assault

Angel Lucy [Disability advocacy is a long and uphill road, but this is why it is important to have laws in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities and differences against discrimination, because it cannot be left to the sole discretion of individuals in society to treat differently abled and diverse members with respect, kindness and dignity. Imagine the same scenario where there is no avenue for complaint and no laws to make sure that such attitudes and actions are strictly discouraged? After this experience, I am even more filled with admiration for disability advocates in my home country, where there is no enforcement against this kind of bigotry and discrimination, and I applaud their tireless efforts to educate and champion the cause of inclusivity. I also thank Cath Phillips and Gayl O’Grady from mindDog Australia, who have been supporting Lucy and me in wonderful ways. MindDog is not merely a service dog organisation, we are a family!]

I was assaulted last night. No, thankfully not physically, but it was a shocking and humiliating verbal attack, and from someone whose duty is to protect and keep me safe. A senior security officer on duty. (In case anyone might jump into the wrong conclusions that this was a racist attack by a bigoted Australian, I’d like to state that this man is Asian, and spoke with an accent that sounded like he is from the Philippines. I have heard so much negative criticism against Australians that are absolutely contrary to my own positive personal experiences, and I feel I needed to clarify this detail here, so as to prevent misinterpretation.)

Although dizzy and exhausted from the experience, I was unable to sleep till 3am, and even then, it was distraught and fitful. Lucy was very brave. She remained calm throughout, though I knew she was affected by the shouting and vitriolic drama. I was aware from her body language and expression that she sensed my fear, and I am grateful that she stayed close by me throughout, quietly but intensely observing me and behaving with utmost decorum. Lucy had nightmares too. Usually, when she has nightmares, she would whimper, but last night, she was growling in a menacing tone that I had never heard before. I am still suffering from the after effects. I could not get out of bed, I was literally frozen in that one foetal position. I could sense Lucy cuddling up to me and she remained in physical contact throughout. This is again a departure from the norm. We both do not like being touched when we are sleeping, and after our goodnight cuddles, we like sleeping separated by some physical space, though we sometimes reach out for brief cuddles now and then. This time, Lucy stayed in the same position, leaning on me throughout, and she did not make a sound or move, even when I knew she had woken up and was watching me intently, waiting for me to wake.

I was happy yesterday that the autoimmune pain levels were subsiding. After this experience, however, my body plunged back into the abyss of physical torment. It was an excruciating struggle to move my limbs and get out of bed. I had to place a hand on Lucy for balance, but we made it outside at last, an hour and half later than usual, for our early morning walk. My girl is such an angel.

My mind is still in foggy disarray, so I shall quote from my email report to the relevant authorities about the incident. No, I will not allow this to go away quietly without protest. This matter has important repercussions on several levels, and as an advocate for inclusivity, it is incumbent on me to highlight this travesty and seek address and redress.

A few key points have solidified in my mind:

Why did this security officer raise his voice at me from the very start, even before I was able to utter a single word?

Why did this security officer refuse to hear my explanation?

Why did this security officer refuse to look at my documentary proof of Lucy as my service dog?

Why did this security officer walk away from me, while continuing to shout at me and accuse me of being in infringement of regulations?

If I was indeed considered a valid threat to security, why did he not conduct a proper investigation to ascertain the truth?

Why did this security officer deliberately humiliate me in front of fellow tenants?

One of his many illogical claims later on (when I confronted him at the Security Office, in the presence of the other security officer) was that he thought I was a visitor who had brought my dog into the building. If this is so, why did he not take the time and effort to properly question me and check for proof of identity etc?

This man is a menace and threat to the very security that he is charged to maintain. He does not have a suitable mindset for such a position of serious responsibility, especially not in a university environment, where, together with safety and wellbeing, a strong sense of acceptance for diversity and inclusivity ought to be vigorously upheld. I hope that he is removed from this post and I need never encounter him or those of his ilk on campus again. Here is the report I sent to the Manager of my building, the Student Equity and Disabilities Unit, and the central Security Office.

