First, get out of bed. How victims of crime keep living
Bashings, killings, rapes, shootings, stabbings, and murders – we hear about them every day, with alarming frequency.
Crime is so much part of our lives that the horrifying detail of them flits through our consciousness faster than it took me to type this sentence.
Rarely do we stop and think – properly – what these people, the victims of these terrifying stories, are actually going through.
We’re numb to their pain, and perhaps for good reason. But how do they do it?
How do they deal with physically getting up each day – if they went to bed at all – to face the kind of nightmare we barely stop to contemplate?
I have spent hours absorbing and digesting other people’s pain, analysing it and reporting it as a testament to the vitality of the human spirit.
But I didn’t really understand how that happened until I met the family of Sydney girl, Lauren Huxley.
It’s no secret that this is one exceptional family – but from let’s be clear, they are not alone in this category.
The story – sorry, the Huxley’s reality – began when 18-year-old Lauren Huxley left TAFE on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, only to be confronted by evil in her quiet suburban family home.
Lauren was accosted by a violent stranger, bashed then soaked in petrol and left to die as her home burned around her. It was where she – anyone – should be safest.
Doctors said she wouldn’t make it; five percent chance of survival is not a great statistic.
Almost four years on we know that Lauren’s fighting spirit came to the fore and she beat those odds – quietly fighting through a month in a coma, six months in hospital, countless hours of rehabilitation and challenges most of us can barely fathom.
But the real battle, and it is rarely fought publicly, was the one her family waged to simply cope.
Lauren’s survival instinct might have kicked in with spectacular results, but her physical trauma necessitated that.
For her father Pat, mother Christine and big sister Simone, the task was less compulsory.
They felt hopeless, especially in those early days, as they kept trying to shake themselves awake from this nightmare.
They rattled around the hospital, alternating pacing and sitting, trying in vain to sleep – the hard plastic chairs of the waiting room giving them physical discomfort to match the numbness in their heads.
Within 72 hours they knew Lauren would survive but the state in which she would wake up was a relentlessly terrifying unknown.
Behind their very stoic facade – not dissimilar those that frequently fill our newspapers and TV bulletins – was a debilitating reality.
They had days of pain so intense, for example, that Simone could not physically move her feet out from under the covers to put them on the ground beside her bed to prepare to return to the hospital.
There was the nausea as the smell of the hospital each morning smacked them in the face as they arrived at 10am to see if there was any change.
There were days when it took every ounce of their strength to go about the mundane tasks of life – eating became an annoying distraction, although doing it with their loved ones helped the swallowing.
Each wondered, albeit fleetingly, if they could just stop living altogether. That would be easier.
They fought with each other and with themselves; the simplest of remarks tore them apart and grief splashed over every which way.
The Huxley’s know what its like, and they have lived through it to tell their story; the families of Sophie Delizio, and hundreds of others around the country know it too.
But how do they do it? How did they fight the urges to give up? How did they keep going?
I’m not sure even they know, not really.
To outsiders, it comes from an inner strength we see in, say, our sporting heroes. It’s a commitment to life and survival akin to the dedication of an Olympic swimmer or tennis protégée.
Then there’s the desire to win – they were not going to be beaten. Some stranger was not going to ruin their lives.
The Huxley’s – like the friends and family of yours who have lived through their own versions of hell – didn’t know they possessed these qualities until this terrible crime occurred.
And when the cameras are turned away, and we impassively move on to the next interesting news event like goldfish, don’t forget that they will still be there dealing with their struggle day by day.
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