This is a first response to this week’s Creativity Carnival cue-art (and my fifth list for the day for writing101 practise as per the list-making assignment).
Things I didn’t expect to happen during and after arrest* (UK, July 2011)
*First I feel I must explain that (a) this is unfortunately a true story and (b) the issue I was arrested for was a minor civil issue of breaking two pieces of glass and two pieces of plastic on my ex-partner’s car. It was actually a car I helped pay for and pay running and repair costs for during our long-term relationship that ended two years before. I remained in the same house as a joint tenant while he made my life hell on a daily basis. I was having to sleep on the floor downstairs while we had a spare bedroom he used to play computer games in and refused to give up for me to have my own bedroom. I could suffer for refusing to return to his bed was his repeated answer to my requests.
The council refused to help me even though they were my landlord and had a duty to victims of abuse. My ex-partner had ended our relationship while I was very ill, but then changed his mind but still heartlessly cruel. He’d been telling people, including my daughter, that I was drinking alcohol as explanation for my slurring speech after a stroke type episode and not getting me medical help. I hadn’t drank alcohol for several years at that point – not that I was ever an alcoholic.
I was still in shock and emotionally distraught two years after our break up, living in the same house for my daughter’s sake and no other viable option but eventually snapped. I wanted to go to prison for safe shelter, for the rest I needed and I naiively believed I would then have some rights as a prisoner.
Back to this list…
Things I didn’t expect to happen during and after arrest:
- To be beaten to the ground while not aggressive, not violent, not resistant and having already been handcuffed.
- To have my wrists knelt on where they were cuffed by the arresting officer, while he pushed harder and harder against my face into the concrete path – because I was trying to shout that he was hurting me. I wasn’t shutting up while he was hurting me, he didn’t stop when I was quiet so I tried to shout again and he pushed harder. He broke one of my back teeth he pushed so hard.
- To have my abusive ex-partner stand watching this scene, not saying a word but gloating all over his smug face.
- To be lifted to my feet and have my top lifted to my shoulders to reveal my bare chest.
- To be taken to A&E and not to have my injuries checked by hospital staff who were told by the police to just stitch my cut elbow
- To have head and facial injuries but the only head doctor I saw at A&E was a psychiatrist.
- To be pronounced fit to return to custody after no sleep and very little food for at least two to three days before this incident – and with no medical examination, in a state of physical shock.
- For the police to be told by hospital staff to make sure I was given some food, but then to be denied food at the police station.
- To be left in a cell wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, freezing cold without a blanket for what seemed like ages.
- To be woken by police every time I nearly fell asleep.
- To be swabbed under suspicion of drug use in the early hours for walking around my cell in circles having to keep moving to try and get warm and for whistling in appreciation of the acoustics of that cell, I couldn’t stay laying down on a cold metal bench – I had to use the mattress rolled up as a pillow because of my concussion and unable to lay flat.
- To be made to put on my heavy ankle boots and not be allowed to leave them in my cell and walk in my socks along the corridor to be swabbed even though they felt like sandbags round my ankles -.
- To be huffed at for not being able to walk quickly enough along the corridor as if being awkward.
- To not be aware of my rights because I couldn’t read the piece of paper handed to me.
- To not have information read to me that I clearly stated I could not read.
- To be kept in a cell for almost twenty-four hours still having had no food, no sleep and very little to drink.
- To be facing a potential charge of threats to kill for a false allegation from an abusive ex-partner. (Charge dropped for lack of evidence).
- To have to appear in court, sleep-deprived, very hungry, concussed, confused, unwell and to be told by my solicitor to say nothing else but guilty to the charge of criminal damage – other allegations/charges dropped.
- To have to plead guilty as a plea of not guilty would potentially risk the wrath of the court and not understanding what kind of plea bargaining had gone on but made aware I risked prosecution for other charges if I pleaded not guilty to the criminal damage charge.
- To not be asked relevant questions by the police or the court to have any opportunity to explain my side of events fully.
- To not be told how to get my boot laces and personal effects back from the police- including the phone number for the psychiatrist who asked me to return for consultation during my A&E visit while under arrest.
- To have to walk in my boots with no laces making them even heavier until I could walk in them no more and had to take them off and walk along the streets in my socks to be able to walk
- To be released from court to return to my home address only to be refused entry by my ex.
- To have my money, phone, bank card, coat, umbrella, toothbrush and anything useful withheld by my ex. He passed my sketchbook, pencil case and pastels and my netbook without it’s charger out through the window to me though. (My kids later managed to bring me other stuff out.)
- To have to sleep under a bush in my front garden.
- To be told by police the next day that I may not sleep in the garden where I was a joint tenant and paying rent or I would be arrested – while I had nowhere else to go. At the same time being told by the same police officer that I would be arrested for vagrancy if found sleeping in any public place.
- To have a police woman go into my house to get me some clothes and toiletries and bring me damp dirty clothes that had been piled in the bathroom waiting to be washed rather than any of my clean dry clothes; not my toothbrush, comb or anything else useful. I had to buy nightwear, underwear, second-hand clothes, a towel, sleeping bag, toothbrush, toiletries – I had all these things at home!
- To be actually homeless for more than three months but not legally homeless as I was still a joint tenant of my family home and thus unable to get help.
- To be told by a solicitor that there was nothing I could do to get back in my house or regain custody of my daughter and my only choice was to apply for a contact order. I managed to get online and find out about occupancy orders, ex-parte hearings and went to court alone, made my application myself, spoke with a judge in private and got the ball rolling for a court hearing. My keys were returned to me, I returned to hell while we then went through family proceedings to finally resolve things.
- To be given the equality as a woman that most men in such circumstances are dished out, from arrest through to court, only without the security and service provision of a short-stay prison .sentence (the five year potential sentence for alleged threats to kill absolutely scared the life out of me though!)