Life On the Other Side Of A Hashtag: Families Of The Detained
Your home is your private place for recuperation, your sanctuary to retreat to, a safe self-made fairy-light ridden haven, cave or fort. A place all the stressors of the big bad world melt away. For most people, this is the one place where you get to choose who enters your space. Imagine, you’re having a moment of privacy, whatever that may be, in your home in the dark of the night, and you’re disturbed by a highly charged rude awakening. Loud bangs at the door so strong you can hear the crackling of the wood as it splits in the middle. Your anxiety is triggered tenfold, questions racing through your mind: who can it be? Shouts from behind the door, you worry in your rage and British etiquette how embarrassing all this racket is, what will the neighbors say? With one final push, they are in your home.
THEY ARE SCALING THE ROOMS LIKE ALSATIAN DOGS ON THE HUNT FOR MEAT.
They find you in your bedroom half-dressed, feeling vulnerable, with no way to protect yourself. Fear engulfs your stomach and you can feel the acid and bile reach your mouth. They slam you to the ground face down. All you can hear is shouting. They’re all dressed in black, like a matrix re-run. You hear yourself ask, I see the stories on the news, I read the cases online, why me? You are whisked away into a van, semi-clothed in the freezing cold, and taken to a police station for further questioning. You are extremely tired after a long day, your nerves are shot, you’re heavily confused and full of fear as to what is to come next, held without answers for hours, held for questioning for more, your body begins to cave. You find out you are not charged with anything, you are being released, it was something to do with a family member, someone you relied on; the charges laid against him have not been mentioned to you. All you now know is a life of fear, without answers.
Looking over your shoulder at any given moment, more so that you’re back in your now unsafe shelter. Expecting another bang at the door at all times, never at rest. You cannot sleep, even after your GP prescribed multiple combinations of anxiety, PTSD and sleeping pills. This causes hallucinations; the stress is causing you to lose your hair. The reality sets in, your brother, your pillar of support, your financial provider, your friend, your solace and protector is now gone. You miss him, a great deal, your bank account has been frozen, your papers taken, no way to access the benefits going into your account, how are you going to keep up with the rent, the electricity bills? You ask yourself, will I have to choose between eating and heating? You cannot even help yourself out as you cannot find work anywhere, all employers have blackballed you. Your name has been dragged through the mud; journalists call your phone all day long, every ring a trigger of more anxiety ringing in your head reminding you of that first night. You’re unsure how they even got your number or address. The intrusive crowd outside your home looking for answers as to why you are linked to such a high profile criminal?
EVERYONE IS USING YOUR NAME AS A HASHTAG WITHOUT KNOWING THE TRUTH.
Your tight-knit group of friends isolate and ostracize you. They don’t believe you – or even if they do, they don’t want to be associated with any of it, they don’t want the ‘stigma’. Some of your relatives are no different. They wouldn’t dare handing you cash or transferring money to you to help, in case they will be dragged into your story. You watch them from afar, on social media, all the gatherings they have together, all the parties, sharing food, and religious festivities. You are alone, isolated and still afraid, no one there to hold your hand. You can’t visit your brother because he’s in a prison cell 200 miles away in a remote area in another city. You can’t pull together funds for a train ride. You are worried about his health and mental well being, if you’re this afraid, he must be terrified. You find solace in hearing about others online who bravely share how they too have been abandoned by all they once knew, and found the light at the end of it.
12 months later, light. You finally have a bit of financial support, a hand to hold, counselors you can trust, key workers ready to take you to visit your family, you’ve even met a few friends, through the aid and support of HHUGS, the only UK registered charity to help someone as isolated as you. You’re still kept in the dark; the stories in the newspapers die down to everyone else, but to you, they are published online, your name stained forever, lingering in your air like the stench of damp. The hashtag and discussions die down, you are able to walk out of your house without people infringing on your personal space or calling you names, only a faint few bullies that you now can cope with. Time to build again, the life of the guilty until proven innocent.