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'I was abused by Samantha Knight's killer. Now's he's been released, I can't escape the sightings.'

This post deals with sexual abuse and could be triggering for some readers. 

Mum of two Lisa Giles was just five years old when she was sexually abused by family friend Michael Guider, who she then referred to as ‘Uncle Mick.’

Guider later pleaded guilty to the abuse of Lisa and 12 other children between 1980 and 1996. 

Subsequently he pleaded guilty to the 1986 manslaughter of nine-year-old Samantha Knight whose body has never been found. 

He was jailed for 17 years and, despite the objections of Lisa, the rest of his victims, and Samantha’s family, he was released in September last year. 

Now, Lisa must navigate his freedom...

***

Hello, I’m Lisa Giles. Last year I read out a lengthy 40 minute statement to the NSW Supreme Court to try to stop our old family friend, Michael Guider from being released into the community after his multiple concurrent sentences had been completed. 

Hedley Thomas worked with me in the weeks leading up to the court hearing to shape my public emergence with this article

Unfortunately, Justice Richard Button decided that Guider had exhausted everything the prison system could offer and he was released in early September 2019 with a series of heavy restrictions.

Watch: 60 Minutes on how Samantha Knight's killer was allowed to walk free. Post continues below.


Video via Nine

As you can imagine, I am a person who often has extremely niche conversations about dark topics, and I must navigate intricately nuanced relationships. 

My trauma story curls up beside me snoring on this wintry afternoon like an antisocial pug with little dog syndrome. It takes even me some gumption to approach this beast.

So let me just reach up and get the rule book down from the Shelves of Life for how to handle the feelings that arise from finding out exactly where your childhood abuser lives right now, in the community after being released from jail in spite of the danger he poses.

This happened last night. I read about how members of the public walked past him and said hello to him in the street, as you would say to anyone you pass on a morning walk. 

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He's not as far away as we might like to imagine.

Is it true? I don’t know. 

Did I want to know where he lived? Yes. Of course! No. Not really. Yes. Absolutely.

These surreal kinds of events happen quite a lot. 

Of course, I know Guider was released. I was recently notified that he had been moved to his permanent housing, so I knew in an abstract way that this had occurred. 

But having a pinpoint location leads one to build a little diorama. Add the beach, some gorgeous scenery, laughing children and people in a state of relaxation and my nervous system goes into overdrive.

I have no road map for this. No degree can teach me how to chart this complexity. 

So I wait a little, gather information, fastidiously and as thoroughly as I dare. I try to get a sense for how I want to conduct myself once I have this info. 

I turn it upside down, inside out, I use every inch of insight, hindsight, and foresight that I have in my arsenal, all the time. 

I try to skim a little self-esteem off the top for myself, but my hypervigilance is my intrepid velcro personal assistant, always alert, always mapping out a ‘what if?’ flowchart. 

Followed closely by the old cronie behind me with the wooden spoon who pokes me, and cuffs me over the head, judging me harshly on every move I make to be more visible. And don't worry, I’ve got my eye on the both of them. Their positions with me are being reviewed.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. Post continues below. 

But I’m not ok today. I’m trying to describe how it feels right now while I’m reeling. I got some new information. It might be true, it might not be. It’s the kind of knowledge that means nothing - and means so much more than nothing.

My inner child just wants to grab my mum’s saucepan and a metal spoon and clang my pot, sounding an alarm like the newspaper boy’s whistle, up and down the street before dawn. 

To remind everybody, every day, that danger is in town. Hear me now! Do not press snooze! We cannot fall asleep on this!

How can we stop him collectively from falling under the radar? Please - let me know your thoughts. I am largely in a bubble and I can’t do this on my own. As a survivor of the abuse, even though I know better, at times I have to work to conjure the sense of value I might bring to the public forum with my stories and experiences.

For others who don’t understand the fuss - if you think that this is just the cogs of the law turning, and you put your utmost faith in that system - let me kindly (at first) usher you to the exit door. 

