Heather McWilliam on The MAGIK of YOU Podcast
Kristin: Welcome to episode one. Today we have Heather William, founder of Brave Inspires Brave.
Shwetabh: Thanks Heather for joining in. Why don't we start with you telling us about WHY you became became a police officer.
Heather: Thanks for having me. I became a police officer. It's so cliche because I really just wanted to serve and protect people. Growing up, my friends were experiencing a lot of difficulties, and I just really enjoyed wanting to keep people safe and ensuring that they were well taken care of and that it's just really so simple. Sometimes when you have that calling,
Kristin: it was something you knew from a really young age.
Heather: Yeah. So my father was a police officer, and I really looked up to what it was that he was doing. And even when I was a young girl, I was actually involved in one of the investigations. So it always piqued my interest to know what was going on and how they were able to protect people.
Kristin: And would you say that your parents supported you having a police officer then?
Heather: Yeah. I would say they didn't sway my choice. Either way, they always supported me and everything I did. And it was just like a natural transition that I went from in high school to becoming a police officer. That was my sole purpose that I felt like was my calling, and I applied and it just went from there.
Kristin: Yeah. I love that you touched on your soul's calling or your purpose. We talk about that always with the magic of you. And I think that once you find that you're just driven to do whatever it takes to get there. So I'm sure you were pretty proud and happy once you had actually successfully become a police officer. I can imagine.
Heather: Yeah. When you decide what you're going to do in life, sometimes it's not always clear, right. You always hear about people not having that direct voice within themselves to know what they want to do. But for me, it was very clear, and there was no other path that I.. the only other path I would say that I thought about was going into psychology because I did enjoy the behavior of others and understanding it. So I guess the two of those went kind of hand in hand, and I felt brave enough I guess at that time that I would be able to be a police officer and hope that I would be able to live up to what the community would need from me. K; Yeah. I hear you.
Shwetabh: Yeah. It looks like you connected with the magic of it really early in life. So why don't you tell us about your experience with the police and the police Department that led you to this landmark human rights case against them?
Heather: Yeah. So I started my career very early, like we talked about at a young age I knew. And then I joined with the RCMP in Canada. So that's Canada's National Police force. And so after that, there was a lot of high risk situations that I was early on met with. And so I really felt like I was a good fit for the job. I responded well to situations where there was a lot of physical, so to speak, fear. As a police officer, there was a lot of different shootings happening and high speed car chases. And there was a lot of things going on early on in my career that I really truly felt like this was my calling. And so from there, I had transitioned to the Toronto Police Service to be closer to my family within Canada. And once I changed to Toronto Police Service, it felt like a very different workplace. And early on, I started noticing a lot of different comments that were being made that were sexualized within my workplace. And even though I was successful with being a police officer and being able to manage very complex, high profile investigations as well as training other police officers, there was still what was going on within the workplace that I was not okay with. And I was not comfortable with.
Kristin: And how does that make you feel? I can imagine, but just having to be so put on that uniform at work and get the job done. But then kind of being unraveled in the workplace.
Heather: Yeah. You really have to stay very focused as a police officer. I put the community and the protection of them first. They were my priority. So I would put myself absolutely last as a police officer. And I think many police officers do that. I think they don't realize what's going on around them internally, because when we have to respond to high risk situations, we can't be thinking about ourselves in the workplace. So it became so normalized. And it was just accepted the moment I had joined the trial police Service that I really didn't know that no other workplace wasn't like this. I almost had thought that at the time, I think just due to how old I was and the lack of experience I had outside of policing was that these were the people that had the most integrity because they were police officers. And so what were other places workplaces must be like. I always wondered, this was it. There was nothing that could be any different.
Kristin: And so is like policing or at least the policing Department that you work in, like, much more male dominated, then?
Heather: Yeah. So it is very male dominated.
Kristin: So it must have been hard, I guess, for women to sort of speak their truth and stand in their power.
