I remember when I was in high school, writing applications for college. The essay prompts and recommendations talked about a defining moment in your life. Up to that point, at age 17 or 18, I couldn’t really think of any. I mean, there were various events and projects and people that I will remember for the rest of my life.
There were, however, no ‘moments’ that I would consider revolutionary.
Since then, I have travelled over the world and been involved with even more events and projects and people. I have had life changing events – processes that left me a different person than I was when I started the journey. But until three weeks ago I would never have believed that a single moment could change my life.
Roughly three weeks ago one of my dearest friends was shot by her husband.
She wasn’t even thirty. They were talking about having children. She was involved in her work and the community. She was looking forward to being an Auntie for our mutual friends who were pregnant, and I was secretly taking notes for what I had assumed would be an eventuality – her own children. Graduate school has taken up so much of my life, but I was going to make an effort to reconnect with her this semester. We were planning a group birthday party for our thirtieth birthday next year.
Her husband has been charged with murder, and let out on bail.
He is claiming it was an accident.
I do not care.
I am, at heart, a scientist. I was going to write a much more traditionally academic blog post – it was due around the same time she was killed. I couldn’t do it. I do not care for cold facts and figures when some of the world’s warmth has been taken away. So I am stepping out of my comfort zone and speaking from a place informed by my emotions.
With the Oscar Pistorius case showing up in the news, I can’t help feeling parallels. It’s not the same, of course, but it happened in the middle of the night with no witnesses, and he’s insisting it was an accident. My friend was a smart, beautiful woman, whom we all believe would have told us if she was in an abusive relationship. I know what Reeva Steenkamp’s family means when they mourn the fact that the media seems to be focusing on him, rather than what he did to her. That, in some ways, it doesn’t matter whether or not he did it on purpose – he still killed someone they loved.
Every day I pull quotes, statistics and material to fill our database. Governments can talk about the economic costs of domestic violence. Academics can talk about how gender violence destabilizes a community. NGOs can talk about how interpersonal violence has ripple effects through the immediate family and beyond. But nothing can prepare you for what happens when that violence takes someone you love away from you, forever.
Please. If you’re worried about your safety, tell someone. If something doesn’t feel right, tell someone. Even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is, or any specific incident is small or fleeting – tell someone. Your friends and family love you. They want you to be safe. They want you to be happy.
Please. If you’re worried about your friend or family member, let them know. If something doesn’t feel right, let them know. Even if you can’t describe exactly what their significant other or family member is doing, they need to know you care about them. You can’t save everyone from everything, but that is the first step to helping them to be safe and happy.
You never know what the next morning will bring.
Please. Let your friends and family know you love them, even if you aren’t worried about them. Life is a precious, delicate thing. Cherish those around you.
If you are concerned about yourself, a friend, family member, or acquaintance, you can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go through the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website at http://www.thehotline.org/ for help and advice. They are available 24/7.