Pain, betrayal and solidarity: A personal perspective
I was lucky. I never had sex with any of the undercover cops or spies I’ve known. I’ve never fallen in love with them, never planned a future together, never thought they were “the one”. I can’t imagine the pain, the betrayal, the feeling of being “raped by the state” as one woman put it. I cannot put into words the respect I feel for all the people bringing the case against the cops, and the bravery of the women sacrificing their anonymity to fully describe the impact of what has happened to them.
However, I have loved them in different ways. I have let them into my life. I have respected, socialised and been on the streets with them. I’ve formed close friendships, shared intimate secrets. Some of them have met my family. Some held my baby and brought him presents. My therapist always asks where I feel the pain. Right now it is in my stomach, deep in my gut; utter painful sickness, vicious bile leaving a foul taste and hatred for all the bastards who have done to this to me and so many of my friends.
There is also sickness for what is yet to come. This isn’t the end, and so many of us are faced with the prospect of years of discovery or confirmation that friends and/or lovers were undercover. Not only is this is a painful thought, it’s an exhausting one as well – the thought of this never ending roller coaster of grief, of feeling as though someone close to you has died.
We all knew there were undercover cops amongst us, we all knew we were being spied on in one way or another. However, I can’t stress how little difference this knowledge brings to finding out someone you were close to was spying on you, reporting on you, and betraying you.
I also can’t express how important it is these revelations are coming out, and the depth of the operation against so many people is being exposed. We need to know who these bastards were, and we need to get their names and faces into the public domain. But it isn’t easy, and the psychological impact is massive.
A vast range of people have been deeply affected and traumatised by these revelations, ranging from the horrific spying and attempt to smear the Stephen Lawrence family, spying on groups exposing police brutality and corruption, animal rights groups, environmental groups, anti-war groups. The list goes on, but all were targeted because of their desire for social change.
I watched the Dispatches on undercover policing cuddling my old blue teddy bear. I won this bear in a raffle at school over thirty years ago. It was on a day when we had to watch a schools programme which always terrified me. I was so pleased to have won him, because it meant I could hide behind him during the show, he protected me, and as the Dispatches credits rolled, I knew I had to have him with me.
Admitting this, and reading it back feels weak and pathetic compared to the amazing strength of everyone who spoke out, but it’s important to get these feelings out in the open. It’s important to recognise the impact this has on people, to give these feelings credence, to own them.
Whilst I’m glad the ex police whistleblower has spoken out, it was grating to hear how easily he had accessed support for PTSD when I know how hard it’s been to get treatment as an activist. We have to take mental health issues seriously, we have to support one another, and devise our own structures to ensure this happens. Our strength is in our solidarity, and this is something they can never break.