22 Nov The Cop & the Crim
In February 2014 RAW matched a Woman 36 years of age, with an extensive criminal history, (8 years in an Australian Jail for drug trafficking, a long term drug habit, life of gangs and domestic violence) with a Police Officer currently working with the child abuse team in a small rural town.
Initially the mentee, who resented police and any position of authority, response was “I ain’t being paired with no pig!” Reluctantly she agreed to trail for 1 month. The mentee was an ex professional boxer and has a dream of becoming a personal trainer, (she is no longer able to box due to domestic violence leading to significant head, facial and teeth injuries). The mentor is also a professional trainer, both women were polar opposites with similar personalities.
The mentee’s schooling was minimal, literacy an issue and the retention of any learning problematic due to long term drug use and physical abuse. Her journey began with Literacy Waikato in February – she attended every meeting, consistently demonstrating her commitment to making a change. She was selected by RAW to complete one of WINTEC’s scholarships for a Foundation Course which began in July 2014. Given she lives on the other side of town, a push bike as her only means of transport – even poor weather didn’t stop her excellent record of attendance. She has now begun her 2nd year in tertiary education which will see her qualify as a personal trainer at the end of the year.
She continues to meet with her mentor regularly and keep in touch with phone/ texts/ Facebook and now her education pathway is set, their meetings consist of conversations about her; exercise regimes, supportive parenting, supermarket shopping for healthy foods and cooking lessons. These two have become significant in each other’s lives. The mentee describing RAW and her mentor like having an “Angel on her shoulder!” and knows she would not be where she is today without the support of RAW’s multi layered support system. She could never imagine her life without drugs “They were my world!” She has now been drug and alcohol free for over 12 months and she no longer smokes cigarettes.
Her 4 year old son now waves to police cars as opposed to giving the finger, behaviour driven out of living in fear of them, given his previous life. Parenting has become about the child as opposed to “him fitting into my life”. Time out, is now the choice of discipline rather than violence and expletives.
The mentee is a regular spokesperson for the RAW initiative at Auckland Women’s prison, assisting in the recruitment of women for the ‘Incubator Project’. With just over 1 year of involvement in the programme her transformation has been remarkable, we are witnessing significant inter-generational growth and attitude changes. Growth is occurring on a variety of levels particularly in regard to her judgement and decision making abilities, these involve considering longer term outcomes, which are now societally acceptable as opposed to disruptive and more often than not illegal. i.e. Choosing to sort disputes through legal channels as opposed to the use of force and threats.
She is also a keynote speaker and works with Annah Stretton at least once a week, attending community events. The details of her criminal past often results in a very strong reluctance from the audiences to initially connect with her as she begins to retell her story. However, after she has finished sharing her journey the connection with the women attending is incredible – an interesting transformation to watch. Given she clearly comes from a recognisable demographic we are able to send a powerful message when speaking to these community groups. Particularly the stereotypes that the media is conveying (often to hysterical levels) around Family Violence and Societal issues.
The ability to have been able to utilise funds as needed, as opposed to a rigorous formula, has allowed the RAW model to remove barriers towards growth as they arise. In this case it has been such needs as – dental work to address extreme pain, course related costs, transport, childcare, as well as supporting healthy family re-integration once essential relationship skills have been learned.