I look around the corner, and see a flash of ginger hair. The street is loud with noise and rays of sunlight burn on my back. I walk towards the woman in front of the police-station, trying to ignore the sweat dripping down my forehead. It's 30 degrees, and May 26. I didn't have much time lately to buy summer clothing. I'm wearing black, and decide I need to reconsider my wardrobe. Only during summer though.
"Hi mum," I say.
My mother turns around. I see she's carrying her Ipad, and a bunch of papers.
"Oh, I was looking at the wrong side," she answers, while putting down her bag. "I thought you came from there."
"Not today," I reply. I give her a kiss on the cheek.
"Look what your dad found out," she says. "I told him to look into it."
My mother shows me the paper in her hands.
"Here is says you're allowed to press charges in the Netherlands," she says. "And here it says the police in Bulgaria should've provided you with a professional interpreter when you tried pressing charges the first time."
"Well, let's see if we can do it today," I say. I look on my phone It's 08:50. I'm right on time, for my third visit to a police-station since I was hospitalised.
"It was very serious," my mum says, while we're sat in a small cubicle with a police-man. "When she came back from Sofia in October it was obvious there was something wrong, but she didn't talk about it. We were left to guess. She just shut down, and then disappeared and drove all across Europe. Pieke first went to Norway to a friend, in a very severe mental state, and eventually she went back to Sofia, where she confronted him and tried pressing charges. We started to find out what had happened and was still happening very slowly, because it took her a long time to be able to talk about this, because she was loyal to him and wanted to protect him initially and didn't know what to do."
I listen, and suddenly realise I have more evidence I tried pressing charges in Bulgaria: my own father. I called him while I was in Sofia in November, and told him I was going to the police. I also spoke to my ex-husband while there, and told him what was going on. How could I have forgotten to mention this online? When this goes to court, they can testify against Exurb1a, who claims I didn't go to the police. He accused me of lying about it. Asking my father to speak out online will probably be too much: my family has always been very private about their lives due to the area they work in. My father is a psychiatrist and my mother a psychologist; both are retiring this year. 2017 was supposed to be a calm year for them, but what's been happening online has been affecting them also. They value their privacy, and had a very tough time accepting everything what was going on. Especially because they met Exurb1a. They're afraid people will hunt me down and that me speaking out will cause more problems. It took some time before they fully understood I was forced to speak out, to protect myself, and that now there's no going back. Unless I want my name linked forever to a case that isn't solved, and when you look for it online, you mainly find people slanderously accusing me of being a liar and insane person.
"She was not well," my mother continues. "She was hospitalised in November. She was very confused because she was both in a working-relationship with him, but also a romantic relationship. When she started to set boundaries, he didn't respect them."
"What happened that evening?
The police-man has a friendly voice, and looks at me patiently.
"Well," I say, glancing over at my mother who's standing up. I nod at her. "I don't think my mother wants to hear this."
My mother lets go of my hand and smiles sweetly at me, but it's not the kind of smile you like to see on someone you love. It's a painful one. It's the smile of a woman who wishes I had told her everything from the start, so she could've been there for me. I wish I did too, then I wouldn't have seen her like this. While I described what happened to the police-man, she had a tough time hiding her emotions. I'm a walking medication bin of flesh and blood who's emotions have been numbed due to anti-depressives and anti-anxiety medication. Plus, by now, I've told this story over 30 times, to nurses, doctors, friends, family. I just say the words, and feel nothing.
Or at least I try to pretend I feel nothing. I can tell that behind the curtain of drugs, my body is reacting to the things I'm sharing. It wants to scream and cry and ask for help, for someone to take this all out of me. For someone to erase my mind. For someone to take me serious, and believe me.
"That evening," I say, "He was drinking again."
The police-man walks back into his office. After I described the night during which Exurb1a abused me, and told him about what happened while I was hospitalised, he left the room. My mother is sitting next to me again, and we are both sipping on our cups of water.
The police-man holds up a phone.
"It's for you. The zeden politie."
