By: Nathalie Michaud, Fire Prevention Officer and PTSD Suffer/Survivor
A “Warning” from Chief Avsec: Nathalie Michaud has shared her story as a PTSD sufferer/survivor with several pieces she’s written for me for this blog. Her prose is raw and powerful and “gut-retching” and this piece take her writing to another level.
This piece comes in at a bit over 2000 words and that’s like twice what I like to publish at one time. But I believe that this subject–if any–is worthy of a “long read.” I’ll also share with you that when I first read Nathalie’s words, and every time afterwards as I edited her work, I would become so angry I could hardly see the computer screen or type. After you read her story, I’m hoping you’ll feel the same way. So, once again, her’s Nathalie’s words as only she can write them.
I believe in my heart of hearts, this will be the most “raw”, difficult, transparent, frightening and disturbing piece that I’ve ever written… even in my own journals to recovery. This journey has led to meet wonderful people, amazing people, special and unique people but most of all, inspiring people who have given me the strength to move forward because THEY believe in me… That’s my motivation.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking to a survivor and we were almost crying of happiness because we were talking the same language even without words We both speak out LOUD on PTS and PTSD as well as YES there is something society can do to bring awareness and stop this “silence” and “shameful” shit.
I decided to write tonight, April 24th, 2018 because I trust Robert and I know he’ll use it to HELP other women in the emergency field… in a “man’s world”. Actually, just that expression fucking pisses me off to a degree I can’t express, and God knows I can express myself.
With a gin and tonic, no cigarette since I stopped, on this computer still wondering how this will unravel and how much Robert will need to “edit”. Some of what I will write may trigger, anger, insult… you name it. I’m at the point I don’t give a shit anymore…just that said may make you want to stop reading. It’s not that I don’t respect you or people in general, it’s I’m fucking SICK and TIRED of society making reasons and yes justifications to try to “right a wrong”. Certain “wrongs” cannot be “right”. EVER! This is one.
You might wonder why the title [We’ll Teach You a Lesson You’ll Never Forget]. No, it doesn’t come from my parents because I was a shitty little ass as a kid and drove them batshit crazy. No, this came from only one man with his crew of three firefighters. My crew.
I now know I’m not alone. I know however that I’ll probably be the only one who actually bashes them and also bashes my very own Sisterhood as they turned their back on me to save their own ass from future hell. I know, nice hey? And they think they have balls. They don’t. Men have them below the waist and women are above the waist and I can tell you, not many actually know how to use them.
I’m not going to be all “Once Upon a Time” crap, because there is no happy or right ending to this. NONE.
Very few know a bit of what I’m going to reveal, and I can tell you I kept it all to myself to protect my own parents. I’m not a parent but I can only imagine the horror, the drowning in helplessness and anger my parents would have felt and might feel if they actually read this. Part of me wants them to [read it] and part of me really doesn’t. Either way I won’t want to talk about it. Not to anyone.
The Harassment Starts
Many know I was harassed, severely harassed at a previous employer but I’ve never really explained the consequences of speaking out about it. For almost two years I endures the harassment of a very little man… He had the “Napoleon Syndrome” with a clear “Almighty Penis Deficiency”, so anyone that appeared to be more experienced, he saw as a threat. Whatever the hell his reasons were, they are to this day unjustified.
I knew I was coming into a world of “men” [when I joined the fire service] and it wouldn’t be easy. I’m strong headed enough and know my place, strengths and weaknesses and that is what seems to scare guys. WTF, right?
So here it is. After I filed for psychological harassment on “Napoleon” he had already made his “place” in the FD with everyone and had manipulated all to only see the “good guy.” Not the little weasel he really was and yes, still is.
As an employer, when such a complaint is filed an investigation is started and IT MUST be confidential. Depending on the nature, like this one, HE should have been moved away from me for the duration of the investigation and to the point they could suspend WITH pay either the accused or the plaintive. This shit didn’t happen. Trust me.
So, “Napoleon” went on telling all who would listen what I had done TO him. So, guys being worse than women when it comes to gossip–Sorry, but y’all need rattles so you can do your little fit like in a DayCare–and not being able to form their own opinions, well they followed him through his “Oh my God, how could She?”
And my hell began to get worse, which I thought was impossible. Yes, I went on “sick leave” over a month after the actual complaint was filed because my Doctor MADE me. I wanted to stick it out because I knew this shit cannot be silenced and, a few months earlier, a firefighter in Montreal committed suicide. And yes, it was proven that her death was due to harassment and at that time, the administration was protected and the [deceased] firefighter was portrayed as the “sick” one. I was so not going down that “bullshit road.” NO!
I was on duty with my team—we were a team of five, four firefighters and an officer—and rest time came about, and I went in my dorm to get some sleep. But that didn’t go as planned.
My “team” walked in my dorm room. I thought I missed my pager or something, and before I could say a word, I had a hand over my mouth warning me to shut the fuck up or it would get ugly.