———

Date: April 8, 2014 1:33:13 AM GMT+10:00
I would like to make a report about a seriously disturbing encounter I had with the security supervisor on duty on the evening of Monday 7 April 2014, at around 8.40pm.
The first part of this incident took place at the lift lobby, west entrance, of University Terraces, and then later at the security office, Gate 2.
At around 8.40pm, I was walking out of the lift lobby with Lucy, my service dog, just as a man in a yellow campus security uniform was entering. There were several other people coming and going at the same time. The man pointed at Lucy and raised his voice at me, saying very loudly and roughly that dogs are not allowed in the building. I politely explained to him that Lucy is my service dog and I have permission for her to be with me. I also explained that Lucy was not wearing her Service Dog jacket because it was drenched by the rain earlier in the day, and I offered to show him the identification card. However, he did not wish to listen and did not want to look at any documents I had in hand. He roughly waved me aside, and continued to reprimand me in a loud voice as he walked into the lift. As the lift door was closing, he shouted again that there is no record whatsoever of any permission being granted for a service dog and I had no right to bring my dog into the building. This was heard by everyone in the vicinity.
In a state of shock and utterly humiliated, I proceeded immediately to the Campus Security Office at Gate 2, to make a report. The security officer at the desk was very kind and helpful. I was very shaken, extremely anxious and physically trembling, but the officer at the desk patiently waited for me to regain my composure, listened to me as I recounted my experience, and helped me fill in the report form. I am most grateful to this security officer.
As I was leaving the Security Office, the said person returned, and again, raised his voice at me in a tirade of admonishment. I tried to explain my situation to him, but he was most defensive and it was impossible to communicate logically and amiably at all. In the end, he shouted an ‘apology’ at me, and walked away. He refused to divulge his name, and the other security officer was reluctant to do so, but he told me the man is ‘the Supervisor.’
One of the primary functions of Security Services, as stated in the UNSW website, is “the protection of all people within the University.” (http://www.facilities.unsw.edu.au/security-safety/about-unsw-security-services)
At the same time, Lucy has been approved for access to UNSW, and is now officially a Trainee Service Dog, with MindDog Australia, in which case, access to public spaces, services and transport is guaranteed by the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which is implemented by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
I fully understand that security staff have the right and duty to question anyone who they may deem as behaving suspiciously, and I am happy to provide documentary proof for my right of access with Lucy as my service dog. I have had very pleasant experiences with security staff thus far, at COFA as well as here in the main campus, and I am always happy to answer any questions not only to clarify my status but also as a chance for some advocacy.
However, this person repeatedly raised his voice at me, insisted that I have no permission to bring my service dog into the building without even bothering to wait for me to produce documentation, and deliberately intimidated and shamed me in public. This is not only unacceptable behaviour for a security officer on duty, but also an act of disability discrimination (because of my need for a service dog).
Security Services reiterate that they are the first contact point for any incident and emergency on campus, but I am now in fear of this security officer – I feel threatened and afraid for my own safety, unsure of what repercussions I may suffer as a result of this frightening and humiliating confrontation.
I seek your advice on how to carry this matter to a proper and satisfactory resolution.
– Update: The relevant authorities have been most prompt in their action following my report, and very kind at the same time. The issue has been resolved, and our meeting was cordial and constructive. I have been reassured that this will not happen again, and although all the other security staff I have met were very friendly towards Lucy, it was agreed that mechanisms need to be put in place to better inform everyone about procedures regarding the presence of dogs on campus. I understand that being the very first one, there are bound to be hiccups, and expressed the hope that more people will take up service dogs in the future. I very much appreciate the inclusive culture of my university, and am encouraged to continue advocating so that others may benefit from my small contributions.
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2 thoughts on “assault

  1. Any time you need support let me know. A petition might help. It will get signed by quite a few online. How that guy has a job, i can’t imagine. Perhaps he was bitten by a dog as a small child. In any case it is NOT RIGHT. He sounds delusional and just plan MEAN.

    • Thank you so much for your support! The relevant authorities have stepped up very promptly to help me and I am meeting this afternoon with the manager of security to discuss this. My university has thus far shown very strong commitment towards maintaining an inclusive environment and I am glad to have this level of support here. As for the errant person in question, I too wonder how someone like this could still have a decent job at all. He even boasted that he raises his voice at all his subordinates all the time, and there is nothing wrong with behaving this way towards everyone! Delusional indeed. I could literally feel his subordinate cringing. I am doing this because I don’t wish anyone else with disabilities, perhaps even more severe than mine, to suffer this kind of abuse and discrimination. Thanks again for your support! I will keep everyone updated on my progress. 🙂

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