Heather: Yeah. It was like generations of women who had it affected them in different ways. But everyone had learned a different coping mechanism for it. So some women responded back to it with their own jokes to the sexual harassment or they revulgar in their responses. My response was to be quiet and walk away and try and disengage and hope that they would understand that I did not want to have these conversations, nor did I approve of the way that they were speaking to me and other women. But it became almost like a joke to others and a game not to everyone, but those that didn't were very afraid within the hierarchy of the police culture. Just to add to that, I noticed it happening to other police women, and I was starting to subconsciously realize that what their responses were to it. And so as much as I was doing investigations that were public, I was also subconsciously keeping note of everything that was happening within my workplace because it made me feel so uncomfortable. And I was witnessing the deterioration of other women experiencing it from those who had been there for more time on the me and those that were coming on junior and I could see all the differences just because I watched behaviors right as police officers. Some of us are paying more attention to that.
Kristin: Yeah. You said you would have gone into perhaps psychology, if not, that makes a lot of sense to me. And then you're trained as a police officer to take notes, so I could see that even if it's subconscious that you started to really evaluate what was happening.
Heather: Yes. Not that I thought that I was actually going to do anything with it. It was just almost for my own protection. I was trying to really manage which officers were harmful and which ones weren't. And it was almost for my own protection, but then eventually progressed to get very much, a lot worse. And I was sexually assaulted by a supervisor and then my supervisor's Police supervisors continue to actually harass me when I was asking them to stop. And so I was being offered positions that were positions that not a lot of women got offered. So in the drug squad, in the homicide unit, on various investigations, and I was being now denied those roles. And it was right after I had stood up for myself for the asking for the sexual harassment to stop.
Shwetabh: So the police Department is something that we look up to to go and seek protection, and obviously it's uncomfortable, and it's super.. I would say it definitely negatively affects our mental health when media being harassed or bullied. But getting harassed by police is a whole different ball game, because they're the ones who you go to, who you go to for protection. And when the other ones were harassing, what do you go to now? So it sounds very intimidating. And with that, I would just like to ask you, what would the big AHA moments OR the things or the incidents that happened to you that told you something is like very severely wrong and it cannot continue this way.
Heather: Yeah. I think the moment for me was there was a sequence of events that occurred in a short period of time with my bosses. I was in the detective's office and I was going to be switching back into uniform because my time in that position was coming to an end. And the person that normally would sort of stand up for me or have this sort of protection around me within the workplace, a boss that was trying to get me out of the workplace to get me into another place. As he was noticing the harm that was occurring to me, it was almost as if there was a few bosses that started sexually harassing me more, and eventually it started threatening my career and saying that they could ruin my career, basically saying if I stood up to them anymore and that's when I had that moment of.. this isn't going to end. I really didn't think I was having a way out. I had always thought that if I got out of this police station that I was working in and worked as hard as I did that somewhere else within the police Department, in the organization, it wouldn't be like this. And so there was one evening on parade where we all come in for work and it was a midnight shift and the staff Sergeant had made a sexual comment after returning a provincial offense notice that I had filled out improperly and said he would thank me later in private.
Heather: And so I was the only female and shift at the time, and no one actually laughed except for the staff Sergeant that evening, and a lot of my colleagues male officer's faces kind of dropped and really didn't know what to say. And it's almost as if they had felt finally what it was that I had felt all the years of all these comments, they had finally realized the effects of sexual abuse on women. And so I left my work that day and as I was trying to leave the station, I contacted another boss within the station and let him know what was happening. And he advised me that I could go home. But it was that soft Sergeant that was following me throughout the station and making me feel quite scared and fearful for my life as to why he was following me, as he knew probably likely I would be putting in a complaint, but to just fast forward a little bit. I went to leave that evening. Finally, after handing out my equipment. I wasn't able to stay on shift that night because of this abuse. And he was waiting at the back door when I went to leave in the dark, and he was standing there in his police uniform with his gun and everything. And I really didn't know what he was going to do in that moment. It was just me and him. And it was very scary. And I went back in the police station and went and found someone that could protect me in the sense of just be a witness to what was happening. And they went and found him and escorted him downstairs to the police station, where I was escorted to my vehicle. And it was a very scary moment, and it was never looked into as what it actually was. I was being prevented from leaving.
