Remember how when we were little that we were taught to go to a policeman if we were in trouble? That we could count on them for help and protection? As an adult who gets paid to pretend for a living, I just can’t buy into that anymore.
Those of you who’ve followed my blog for awhile have seen all sorts of ups and downs from me, and a good few posts about domestic violence and my own brush with it. How and why to get out of those dangerous situations. What I’ve been public about – until now – is only the tip of the iceberg of my recent ordeal.
I’ve already gone over how my ex, Declan, held me by the throat and made me beg to be let go, how he sliced open my arm with a pocketknife and that I’m permanetly physically scarred from that. How I tried to report him to the police and the officer I spoke with was apathetic to my suffering and chose not to believe me. I’ve told a lot of people about this. I have evidence and witnesses to prove that he’s done these things. I’ve suffered panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder from the way I was treated. And I thought I was over all that, finally.
I thought I was over all that until my ex found out that I was engaged to my wonderful fiance, and began to ramp up the harassment once more. Disgusted with his behaviour, I spoke to a lawyer who pointed me to a Justice of the Peace, who told me how to lay a private information. I was thrilled to have someone who was able to see the truth, and who was willing to help me press charges against my abusive ex. Silly me, I thought justice may actually be fair and right after all.
I was so very wrong. Our current justice system is SO skewed that I was ARRESTED – yes, arrested – for reporting the domestic violence I survived. I was arrested by Detective Leslie Morris of 22 Division of the Toronto Police Services, the same officer who didn’t believe me when I’d first tried to report my ex over a year ago. I saw her show up at court and act very amicably with my ex prior to everything happening, and at the time I wondered why she was there. I found out soon enough. The real kicker is that I was arrested at the courthouse when I was supposed to provide evidence against my ex, and the way in which she arrested me prevented me from doing so.
Further to that, despite me having no prior criminal record, I was held overnight for a bail hearing. I was also fingerprinted, photographed, and strip-searched. It was February when I was arrested, and the police took my coat, shoes, and bra – leaving me freezing in a cell with only a thin sweater, skirt, and stockings. Needless to say, the way in which I was arrested and treated, and Detective Morris’ comment of “I told you I’d arrest you if you kept speaking out” made the PTSD and panic attacks re-emerge, hardcore. I had such a bad panic attack while being held in jail that I passed out and hit my head off the floor. Despite repeated calls for help, I believe I was left for about a half-hour without anyone checking in on me. Finally, someone called an ambulance, but the panic attacks have continued for the past three months again.
The one ‘upside’ to being arrested is that you get what’s called disclosure when you go to court – you get to see what the other party is saying about you if you’ve been charged with a crime. What I saw from Detective Morris was that despite me describing to her in detail about being choked, she didn’t mention it in her police report. Not even once. What I saw was that she provided a very unflattering and untrue summary of everything that had gone on, and that her report and documentation were full of inconsistencies and errors. But of course, the police uphold the law so they must be telling the truth, right? Just like people who deny major events like the Holocaust – as bad as something is, if they say it didn’t happen it must not have. Riiiiiight.
Anyway. As of today, the Crown has agreed to withdraw the case if I do some community service. As a favour to myself and other taxpayers, I have decided to take them up on their offer. Why? I could continue to fight this through court just to prove that I am honest and have been telling the truth all along, or I could move the hell on with my life, continue to do great acting work, and start enjoying life again. I am quite certain that I would win if I did insist on this going to trial, but with how flawed our system is, the extra effort’s not even worth it. Nor are the lawyer fees. I’ve defended myself all through this process, including getting withdrawn two peace bond applications filled with false information against me (one from my ex, and one from Liana Kerzner, a friend of my ex’s), and thus far, telling the truth has served me well enough. Besides, I’d be spending those hours anyway, and I’d rather they benefit someone else than just be wasted.
