A week ago a reader wrote a comment on my blog. She writes that “today a young girl, twenty-two years old, lies dead. The victim of a domestic violence shooting…How I wish she’d had the courage to leave…and stay away.”
I know people who are twenty-two. Two of my closest friends in Newcastle are twenty-two. They are vibrant and vivid and alive. Their lives are open in front of them. They shine with beauty and potential and the strength of who they are, and I admire them more than I can say.
This girl too had people who saw her in that light. A life spreading out in front of her. Travel. Study, a career. A family. A whole world she could have changed just by being who she was. And in a second, a heartbeat act of unspeakable violence, all that was changed.
And there are a lot of us out there who can say, “That could have been me”. If not a gun, then a knife. Or a fractured skull or a brain injury. Internal injuries. Or that slow death of the battered soul of a person living in such fear, under such tyrrany, who in the end does their oppressor’s life-destroying job for them. Alcohol, or pills or a razor in the bath. The edge of a cliff; the train line. That could have been me. That could have been so, so many of us.
Between one quarter and one half of Australian women will experience violence, perpetrated by a man, at some stage in their lives. Most frequently this will occur in the home, and it will be perpetrated by a male partner. So many of these assaults and abuses will – like those against me, perhaps like those against this girl – go formally unreported. Because we are ashamed. Because we are frightened. Because we are taught to believe that it’s our fault. Because we are taught to lie to those who could help us, who could strengthen us. Some of us have the right combination of circumstances, and the right resources, that we can escape. Some of us don’t. Some of us can’t.
I did get out. I had people who were strength for me. Who were my determination. Who held my hope when I had none for myself. And there are tears on my cheeks as I write this: tears for a girl who couldn’t get out. Tears for a girl – just twenty-two years old – who now needs no determination, no strength, no hope. Tears for a family, a circle of friends, a community, who must now begin the agonising – and lifelong – job of healing and rebuilding. Tears because although I hope with all of my scarred and hopeful soul that she will be the last, I know with pained certainty that she will not. There will be many others. Some will get out with their lives. Others won’t.
I take a deep breath and thank God for the life running through my veins. I rage against the violence which took a vibrant soul from the world. I weep for her family and friends and the empty space she leaves behind, and I mourn her and the atrocity of her death.
May she rest in peace.