Kristin: Wow. It's sort of unbelievable what you had to endure just to stand up for your own basic rights as a woman. And I can't imagine being in that situation. I can imagine being pushed to the edge, though. I think that's a lot of times when people find their voice right, when it's kind of like you keep getting pushed, you keep getting pushed. And then it's like, enough is enough. I need to stand up and protect myself. So good for you for you for stepping into that.
Heather: Thank you so much. It feels like a lifetime ago when you're living in that trauma and that survival mode. I really didn't realize it because all I knew is that I loved my job, and I wanted to be there for the skills that I had. And I wanted to be there for the community. And I wanted to be able to do all the things that I knew I could do for others. And so it prevented me from being able to what I thought at the time to be able to serve and protect others. But in the long run, I was able to serve and protect police, women and other women in different ways that I had never imagined, but then realized that that was my purpose.
Kristin: Yeah. And I think I just got goosebumps because they say that anybody who's in an abusive situation, whether it's like child getting abused or emotional abuse.. you become hyper vigilant, right? It's like what you said you have to start mentally taking notes and being aware of, like, will this person harm me or will they keep me safe? And how can I protect myself and can I still have my basic needs met, like, still have my job and still put food on the table. And so living in a state of hypervigilance is no place for anybody to be. I've watched you for some time now. We're so blessed to have you here, obviously, on the podcast, but to take that stand, I really think you're such a role model not only for women in general, but just everybody who is being forced into that position. We have to change society. We have to do it together. And so we really need people like you stepping into their brave. So thank you again.
Heather: Honestly, it's been quite the experience, and I even find it hard to imagine that I experienced all of what I did. It really is sometimes hard for me to process that I went through it.
Kristin: Yeah. It's almost like a dream, right. Sometimes like a nightmare. But when we're so pushed beyond, and then you just have to step into that survival mode kind of thing, right?
Heather: Yeah. And I noticed, like, so many women going through it, and it was like they don't even notice it either, because they became so hyper vigilant as well to it. Right. We all became normalized by behavior. And when we come normalized by it, then it's just accepted. And so our body adjusts in unhealthy ways in our mind and our physical body. And that's what minded it was adjusting. And then eventually my body got so damaged inside, it started just aching. It was literally speaking to me. And my legs were just aching for what I thought was no reason, but was obviously stress related. And within my mind it was pretty good mentally about trying to keep everything straight in my mind about what was happening around me and how many people were involved with the suppression of women within this workplace. When I left work and I started my leave of absence to heal, I was only met with further abuse and further suppression and further harm and intimidation by the police service. And so the next AHA moment was when I had to speak to the police nurse and to be able to sustain my pay and my benefit. I needed to speak to the nurse as per the procedures within the police Department. And so my doctor had instructed me, and I was seeing a psychologist now and had accepted that into my life as what was now going to protect and keep me safe was now a psychologist and not the police. So that was a transition within itself.
Kristin: Right. Like your mental health was suffering, and now you needed them to support you there.
Heather: Yeah. It was now a transition where I was noticing that the police weren't going to protect me. But doctors were going to protect me. When I contacted the nurse, she told me, what else did you expect? This was a man's world. And she said, you should have known this when you join the job, that it would be like this. And she said, you don't have any other education. What are you going to do with your life
Kristin: from a nurse?
Heather: from a nurse.. And she said, if I don't listen to her and come into the police station to get assessed by their doctor, her bosses would make my life worse. And so I had the vision of if I have to sleep and literally, for some reason, it was like, if I have to sleep in a ditch to never have to go back to this place, I will.. because at that point, it's like you have to choose your life over what's going in to pay you and keep a roof over your head.. it was like I was going to basically need to just survive this in one way or another.
Shwetabh: So sorry that you had to go through this. And thanks for not cracking down. What would you say, Heather, was the final straw for you taking a stand and standing up for yourself. And as we see, it not just myself but all the women and policing.
