Just a moment of 2 minutes of silence in your day, to remember people who have died because of domestic abuse. Further impact on family members affected is real and devastating. At this point, we become powerless to help.
Perhaps the power may be in our actions to ensure there are no more deaths because of domestic abuse. It is unnecessary.
On my mind, is the story of a young mother who lost two children 9 years old and 7 years old. One Friday afternoon, feeling her ex-husband was less angry, less bitter, less blaming, and had a softer attitude towards her decision to flee abuse.
Today, the children would have been 37 years old and 39 years old.
Not only fleeing abuse, finding the courage to challenge cultural stigma, a woman dealing with domestic abuse, also has to be prepared to safeguard herself and her children when she becomes empowered, more independent, making her own decisions and standing on her own two strong feet.
It was this change that angered the father who killed his own children and himself to cause the most immense pain to their mother.
Noticing the good change in the father-mother allowed him to take her children out regularly and on this occasion to McDonald’s. The father had been planning to take away his life and his two children’s lives for months. His changed behaviour was calculated, taking the children out to McDonald’s, then driving into a petrol station, dowsing the inside of the car with petrol and driving back to their home, deliberately very late into the evening. Or perhaps he was driving around the area until he found the mother standing outside the home waiting for them. As he drove slowly towards the mother, he parked outside the house, locked the car doors, showed a matchbox to the mother, struck the match, lighting fire to the entire car.
I spoke with the mother weeks after the event, asking if there anything that the sector could have done to prevent this. She could think of nothing. She was educated in the UK, was independent, did not feel the need to reach out for help because she was managing and proud to have made the decisions she did.
However, in a moment of silence, she said “you know – late at night after I would put the children to bed, having run around all day, doing the tasks necessary, school runs and homework time – I would sit down before bed and for months a fleeting thought would enter my head that it was strange how suddenly the father’s behaviour had changed for the better.”
But the thought was always fleeting and went away as soon as it came. She said “if I could pick up the phone and talk to someone, even to say, he had changed, then there might have been another conversation. A phone call and a connection, not just for the crisis, but just to talk”.
I went away, disturbed and affected, at the detail of information on the scene of the murder.
I had to do something, and the Aanchal Women’s Aid Team set up the first South Asian Women’s Domestic Abuse Helpline in 1995. We are still here in the memory of the two children.
Today, sending love and light to all of them.
We want women to talk to us, not only in crisis but long before that. Just a conversation.
We are always here.
Author Su Bhuhi MBE, CEO Aanchal Women’s Aid