The zeden politie literally translated from Dutch means the moral police. It's a special department which fights sexual violence. I pick up the phone, and listen to the woman on the other end. She introduces herself and tells me what they do, and that they would like to set up an appointment with me. She mentions how surprised she was to hear what happened at the police-station in January in Sittard, and what happened in Sofia in November. It shouldn't have happened. We set up a date (June 2) so I can press charges at their department in Roermond specialised in handling cases like this. Roermond is 45 minutes away from me and June 2 is fairly close. Is this finally going to happen? I say goodbye to the police-woman, and give the phone back to her colleague.
"So the zeden-police will take up everything," the police-man says. "The sexual and physical assault, the blackmail, the threats. Everything."
"Right," I reply. "I just have a question. While you were outside, I was talking to my mother about my hospital commitment and diagnosis."
"Yes, that was quite something for us too to find out, as parents," my mother says. "Especially due to our work. You see, Pieke's son is autistic. We never thought she would be diagnosed at 27 as someone on the autism spectrum as well."
"The thing is," I say, "This video I have here, where he harasses me for 45 minutes while I'm in the hospital, is about that time when he came over in December."
I grab my Ipad a little tighter. I've taken it everywhere with me since November. It holds video files which now will be used in court maybe.
"The intimate moment that occurred after I had a panick attack, which we just talked about, he uses against me in this video. This is what he most likely is going to do too once the police gets involved. He tried calming me down when I had the panic attack, and due to it, we ended up in a hugging position for a very short time. He started to touch me everywhere, even, down there. I was just on top of him while he held me. Eventually he stopped after he said I was 'wet down there'. After it happened I instantly went to see my friends. I told them how insane it was it happened. One minute my ex told me he once set fire to a woman's computer, as a response to me saying I couldn't be his friend anymore. Next, I have a panic attack not much later, and we almost got intimate."
"Well," the man says. "You weren't well. You were sick and confused. You were a patient. You were hospitalised and taken out of that safe environment. Can you give consent when you are emotionally unstable and are committed to a hospital?"
"Do you mean," I stutter, "That I was temporarily ontoerekeningsvatbaar?"
My mind is working at top-speed. Ontoerekeningsvatbaarheid in Dutch means that you can't be held accountable for your actions, due to you (temporarily) not being mentally stable. The mental disorder defense.
"To me it doesn't seem like you could've given consent to what you just described at all," the man says. "You should talk to your doctor, and take that incident up with the zeden politie also, so you can press charges against him for that also."
I don't know what I'm hearing. Is this really what I'm hearing? Not only can I now possibly defend myself from what happened, I can also press charges against Exurb1a about this?
The police-officer looks at me, and shakes his head softly.
"We don't know how it's possible this happened. I don't understand how our colleague you saw in January didn't do what he could have easily done that very day. I just talked to my colleagues about it. If this was taken up months ago, you could have started with truly digesting this, and give it closure."
I hear the words, and I understand them. For some reason they release something that feels like a balloon, inside of me. The horrible comments, the death-threats, they seem to evaporate into nothing. Everything the police-man said, I wish someone would have told me 7 months ago, when I was at the police-station in Sofia. Or in January, when I was at the police-station in Sittard. I guess third time's a charm. Driemaal is scheepsrecht, we say in Dutch.
"I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else. Could you make sure of that?" I say.
"Yes, of course," the man says. "I've laid this out already at the office; we'll pick this up. This shouldn't have happened."
"Does this mean the police is apologising?" I ask.
"Yes," the police-man says. "Even though this didn't happen on my watch, and I can't apologise for my colleague, I apologise this happened to you, in name of the police."
I stand up, and give the man a hand.
"Thank you. For all your time," I say.
We smile at each other, and for the first time in months, I feel hope again. My rights as a Dutch citizen, and European citizen, seem to exist after all. My faith in the law is slowly crawling back again. I might not have the support of the angry fans of Exurb1a who tell me to kill myself, but today, the law is not working against me, but with me.
Timeline of Events Inside the System
Inside the System is a blog series about mental health, being hospitalised, and pretty much everything I've experienced these last few months. From naked patients crawling through the hallway, to having your medication dose raised 4 times in 6 weeks due to your ex boyfriend threatening you. From being publicly shamed online for speaking out and being called a liar, to what actually happened, and how and when I will press charges against my ex. So, a lot of mental vomit will be thrown on my blog upcoming weeks. The Inside The System series is part of Project Blue is a Wave.