctioned, facilitated and maintained by the full might of the state, and they used it to dupe the Claimants into having intimate and sexual relationships with them. The deception for that purpose served no legitimate aim, or was wholly unjustifiable by reference to such an aim. These Claimants, whose consent was obtained by that deception, have now discovered that they were being used physically and emotionally by state agents seeking to obtain intelligence. The treatment of the Claimants in the circumstances outlined debased their human dignity and has grossly humiliated them.”
“The officers deliberately and knowingly deceived the Claimants about central aspects of their personal identities which were and which they fully appreciated were absolutely critical to whether the Claimants would have sexual relations and an ongoing sexual relationship with them. They did so furthermore in the full knowledge that there was no lawful justification for the deceit. They continued the fraud over a considerable period of time, and took elaborate steps to ensure that the Claimants would not discover the fraud so as to avoid the sexual relationship ending. They cannot therefore rely on the Claimants’ consent as a defense to the assault.