Heather: Yeah. So as I was going through the human rights Tribunal, I had filed an application against my employer for the abuse for women's rights and disability rights. And they were now coming to my home and they were harassing me at my home and intimidating me there. So I had to flee my home and move across Canada to feel safe throughout this human rights hearing. And I was constantly being met with intimidation tactics. I was being intimidated on social media. I was being intimidated by various different things. They were putting threatening messages on my phone, and they were leaving marks on my door at my residence. And so there was all kinds. They were following me, harassing me, videotating me, stopping me all of these things back and forth for a four year to six year period while I was going back and forth to the human rights Tribunal while 30 police officers were standing against me. The final straw was when my family was being targeted. And so it was not only me that was facing all of this harm because I was standing up for my rights, but because I stood up for my rights, they were now targeting my brother and my family. And so I had tried to go to the police before about what was happening to me, and they refused to help me. So I realized that under the Police Service Act, I couldn't be a victim and that they could just not be transparent about what was happening to me under the Police Service Act, and it wouldn't be public. And then I was also not being able to be protected as a Canadian citizen. So nowhere could I be protected. It was in Canada. And so from that point forward, when I realized that my family was being targeted, I went to the RCMP and filed a police report about everything that they had done to me in the course of that time. And that was my moment of I have to stand up further for what's happening. I had already stood up this far. Now it was.. you're not going to take my family from me. You can take my life from me and you can do what you want. And I will continue to fight for my rights as a human being. But you do not get to take my family's life. And I had a great deal of survivor skills of this was now harming my family and the RCMP tried to reach out to a provincial police service after taking the interview from me. However, they both declined and told me to go back to the Toronto police my abuser and ask them for help.
Kristin: I mean, being a police officer and then you look at who is the victim. It must have just been such a head****. I don't know what else to say that just like now suddenly you're in the role of the victim and then who's actually going to help me? Your head must have been spinning consistently. I can definitely see how this would affect anyone's mental health.. and having to worry about our people following me and tracking my family and then worrying about being a mom alone. I worry for myself, but my family, of course, is my number one concern. So then that's a whole other level of abuse. And I see you getting emotional, Heather, and I just feel so deeply for you, and I just am constantly in awe of you how you keep just stepping up and stepping into your brave, right? And your company brave inspires brave. I think that there couldn't be a better word for it because I'm going to get emotional too. This is what the world needs. This is what people who.. when they try to beat us down, you keep saying like, no, I'll survive this and I'll go through it headstrong. And I'd love to know more. I don't know if Shwetabh you had a question there, but I'd love to know more of how you've handled this from the mental health perspective, because I know you're a huge mental health advocate now.
Shwetabh: The only thing that I would like to add here before Heather continues, is that what made you so brave and give you this trend to go up against the entire system. And you know that this is not just one person. It's like an organized system doing this. So where did you get the coverage from to go against an entire system all by yourself, I think. Did you have more people fighting with you.. more female officers? How did it work out?
Heather: I didn't have any other female officers on my case. I had a team of lawyers that stood up to that calling and the lawyers, Kate Hughes, Nadia Lambeck and Tyler, they were amazing. And the braver I got, the braver they got. And I started noticing that in my journey is that the more I said that this wasn't okay, and the more that I felt that I kept seeing.. like I was getting messages from women or whoever saying this happened to me but I'm too fearful to stand up, right? I need this job because of this because of my family to provide. And I thought, Well, I don't have children right now, and I have a roof over my head because the Workman's compensation had approved that I had been injured on the job, so I had a roof over my head. I had food on my table, and I didn't have to worry about my children because I didn't have any children. So I put all of that into perspective. And they had taken, when you have in life, everything what felt like everything to me at the time taken from me and you're on the ground, and you're in that dark place, like that light hit me within me is that I have one thing right now, and that is to fight for my integrity. It's to fight for my freedom. And there is something that happens when you're in that place, that you go to a place of awakening, and it really lights up what it is inside of us all.. that we can truly overcome, so many things that we think that sometimes that we can't. I really feel like it was a calling. I became very spiritual during this time in isolation, away from a lot of society. I was with my partner at the time, and he is a veteran. He served in the Afghanistan war, and so he had gone to war himself in a very different way. But the mindset that he had, he gave that to me as well. So not only did I have my lawyers, and not only did I have doctors supporting me, I had my family who also believed in what I was standing up for and all the women behind the scenes that wish that they could, but they couldn't. And so when you have a force of people believing in what you're doing, I put myself in the hands of the universe and really said, if this is where I'm supposed to be going, then please show me the way.. I will keep going as long as this is the path I'm supposed to be on. And like, surrendering to my journey is exactly what I did. And sometimes you question it. And I tried everything holistically and I even went to an astrologist because I was so confused at times with my journey, and it reinforced what it was that I was doing and why I was here.
