Lifestyle

After a sexual assault trial, I ran away – and went to work at sea with an all-male crew

The first time I ran away, I ran to the docks. I was 5. My brother was 9. Perhaps my brother supposed us to go for the day, however I believed – hoped – that we had been going without end.  

The docks had been 40 minutes away on the bus, and there have been ships from different international locations. Ships with flags on them. Ships that may go far away from my suburban Australian dwelling, take me far away from the sounds of my father’s violence, and the unhappiness and wrestle that lived in our home. 

The frenzy of the docks buzzed round us. Laughing sailors gave us candy rice with a sticky sauce earlier than they despatched us dwelling. I was breathless with pleasure. Running away began then, and it at all times made issues higher. Running away at all times labored.

So in 1987, battered by a collection of traumatic occasions that culminated in a brutal sexual assault trial, I knew I had to run.

After days standing alone in a courtroom whereas legal professionals – all males – mentioned and dissected my alcohol consumption, my sexual habits, and my underwear, I carried their contempt with me, took into me their story that I had induced my very own assault, that the disgrace was mine. 

I was 20 and already brutalised and battered. How far, I questioned, would I want to journey to get away from myself and from the story which appeared to be my birthright? It was a story during which I drifted, penniless and hopeless. I longed to be someplace completely different, to be somebody completely different.

I had not but learn the poetry of Philip Larkin, nor come throughout his clarification that, faraway from the acquainted, you might be perceived otherwise, and so that you understand your self otherwise. But even then, I knew the chances of elsewhere, knew that if I reached there, I could possibly be completely different too.

Like a wild animal working solely on intuition, I headed north from Sydney, so far as I might go, till the land ran out. In Darwin, I met Karl. Younger even than me, he was already a expert first mate, about to head out on a boat that wanted a new crew. Did I need to be part of them, fishing within the Gulf of Carpentaria? 

I was un-muscled, unused to bodily work, however I needed to be stronger inside and out. And I had not but travelled far sufficient away to develop into somebody completely different. But when I stepped on to the Ocean Thief and noticed my first ocean sundown with that nice orange disc crashing down, seabirds swooping and fluttering I understood that one thing new was doable. 

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