Monday, 17 September 2012

Almost a week on, are you still asking the question: r u okay?

I once failed to ask the question even though the answer was thrown in my face many times over many years.

I went to primary school with this girl. I'm going to call her Little A. Little A was the type of girl who wore a frown on her face most days. She seemed to love drama and attention. I recall a time when she, at not more than 11 years of age, threatened to kill herself by jumping off the cubby house.

We all rolled our eyes.

Over the years Little A and I had a very hot and cold relationship. We would be best friends one day, enemies the next. I can't really explain why, that's just girls for you.

Honestly I was pretty terrible to Little A at times. I would tease her and make her feel small. I myself was bullied so I don't know why I did it, I think it was just the competition between us because the very next day we'd be best friends again.

By the time we got to high school we were on good terms. She started hanging out with our group again and everything was perfect. She still seemed to love drama, but didn't we all being prepubescent  girls. We were such a close group of friends. Sure, we had our fair share of bitch fights but we were ALWAYS there for each other.
One day I decided to tell my best friends my secret. My secret was something I was working through at the time and since have thanks to the support of all my fantastic friends.
Little A decided to share her secret too. A fourteen (maybe fifteen) year old Little A told us that her Father had been sexually assaulting her since she was a young girl.
To say we were shocked would be a lie. We didn't really react. We didn't do anything. Not a thing. We discussed it between us and decided she must be lying.
Why, I can not explain. My memory of this discussion is such a blur. I have thought it over so many times since then, but the details remained skewed. I can't even remember the words she used, or if it was still happening. I can't remember what I said to her, if I even offered any support. In my memory she told me through a barb wire fence. I know that she didn't I think that's my memories way of dealing with my inaction.
All I can logically reason in my head is that we were not equipped to deal with such an issue. Or maybe we didn't want to.
As time went on nothing really changed. Not for us.

Little A became more distant, left school and then one day she was a memory to me. Someone to gossip about occasionally. But no longer a friend, an acquaintance maybe but I didn't know her anymore. I can't even remember thinking about her assault.

What I do remember is hearing that she had finished a tafe course, then hearing she was doing a lot of drugs, and then hearing she had left home and was staying in a shelter.
You would think by then an eighteen year old me would have alarm bells going off. But no. I didn't think to reach out to her. I didn't think to take her words seriously. Instead I remember thinking, "what a shame, why is she making such poor decisions?"

What a fool I was. An ignorant fool. I was so busy partying in the city, worrying about my new car, my trip to europe, my boyfriend, I never thought to ask her if she was okay.

I never thought that her words so long ago might be the reason for her actions. Had I completely forgotten about them? I can't say for sure. Was I simply not willing to deal with them? I don't know, I can't explain it. I just wish I'd asked if she was okay.

Luckily someone did. Someone reached out. Just when it seemed, in the eyes of us ignorant bystanders, that her life was completely out of control and she was pass the point of no return she found a saviour.

She once again found it within herself to trust someone with her story. I don't know how many people she confided in from the time she told us, but I know it must have been hard for her to trust anyone after everything we had done to her, or what we failed to do for her.
Especially after everything he had done to her.

This saviour did the most wonderful thing, the most responsible thing. He went and told her mother. The mother whose daughter had spun out of control with little 'explanation'.

The father was confronted and admitted to his actions. He was gone before the mother could vent her disgust. Little A eventually returned home and re-built her life. Of course it's not that simple, but now she could get help from those around her.

I have seen Little A a few times since I re-heard the news. I am in contact with her and did ask her permission to tell her story. I even got a chance to apologize for my lack of actions. Not that it means too much although I know she doesn't blame us. She reached out with no expectation. But I had higher expectations in myself as a person and especially as a friend.

What plagues me most is all the signs along the way. The signs that started long before she told us of her anguish. The signs that perhaps even caused our disbelief. However this was not part of her dramatic ploy, instead the reason for it.

I am so thankful that someone was able to do what we couldn't. I hold so much regret in my heart that we didn't act earlier. Perhaps we were too young to know what to say or do, but we could have listened.  We could have given her a shoulder to cry on, and eventually we could have told her mother. It was easier to just pretend she was okay than truly asking her the question, R U Okay?

I don't live with much regret in my life. But to say I regret my inaction would be an understatement. I ofter wonder how I could have helped her, if I could have changed anything. I wish I was there for her. I am thankful everyday that someone did act, and I scare myself into thinking about what if nobody had. I'm so glad somebody did.

Little A 'survived'. I don't know much about the time in between high school and her mother finding out, but I can only imagine the pain she must have been going through. I hope that she was living instead of existing. I hope that she is still living instead of existing. I hope that she is now Okay, or at least getting there. And I hope that she knows because of her I am always asking the question, R U Okay?

Don't leave it to once a year to ask those you love it they are okay. Don't ignore the warning signs. If someone you care about is acting out, ask why. You could be who I failed to be, you could save somebodies life.

Myself and two of my best friends in year 7, we are still great friends. They live together in Melbourne and were my bridesmaids earlier in the year. Oh how ignorant we were.
nb. This story is told from the memory of a 15 year old girl so some of the information may be incorrect but I have done my very best to re-tell it as accurate as possible. 
I should also note that I am not aware of the actions or thoughts of the others she told that evening. They may have spoken to her again, I was so quick to close the book on this matter I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't feel the need to tell me of their concern. 

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