Kristin: I know I've got in a completely different way, but that's that same path when I was just so lost eight years ago and then had to look within and trust the universe. Trust my path and my journey. I know. And I hear that's a big part of yours. And sometimes when it's just for people who are super struggling and unfathomable things like this, it's just that faith. I love that you said that just that kind of light within you that you know, that there's some hope, there is hope and there's a bigger plan for us sometimes.. you may have been the only strong one within that system that could ever have stood up to this. And I know now that I've seen lots of other police women kind of rallying in the same fight that you continue to be on. Right?
Heather: yes, I am very much still on that journey. And just to go back to the spiritual part, it wasn't all about space. I had to keep and preserve my physical health and my mental health. And so with my physical health was I tried acupuncture. I did a lot of that to balance out all of the places within my body that were being harmed, so to speak, my organs that needed to be rejuvenated as well. With that was Chinese medicine. I did Ayurvedic medicine. I became a Reiki practitioner and experienced what Reiki was and the energy and how the transfer of what that felt like. And so there were so many different things. I eventually tried CBD and being able to take down the inflammation within my body because some people in my life at the time knew about all the benefits of these things. I was really in yoga meditation and trying to figure out how to meditate. I had no idea about all of these things that are in different parts of the world. Coming from Canada. I grew up in a small town. My parents didn't know about these things. My family, my friends. It was all new to me. It's not new to people around the world, but it was all new to me, but within books and videos and meditation, like all of the things out there to change your mindset. I was investigating what the world knew that I didn't know and how to save my own life.
Kristin: It's not the typical visual to see, like a police in her uniform, from sitting in like a Namaste pose.
Heather: No, that's not hard from harming someone else out on the street shooting someone and doing implications. Right. But I needed to save myself. And this is the way I was going to save myself. It wasn't going to be from the police.
Kristin: And it sounds like they don't have any systems like that in place, right. If they're not teaching police officers to meditate, for example, which has provided proven scientific evidence to help the nervous system and so many other things, doing yoga and all of these practices that can really help to keep an individual, like, more balanced. And I understand and know that you're actually working on some workshops and some various different projects to sort of evolve policing.
Heather: Yeah. I think it's so important. All of the ways in which the world has evolved or some of the ways in which different parts of the world have evolved. Policing hasn't. As working as a police officer, I know how.. we all know how people can hide things as the way they want to control mindset in different ways and where they want people to behave. And really, what policing, I believe needs is they need all the experts in the world to go in there and help police officers maintain a healthy mind, help maintain a physical, healthy body and keep yourself aligned while you're responding and reacting to traumatic situations all the time, drinking and doing things that are perpetuating illness within the body and not clearing the mind to be able to stay sound and be able to recognize how important our integrity is as a police officer are all a part of the reasons why we need to implement experts, expert coaches and all of the things into policing and just allowing them to come in and be transparent so that we can protect police officers just like they protect us..
Kristin: 100%. I think the world now with COVID, we've all had this experience of, like, our nervous system is being shocked, so I can't imagine then.. having to be a police officer.. and probably what they're on top of it dealing with now with COVID, but just I have that relation now. Like, yeah, when your nervous system is shocked, you cannot be at your optimal, right? Which is what sounds like we need from police officers, right? When they're chasing bad guys and working on cases, it's super exceptional what you're doing in this field of policing
Shwetabh: to me or to anyone who listens to this, it's going to be pretty unbelievable on having a story about a police officer being in those situations every single day for, like, years. I'm wondering how many people are going through such kind of bullying and systematic oppression if I can call it the lack of a better word. What do you have as a suggestion for those people, Heather, who probably are suffering now are getting bullied by the system, not by just another person, because that's a totally different ballgame, but by a system because.. when it's a system doing that, like you say how they were multidimensional strategic attacks, strategically put into place to kind of make you do things that they would want you to do. So that affects you in ways that some one person bullying you wouldn't. What suggestions do you have for people who are going through that and especially for someone who is going through that all by themselves and are all alone?