With how much I’ve learned about the system, I’d rather just pass my knowledge on to others so they hopefully have less abrasive encounters with dishonest cops and/or abusive partners. It’s what’s made me such a staunch actorvist the past little while – life is NOT fair, and the good people often get screwed over because the people supposed to be ‘protecting us’ can’t or won’t pursue those actually in the wrong. (Anyone who knows me knows that it’s in my nature to help people anyway, so I may as well get some credit for it. ;p)
My story is by far NOT the only one. Recently in Toronto, a rookie cop doing the right thing by arresting an impaired driver was harassed by other officers – because the person he arrested was a fellow officer. Or look at Byron Sonne, who spent ELEVEN months in jail for his honest curiousity. There’s a million stories of police misconduct out there, and I think it’s time the public hold the police truly accountable for their actions.
As for what I’ve learned? It’s kind of scary, but I hope it’ll help someone else out. Some of this applies to Ontario, Canada, specifically, so please do due reasearch into the laws in your area.
1) If you are ever searched by police without a warrant, make it loudly known that you do not consent to the search but that you will not impede them. This is one of many steps in learning your rights.
2) Any person who believes a crime has been done has the right to speak to a Justice of the Peace and file what’s called a private information. The Criminal Code is available online.
3) If you find yourself in a domestic violence situation – don’t wait, don’t hesitate, don’t try and protect the other person. Report what’s happened to you IN DETAIL as soon as it happens. Don’t skip on details. Write everything down so that you can refer back to it later. Keep a log of everything that happens.
4) You can’t count on anyone else to help you or for anyone else to be invested in your outcome. Not witnesses, not factual physical evidence, nothing. So much can be brushed over or skewed, even when you are telling the truth. If you do hire a lawyer for your situation, take the time to write them out a detailed timeline of events so that they at least have a record of everything that’s gone on. So many lawyers are unprepared and/or apathetic.
5) Conduct in court: come dressed professionally, and be polite. You’d be surprised at how many people overlook this. Essentially, you are playing in the big-kid sandbox, and if you don’t play by their rules, they are not going to be very nice to you.
6) If you’ve been charged with a crime, you have the right to request further evidence against you if you believe there may be anything else.
7) If you are trying to report domestic violence, most courthouses should have a program called Victim-Witness Assistance. Again, don’t wait – get in there right away. If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford a lawyer, court houses also have Duty Counsel who can provide you with basic legal advice. They are often overloaded and underpaid.
8) The criminal justice system is like a cliquey club – they have certain language they use and protocols they follow that seem meant to be confusing for the average person. Acronyms like JPT (judicial pre-trial) and OIC (Officer in Charge), for example. The good news is that Google is your friend, and most lawyers offer a free consultation. Gather your questions and do your research. You DO have the capacity to learn these things. Again, read the Criminal Code. There’s also bodies of rules pertaining to how police must behave, for example, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
9) Being arrested and charged is NOT the end of the world – they just want you to feel like it is. So much of police and court process is about intimidation, which is why sometimes people get physically beaten when they are not talking and giving police the answers they want to hear.
10) Stick to the facts. As much as you are going to have emotional involvement in what’s happening to you, you will be taken more seriously if you can be relatively objective about everything. A lot of people make the mistake of publicly saying that the police were “out to get them”, etc – whether or not it’s true, prove the hows and whys. Judges also don’t want to hear people ramble on; the more definitive answers you can give, the better. Yes, No, I saw, This happened, etc.
11) The scariest is that the police have an internal records-management system that the public has no access to whatsoever. They can write whatever they want to in there. I’m sure they have a novel or two about me by now, with all these things that I’ve “done”. A little 1984, anyone?
(I just realized this turned into a Ten Things post, so I’m going to stop at eleven for now. ;p)
Anyway. I feel like I’ve been to hell and back with everything I’ve gone through, but point of fact is that I refuse to see myself as a victim – not of domestic violence, not of police misconduct, nothing. I am a fucking SURVIVOR, and I am going to turn this whole shitstorm of bad experiences and getting caught up with bad people into some amazing art and some amazing profit for myself.
Any news outlets who want to cover this story – I welcome the chance. You can contact me at emily dot schooley at gmail dot com. I applaud any of you who’ve actually read this mini-essay, btw. I’ve had a lot to say about this for a long time and I am glad to be at a place where I can talk publicly about my experience with being arrested for reporting domestic violence.
Oh and PS: I guess I’m a ‘real’ celebrity now, now that I’ve been arrested. You’re welcome for the sarcasm.