So many times, over the last several months, I’ve wondered, “what if the shoe was on the other foot?” What if the tribunal member had been the victim of a violent crime, and had to experience the VOCAT process like a normal person? Would it force change? Would victims finally get a voice in a timely manner, instead of waiting months and months?
For 16, almost 17, months, I have patiently waited. I have done as requested, provided more evidence and paperwork, and attended a directions hearing when told to. I have waited and I have hoped and I have struggled through this time, knowing that it would be a long process, but still … I did not expect to be waiting for a decision, an outcome, over 500 days later. It is now at the point where I do not see an end to this, and although I have always been an optimistic person, I have honestly lost hope, and that is crushing to me.
To be a victim of a violent crime throws your world upside down. I could sit all day and list all the ways in which my life has changed since I was raped, and I wouldn’t run out of things to tell you. I do not recognise the person I was before the rape, and I do not ever think that I will be that person again. The changes in my life, in me, have been enormous. This has affected my work, my personal life, my drive, my ambition, my sleeping habits and my entire experience as a person.
I missed (and continue to miss) a lot of work as a victim of crime. I attend counselling at CASA, meaning that once a week, or once a fortnight, I miss a half day of work. After the rape originally, I missed work to attend doctors’ appointments, physiotherapy and I have had a lot of sick days due to stress and illness caused by the rape and the after effects of it.
I look at our system, and I think that even though I’m struggling terribly financially, I know I am “lucky”. I would hate to be the victim of a crime who is unable to work, and who has no means of supporting themselves financially. This VOCAT system is broken. Can you imagine having nothing to live on for months and months while VOCAT decide your future? Financially, the rape destroyed me. A lot of the work I missed was unpaid. I went from being someone who always paid bills before they were due, and never missed a loan or insurance payment to someone who constantly struggles. Every bill I have is paid well after its due date. I cannot have emergencies, as I cannot afford them. I know there are millions of Australians out there who have the same experience with money, but to me, this is new and another after effect of the rape. I have lost control in yet another area of my life, and it is devastating.
I would love for a VOCAT member to actually put themselves in the shoes of a victim. To realise how overwhelming and upsetting the system is to someone who is already distressed and fragile. I do not know how much longer I can hold on, and to feel so utterly and completely helpless is just awful. The VOCAT system is full of unknowns, with no timeline for resolution and it’s not right to put someone who has already experienced something so traumatic and upsetting through another experience that can also be described using those same words – traumatic and upsetting. VOCAT needs a better process, whether that be setting timelines so victims know what they can reasonably expect, or creating a way for victims to be heard as efficiently as possible