Heather: Yes. I appreciate this question because we have no statistics on how many people are actually going through the system, right. And how many people have been affected by the system and what are the short and long term effects on themselves and on their family from going through the system? That's supposed to help us. Right. And I just want to say I was really lucky to have such a strong mother going through this. She has been my support and going through the systems. And so I think that having a really strong support person is definitely hugely beneficial because throughout the entire process, it was mainly about prioritizing what it was that needed to be done next. So, yes, I had been intimidated and I was being further abused and further harmed. And I was afraid every day that the police were going to do something to possibly take my life. But I had to focus on what the next best step was. Every single time, I couldn't focus on the harm that was happening to me, because that would have made me be in a freeze mode in my response. Fight or freeze. If I did go into the freeze response, I needed to get out of it as soon as possible. I really needed to make sure that I was prioritizing what it was for the next best step. So whether that was responding to the next email or contacting another lawyer or seeing what all the avenues were and who really was on your side and who was ready to find a way to get to point A to point B without seeing the ways in which we couldn't get there. So I was rounding up the people that were like, if there's a will, there's a way we're going to get there. And those people that were like, I think this is too difficult. I don't think you can do this. Maybe you should just become a women's rights advocate. What was said to me by a human rights mediator or telling me that I had no evidence those were just people just giving me their opinion. And so I had to really trust what it was that I felt inside of me and say that's their opinion, that is not exactly the answer that's going to be at the end of the road
Kristin: Like that tribe that I talk about all the time, right? Your vibe attracts your tribe. I think they say you're only as good as the five top people you surround yourself. With and I made that change about eight years ago in my life, right. If people aren't there supporting you, then it's like, okay, thanks. But I really don't need that in my life. And I think that for anybody. I love that you touched on that for any challenging times. Having the people who support your vision and are in it with you have your back. I think it's night and day, and it's so hard for so many people to kind of really drastically shift your life.
Heather: Yeah. And sometimes those people questioned it, and I had to be more forceful about how much I really believed in what I was doing and how I could. I really tried to manifest at the time. I really didn't know what manifesting was. But as I look back, perhaps that's what I was doing. I was really envisioning what the finish line was going to be. And so with that, it really helped my mindset, right? I wasn't focused on not so to speak, quote, unquote winning. But I was focused on the end game and what the results would look like and how people would look at it in the end and not what was happening in between.
Kristin: Yeah. Wow. I definitely think people look at you as a hero now as the journey still continues.
Heather: Thank you. I think that I was just on my journey and I couldn't have done it without the universe is how I see it, and without everyone else's brave, because truly, when my brave wasn't always brave every day, other people's brave inspired me. So it's truly a back and forth effect with that. And I truly believe we're all heroes of our own journey. I do want to say that growing up, I always thought it was police officers who were the heroes or firefighters, and yes, they are. But I really believe that every single human can be the hero of their own journey in life. And so that's a big message for me is that I want everyone to have those tools and those superpowers to be able to be so resilient in their own life.
Shwetabh: And since you have been a hero all this while Heather being a part of the system and then going against it, winning a human rights case, what do you see today as the most critical issues within the police work culture that needs to be addressed right away?