As a woman, as a person, as a human and using only my brain for survive, yes I complied. I totally complied. I shut the fuck up. One of them stood at the door to make sure no other Officer would come through the hall. Another one was holding my mouth shut to the point I thought he was going to break my jaw. I figured “This is it Nat, you’re gonna get such a fucking beating, brace yourself.”
Sadly, for me, that’s NOT what happened. Not at all and I wish that is what did happen. As one of them got closer, pinned my arms down, I felt another at my hips and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was going to be raped by my own! I chose to stay “limp” to try to avoid further injury.
And there it began, my clothes were “carefully” removed and as the one of them stood guard at the door, one of them whispered loudly into my soul: “We’re gonna teach you a lesson you’ll never fucking forget!” The first rape occurred a few moments later.
After that I thought they were done but they were not. They strategically “traded places” and one after the other, they angrily and brutally raped me.
I don’t remember too much other than me trying to survive the pain by trying to remain limp as possible, close my eyes and go away somewhere. No, I didn’t fight back, I didn’t even bite the hand punching my mouth shut. I knew better if I had any chance of coming out of that dorm with the least physical scars I could.
Every inch of my body hurt. Once they were done and they “high fived” each other, one looked back and said, “Don’t make us have to teach you another lesson. But it was fun!”
I just remember trying to put my bottoms back on, and in the process, I projectile vomited.
I finished my shift and yes, of all times, we got a major fire and I had to “work” with them and with the badly and brutally battered shell of a body I had left.
The Aftermath of My Rape
After a good long while I came forward to the fire department authority. Their answer? “Why wasn’t your door locked?” I answered: “Didn’t realize I had to” to which the reply was simply “Well, what else do you think is going to happen when you’re cute and sleep in a fire department”.
An investigation of sorts was done internally. I was afraid to file criminal charges as they ALL had their wives and young children and I didn’t want them to pay for something their fucking ass hat husband or father did because clearly, they had no fucking guts and or values.
The investigation report came back: Consensual intercourse for all 4 men. Facts showed I made no sound, did not resist, did not fight back, didn’t file charges so I was clearly bitter at the way the harassment complaint was being handled. But the main thing was I never said “no” or “stop.”
I had a fucking hand choking the life out of me! WTF did you think I’m gonna do?!
I was so focused on survival and I couldn’t lose my job so I never uttered one word to anyone. Not a soul. That is what triggered a major flashback while I was at La Vigile (The private in-house therapy clinic I went to in November 2014). I also knew I couldn’t because after the psychological complaint and sick leave.
I had to fight for 6 months to be paid. The firefighter union and I decided it was time to put pressure on the fire department and I went to the news. This was only way that I finally got paid for the sick leave.
However, the MOST surprising thing happened. Women and their reaction. You’ll associate to this I’m sure and sad of it. Once public, even though I kept silent about the gang rape, many male firefighters from all around started bashing the firefighters I worked with because it’s as if it got twisted that the men were harassing me because I’m a girl.
WTF? What absolutely made me lose ALL faith in this so-called Brotherhood and Sisterhood, as well as in humanity, is that MY OWN SISTERHOOD turned on me. The shit that was said about me in the media and social media, WOW! Just fucking WOW!
I understand their reaction. They go through the same shit every day and keep their mouth shut to keep the job they are so passionate about and their survival mode was “better go on the boys’ side or I’m gonna get it worse”.
This SHOULD have been THE opportunity to use me as the example to gather together and finally make this shit stop. I now know of many women who were raped on or off the job and shut their mouth because when you don’t want to be raped. Look at what happened to me.
In the end of it all I still wonder, what the hell is the lesson I was supposed to learn? But I guaranty you, they were right about one thing. I will never forget.
This Should Not Happen
Now that you know, you’ll also maybe see why now I tolerate zero bullshit or anything that is remotely close, or I feel is remotely close, to any type of harassment. It gets shut down immediately.
For all of you who are reading this and see me on a regular basis, don’t tilt your head and go “I’m sorry for what happened” and don’t start looking away. Face the fucking reality. Look at my face.
This is reality.
This is what’s left.
To those who knew little, thank you for being there for me. James (if you read this) thank you for always encouraging me that silence is not always the best answer. Mom and Dad (if you read this) go back to the beginning. I don’t want to talk about it ever. It’s in the past and will stay there forever. I made my peace with it.
IT WAS NOT MY FAULT
Thank you Robert for sharing this… in hopes it may create a small wave of support for those who have had similar paths.
About the Author
Nathalie Michaud is a PTSD Sufferer and Survivor. Nathalie served for more than 15 years in a variety of Emergency Services roles including EMS Paramedic, Firefighter, Fire Prevention Technician and Fire Investigator in the province of Quebec, Canada. She’s currently a Fire Prevention Technician with the Brome Lake Fire Department in Knowlton, Quebec.
Nathalie has served for three years on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for FQISI (Quebec Federation of Emergency Responders).
She makes her home in Brome Lake where she continues her journey living with PTSD…every day