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Especially if you weren’t in the courtroom last year, watching the giant folders of paper move about the room, and the nonverbal game of chess that played out in front of you; with what is not said just as loud as the words you can hear. 

It’s like commenting at a funeral for a loved one that they would have died at some point anyway. It’s offensive and simplistic.

Even just the bones of the justice that is prevailing right now is irrationally unbalanced. 

Forever more, Michael Guider, part of the government’s corrections machine, will never go hungry. 

He’ll never want for medical care. He’ll have a roof over his head for the rest of his life, and the secret satisfaction that his name is in the press - forever - for the life he once lived. 

The one he quite enjoyed, and will be arrogant enough to think he deserves again. 

He got special treatment in jail by escaping common areas and not having to share a cell. He got privacy. Protection. A sense of territory, however small. 

Still, no one has tried to circumvent the sense of entitlement he will carry until he dies. 

We as survivors and their families need to attempt the impossible - to shed the shame and fear of ridicule and elbow our way into the space that is permanently held for the hyped up stories about him, of how scary and masterful he was.

Why? 

To fight back. 

To stop the detachment that is so easy for us to adopt when we talk about such extreme events, with such notorious mythology behind them. 

We need to remember that real living people and their self esteems are warped and hurt by the constant shame of being associated with this story. 

We can hear the gasps of the community and absorb them as though we had been the cause of all this ourselves. We can spend our whole lives believing we must play smaller so as not to cause a ruckus, and I can no longer accept that to be my fate too.

I was shocked to receive the information of Guider’s location. 

Finding out this way is brutal and disruptive. Not knowing whether it’s true is one thing. Then there’s the flow on. 

Who breaks the maybe/maybe not news to my family if it’s not me? How do I tend to my own wounds, while breaking it to them and at the same time shield myself from their emotional shrapnel?

Do the current protocols for this kind of prisoner release take into account the likely release of information on social media, such as the location of Guider? 

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If it is revealed, does he get moved again and again for the sake of his protection? And what of the sightings identified in the comments section? What is the fate of the stranger targeted as Guider’s unwitting doppelganger?

The current imbalanced protocol contributes to this sense of ‘protection for the prisoner at all costs’ - even the price of the continued personal uncertainty and, frankly - the condescension of people like me. 

The lack of a cohesive message that might be sent out in response to discovering this info from the Supervision Team or the like, to the victims, makes it very easy to mishandle in the public forum. How can they possibly keep up with this?

Survivors of this perp need to know where he is. 

It's our turn to have the ball in our court so that we can make informed choices about how we conduct our lives. 

No matter where he is, it seems, someone will find him, and out him. Is this what we all need to come to terms with, including him? 

Survivors should never be relegated to the realm of society that must lay low and play small. 

We are individuals living as hard as we can, raising children while we parent our own inner children. 

The work is never ending. It is extra work. And we persist alongside these surreal kinds of questions that are part of everyday life: When will we next see our perpetrator, parachuting into our lives via the media, and now, on an unofficial level, on social media? 

When next will the “No Caller ID” appear on our phones that tells us we are about to have a very important and difficult conversation, and afterwards hang up the phone to make sense of the partial and filtered information that we receive? 

Each time we travel or leave our main locale, we are supposed to call Victims Services and find out if where we plan to go has any proximity to where our favourite perpetrator lives, so we can change our plans to avoid him. 

Can you see how he trickles through the everyday?

So. What am I to do with my 'big feelings'? Ultimately, I have myself to answer to. The person I want to try to be. 

I guess that’s where I’ll start. I’ll be here, holding the hand of my younger self as we clang our bally pot and hope that you’ll listen. 

Because now there is my voice - thrown into the ring to challenge the misery that can feel so perpetual with each new reminder of this heinous criminal. 

Uncle Mick - do you think you can live the same life hiding in plain sight? Do you think you can weave another web with as much hubris as the last one?

Never. Never again!

Feature Image: Supplied.

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