Heather: So this has been going on for generations within police culture. So the hierarchy is those at the top have witnessed it or been a part of the problem for many, many years and decades. And so they're not going to be the ones that turn around and point the finger at other people when perhaps they've been not so good themselves within the culture and perpetuating it. So right now, we need to focus on the next generation and ensuring that they are aware of what the past has been and what the future needs to be so in creating that change, it needs to start circulating within the culture and so that they can be more prepared for what can arise. And I feel that even in my journey, had I known what the culture was like, I could have been more prepared to know how to deal with it in a confident way.. that's one.. and the other one would be so under the Police Service Act within Canada. And I'm sure other police services may be like this as well. There's a lack of transparency and internal investigations. So whatever happens in the police culture stays in the police culture. And that needs to change, because as a victim, as a police officer under the service act, like I said before, I couldn't be a victim. So with that, when I signed on the dotted line and I was accountable to take my oath, I did not know that. So that wasn't told to me, and it's not told to anyone. But when you're a victim, as a citizen, there's transparency and you have a say in which way the investigation may unfold as to whether charges are laid or not and what the repercussions may be within the internal investigation. And there's no transparency. You don't have a say and the information will never be public. So the information is then suppressed. And basically, it kind of never really happened to the outside world when it's put into that type of investigation. And so that's what happened with mine. And that's what they want to do again, when I was making a complaint as a citizen. And from there it went to an external body for the sexual assault, the SIU - Special Investigations Unit, to which again, they also conducted a negligent investigation. After I heard the interviews, and without going into too much detail, there was again negligible investigations, like I said, within the police Service internal Investigations, Special Investigations Unit, there's no transparency. And so with that, they can do what they want and protect those that they want to protect, so that women and or anyone else that they don't want, things known, it can be hidden. And that is not something in today's world.. that should be a part of our world. We are all out there being very public in different ways. And for the police service to not be transparent is very lacking integrity within the service itself, more so than using it to protect the system. I think it's failing victims.
Kristin: Yeah. Sounds like you've learned so much about the law system, the legal system.
Heather: I've learned so much about all of those systems that work interchangeably. And so that's kind of like a superpower right now that I have. And I don't know if I take it for granted because I'm so used to it now because I've gone through the systems. It's interesting, because when I started the journey, I really thought about victims of sexual assaults who go to court and how many unfounded or how many times that the accused isn't convicted and truly what the victim, the everyday citizen, doesn't know about what evidence needs to be proven and how it needs to be proven and how the judges see the symptoms of the victim on the stand. The amount of time that it's just to go into this a little bit is that the judge will see the victim on the stand. Let's say, for at the most an hour to a couple of hours, and their symptoms may be very high in the spectrum of trauma. They may be seeing their abuser for the first time. They may be having a lot of anxiety. They may have had nightmares the night before, they may not have been able to sleep. And so that comes off in different ways to the judge to which they're perceiving, perhaps as being not Truthful or not telling all of the truth. And so when I had an expert psychologist take the stand and talk about my symptoms, that helped me and gave me more credibility. So there are so many ways in which victims I feel can be supported better in the criminal justice system if their offenses were taken as seriously as other offenses.
Kristin: Right. Well, I just see so much change that you're sprinkling all over.
Heather: Yeah. I mean, when I went through it, like I said, I thought so many women have gone through this system, and you know what? I'm going to go through it, too. And I really at that time was going through it with a police officer lens and as well as a victim and a survivor lens. And I was really able to see through the parts in which there were gaps. And that was a big part of the journey was really seeing the gaps that no one has really been able to see, because you don't go through the system as a police officer normally, and you don't have the information from the other side as a citizen.
Kristin: Yeah. How true! How amazing! Like as a police officer, you yourself went through that system.
Heather: I mean, until you go through it yourself, it's like the saying goes, You've never walked a mile in someone's shoes. Right. So if a police officer or anyone that builds the systems hasn't gone through it themselves, how do they know where those gaps are and vice versa..
Kristin: Exactly. Now, I heard that you're coming out with a book soon. So I'm sure people will be able to learn more about all the details of what it looked like to actually go through that system.
Heather: Yeah. I am writing a book, and I'm really looking forward to sharing the ways in which that we can create change and through the gaps through the lens that I've seen and the perspectives that I've experienced. And I really hope it brings change. And I hope that it is implemented in some ways.. as long as it benefits someone it's worth it. Right?
Shwetabh: I just want to check with Heather, since she is so well versed with the law, by being a part of the system and all also by being a victim. What are the top three things that you think should change from a legal perspective? If you have the authority to change the laws around it, what are the top three things that you probably will change that you think will make the whole work culture more, I would say, prosperous for people to kind of fight the situation in case something like this happens.
