Since it has #NOMOREWeek. Which mars the one year campaign of#NOMORE through the Joyful Heart Foundation. They have been running ads and raising awareness about the backlog of rape kits, raising awareness about the silences, the shame, and the guilt that happens in situations of sexual assault and domestic violence. I love how the goal is to bring an end and to do that by having the tough conversations. And it has been set up in a way so that people are able to share their story. I have learned how important that is, because as I gain my voice back I realize I am gaining power over my story and over what happened. And that means my story doesn’t define me, it means that guy doesn’t get any control, and it means I am learning to see the truth rather than a distorted view.
I want to share maybe one of the hardest things that happened in the aftermath of being raped. That was losing my job. I was doing police dispatch. I was going through training, the program to become a dispatcher is quite difficult. I went through multiple interviews, took tests, my friends and family were talked to by a private investigator, I took a polygraph. Then once I got the job I was memorizing maps of streets, learning radio traffic codes, learning a new way of entering commands into a system all while adjusting to graveyard. It was a job that was stressful, but one that I enjoyed. Because I knew I was getting to opportunity to be a part of the first line of response, that I could pray for situations that maybe no one else knew about, and I was getting to work with some of the most selfless heroes and my job was to help communicate all information so that those heroes, the police officers, would make it home to their families at the end of their shift. It was something I loved.
I was about 4 months into training when I was raped. I called in what happened. I made a police report, that meant that it was on record where I worked. I debated calling it in. Mostly because I knew I didn’t have any identifying information, I didn’t know anything that would help. I didn’t know his name, the license plate, I had showered multiple times and I was not going to do a kit. But, a friend encouraged me to in the event that someone has or had gone through something similar that there was a small chance that it could be linked to something else. So I did. The person who was in charge of dispatch at the time she was very kind and accommodating. She wanted to do whatever it took to make sure I was successful and she believed in me. Shortly after there was a change in who was running dispatch and a lieutenant became the person hiring and running dispatch.
In those months following I did struggle, I wasn’t sleeping well, there was anxiety, there was poor coping choices, there is no denying that. And I am sure that it did impact my ability to do the job. However, I know that I could have done that job given a bit more time. I didn’t qualify for FMLA because I had not been there a full year and was still in training. The training program is a year of training and then 6 additional months of probation, so it is an 18 month process to become a full on board dispatcher. Regardless, I showed up to work, I gave it 100% every day. And I am thankful I had a job that I felt mattered and was important because it got me out of bed each and every day.
Well, one day, the lieutenant approached me saying that I was not meeting training standards. That I had not passed the current Phase. I said I knew, and that with more time I knew I could do it. He said that he had seen that I had reported a rape and that he used to work special victims unit and that he knows what it does to people. He then asked me if I thought I was a liability taking the calls, the stress of the job, because he knows what PTSD does to someone. I sat there taken off guard by his questions. I told him, I am able to do the job, I may need a little bit more time, but I can do it, that I had been working with a therapist, that I was working hard and practicing all of my coping skills so that I could do it. I told him I was determined to not let what happened define me. Well, he then explained that since officers lives are on the line that I needed to realize the importance of this job and be honest with myself about my ability to do the job and gave the opportunity to resign. I told him I would not resign that I would do what it took. He attempted to fire me a couple weeks later. I went to HR because I knew I needed more time. Well, they got me a 2 week extension. The lieutenant told me I needed to go from a 37% accuracy on radio traffic to a 100% accuracy in that time period. I said okay, I took home a scanner, when I wasn’t at work I listened and typed, I practiced. By the end of the 2 weeks, I had gone from that 37% to 74%. In 2 weeks I made that kind of improvement. It was April, meaning I still had 5 more months before I would be at 1 year into the training program. I had 5 months before I needed to be able to go completely solo. And in 2 weeks I made a huge improvement. That to me shows that I was capable of doing the job. I felt confident, but it was not good enough for him. He still fired me. Saying that because I was not able to meet those standards I was not able to do the job. However, it was his previous actions and comments that lead me to believe that he made up his mind when we had talked 6 weeks prior.
First, I am not sharing this to start any negative talk about the politics of the police department. I am also not going to fight it. The documentation and all of that does not show those behind the closed door conversations and that is not something that I care to have questioned, doubted, or put on trial so to speak. I am sharing this because I want to say No More putting limits on someone because of what they have been through. No More defining someone because of an event in their life. No More enforcing the idea of being weak or powerless, but rather more empowerment. I have no doubt that if that lieutenant had encouraged me, given me time, and took an approach of I see what you went through let me help you overcome this. I would have passed and I would have been one of the most loyal, hardworking dispatchers there was. Instead at the time, his message was loud and clear. That I was not good enough, that I was not worth investing in, that I was a liability, and because of what that guy had done to me I was no longer qualified to do the job.
Now I have a job that is just that a job, it is tech support on phones, it isn’t anything I am passionate about, but it has allowed me to continue to work through this. And the one thing I can say I have there is supportive co-workers and managers. I know each day that I am there that I have people who have my back. And that makes it easier to go each day. I know it won’t be my forever job, and someday I know that I will have a career where I do get to make a difference. I know this much, I am capable, I am strong, I am an overcomer, I am worth investing in, and none of my qualifications have changed because of what has happened, if anything I have become a stronger person. And so, I am sharing to say NO MORE tearing people down, NO MORE guilt or shame, NO MORE to not being good enough, NO MORE to being defined because I was raped.
Take a moment go like the #NOMORE page, and share what your NO MORE is, because even if you haven’t been through domestic violence or sexual assault you know someone who has. Be willing to give those who haven’t found their voice yet a voice. You never know who you might inspire by doing so. If we all come together and have these conversations we can make a difference.