Eden Medway, 31, was at a small bar in the centre of Melbourne when an unprovoked attack left her with devastating physical injuries. More than a year on, the scars may have healed but the psychological effects have not. The man who attacked her - she doesn’t know his name nor what he looks like - pleaded guilty to various offences and is awaiting sentence.
Eden, a team co-ordinator and university student, tells her story:
I was determined to have a lovely night with good friends. I dressed nicely, took time doing my hair and make-up. I was going to celebrate the recent engagement of two close friends at a private function, in a nice bar in the CBD.
Eden on the night of her attack.
I don’t remember exactly what came next. I can only recall parts of the night, snippets of conversation, vague recollections of new faces. I’ve had a whole year to force my mind to reveal the details, but it still refuses. I don’t blame my body.
From what people tell me, a man I had never met put me over his shoulder, carried me to the other side of the room and forcibly kissed me. I very quickly walked away and this would appear to have enraged him. He approached me and, without warning, king hit me in the face.
I remember the cracking sound. I remember the sudden, blinding pain. The next thing I knew I was on the floor. I was being moved to behind the bar. I couldn’t see. I think I was crying. People were everywhere. Voices, some familiar, were saying “There could be glass in her eye”.
I wondered if that was the reason I couldn’t see. My face was warm and wet, and when I moved, there was pain. The ambulance came and I was taken to hospital. I kept thinking that everyone was overreacting. They only give those green puffers [painkillers] to people who are seriously hurt, why were the giving one to me? I couldn’t understand the severity of the situation I was in.
I was scared. Alone in a hospital, doctors came and looked at me. Could I move my toes? Hands? What was my name? I was put in a neck brace. I was sent for an MRI. I was given a tiny pill that made me want to laugh at how stupid this all was. At some stage I became aware of a cut on my face, and the warm wet feeling on it was blood.
A doctor came to tell me my face had been broken in multiple places. I would need surgery - a metal plate and a few pins inserted into my skull to keep my eye socket together.
Detectives came to ask me questions. They took photos of my face - covered in blood, swollen up like fat, bald hedgehog; and my arm which had clearly taken my weight when I fell was black and swollen.
When going to the bathroom, I saw myself in the mirror. One side of my face was swollen as if someone had squashed a grapefruit into my eye socket, my eye was unable to open.
Dark blotches of bruise were appearing under my skin, and when I pulled my eyelids apart I saw the blood pooling in what should have been the white of my eye. I looked like a zombie. Or a car crash victim. I looked broken.
That was a year ago. People who don’t know me can look at my face and not know what happened. But I can see that my left eyelid droops more than the right. I can see the scars from the cuts, but I cover them with make-up pretty well. The incision scar is raised and painful to touch but not visible.
It took about eight weeks before I could feel all my teeth again. Another six months before I could open my jaw enough to eat most foods. I have regained feeling in my cheek, but I get horrific headaches around the areas that fractured and sometimes they’re so bad I can’t lie on that side, I can’t sleep, and painkillers do nothing to lessen the ache. I still have trouble with tough foods, and yawning too widely can cause a sharp, snapping-like pain.
Psychologically, is a different story. I get very nervous in crowds. My palms get sweaty when I think about getting on a packed train. I get jumpy when people get too close to my face. I much prefer to stay at home alone on a weekend night than to go out to pubs, I find peace being in what I know is a safe space but it makes those times when I do have to go out a bit of a challenge.
I have nightmares about being forced into surgery, or being told I’ve lost my sight, or the bones aren’t healing, or of people I love being horrifically hurt. The slightest bump near my face will instantly recall the whip-crack pain of his fist smashing into my skull. And following that is the tsunami of fear and hurt, anger and shame.
And worse than that is I’ve lost my faith in people. I dare to only trust those I am already close to, and will quickly and easily remove those I doubt from my life. I have no desire to date anyone, to know new people, even though I am forcing myself to do the latter.
My underlying sense of most people being mostly good has changed forever. And I cannot help but internalise it. Everyone has told me that I did nothing wrong, that he was just insane, that he was spoiling for a fight and would have hit someone sooner or later. And I do know all that. But what I feel is so different.
Maybe it’s my need to rationalise, to understand in order to prevent it from happening again but I keep coming back to one single idea: what kind of person am I that a stranger can choose to inflict this sort of violence and hatred upon me?
He has pleaded guilty, as far as I know, and will be sentenced in the coming weeks. I’ve been asked what sort of sentence I want and I honestly can’t say. No sentence imposed on him changes what has happened to me.
I want to say that I hope he receives counselling, anger management, I hope he is scared enough to never raise his fist again. I will continue to say that I believe in the inherent goodness of all people because I hope, beyond everything else, to one day believe that again.