Heather: Yeah. I think that having the investigations within the internal police investigations should be transparent and that would be the best path to accountability. It definitely has to be transparent. There also has to be an outside agency that is not affiliated to the police that can oversee any investigations, not just police investigating other police officers or ex police officers, because it's such a small world, and the mentality of those people are still indoctrinated into the culture itself. So it needs to be people with an outside lens that have not experienced so much the culture but actually understand the culture from a research level or from psychological level, maybe perhaps doctors and such. And so transparency is a big one and really implementing a new mindset and shift into policing. And so when you go through a training, there's this mindset of it. Sometimes the instructors are saying it's more like a mentality of us against them. And so really trying to break down the understanding of what mental health is. So I think that's a big gap within the system and community is when I was hired as a police officer, I didn't experience mental health problems, so to speak or injuries. And when I was a police officer, therefore, I didn't understand so much mental health problems or injuries. And so I believe that police officers to some level throughout their career, and depending on what they've experienced, they go into a mental health call or response or 901 call, and immediately the response level is raised to a point where perhaps they're not able to manage what's going on within their mind and their body, and they're not responding in a way that is conducive to what's actually happening. So their fear response and their adrenal glands are out of sorts. But due to that, it's because they don't understand mental health because they were, quote, unquote, perfect human beings when they were hired as police officers. So now looking back and knowing what my symptoms were and how someone may see them as wanting to be afraid of my symptoms, whether it be suicidal thoughts or anger or different ranges of those emotions and post traumatic stress. And what you can experience with that is that if there was a better understanding, maybe they would be able to minimize their fear levels and have a better response to mental health calls and what that looks like.
Kristin: I completely agree. Heather, it's been incredible to have you today with us sharing all of your journey. That's just truly almost unbelievable that this could happen to one woman and you could just keep surviving, keep surviving, keep surviving. And now watching you actually thrive and support and help so many other people. And this mission to help with the system, we definitely need more brave, inspires, brave people. How would people get in touch with you now? So I have my website, it's bravenspairsbrave.com and you can contact me there. I'm also on Twitter @HeatherMCwill1. And then Instagram is @IamHeatherMCWilliam. So any of those places you can contact me and as well, we've just created myself and three other female police officers, a nonprofit, and that is called Agents of Change Championing Police Women. So we're looking forward to creating change within wellness and within research and legal reform. So there's a lot going on and we hope that other people join this journey and that we can join theirs as well in their own brave.
Shwetabh: Here's what I wanted to ask you what you have gone through, which is basically harassment and bullying is not just about a police system, but many other systems. So how can what you go to translate as learnings for other people who might be suffering the same across different systems?
Heather: Yeah. Thanks for asking. I've thought a lot about this and the most that I feel that we can do right now is create workshops. And there's so much going on, and it's difficult to access things. So being able to have workshops from my experiences and what others are experiencing is to be able to give them the tools that they need to be able to work through what it is that they're going through themselves. And so with the workshops we want to create, myself. And my team is communities where we can all come together and really start to overcome what we're all experiencing, maybe personally, but collectively be able to talk about what those are and how we can help ourselves with managing what that looks like. And I think it's so important for us to talk about it. It's not just within policing. It's within so many different systems and communities around the world that are experiencing what I've experienced in various different ways. So I look forward to sharing that soon, and that will be through our website.
Kristin: And on that note, where can people find you? I know your website is called Brave Inspires Brave, and I'm sure people can connect with you there. But where else can people find you if they maybe they're a police officer who's suffering from sexual harassment or bullying, or just an average person who's really feeling super inspired by you, right? How would they get in touch? Do you welcome all people?
Heather: Of course, everyone is welcome. I think that our experiences are all related to one another in the sense of, you know, we all want to feel loved and we want to also accept it in our own authentic selves. And so please reach out to me. I can be found on Instagram. @IamHeatherMcWilliam and as well, Twitter is at @Heathermichwill One, and I'm also on LinkedIn. And so again, my website, BraveInspiresBrave.com There's so many different ways, so I hope everyone connects and I hope everyone is inspired to brave their journey themselves as well.
Kristin: Well, I'm so inspired by you, the moment that I met you. So thank you so much for being with us here today, Heather. I think that we've all learned so much from your shares, and I really thank you for everything you've been through.
Heather: Thank you.
Shwetabh: Thanks for sharing your journey, Heather, and we look forward to having how this goes ahead and forward. And we'd love to hear from you in the future on how these workshops and communities are evolving. So thanks a lot.
Heather: Thank you so much.