I caught a few minutes of Global’s coverage on the murder of Shemina Hirji today, which contained clips of the newly wed couples first dance at their recent wedding. How her face glowed,her smile serene and her eyes clearly filled with tears as she appeared to gaze lovingly at her new husband. Although I did not know her, I could not contain my emotions – tears of anger and sadness rolled freely down my cheeks as I watched her husband run from the press after his arrest and release. Questions and allegations surrounding his past and his possible involvement are water cooler conversation everywhere, and it brings to light the issue of domestic violence yet again.
Enough is enough. The justice system needs to revisit the spousal assault policy currently in place in BC, and start sending a clear message to men who humiliate, intimidate, beat, sexually assault and kill their wives/lovers/girlfriends. Going back to the old method of mandatory spousal assault charges would be a good start, and is more effective, I believe, than “optioning out” offenders from the court system. Some of the avenues courts are using as “punishment” are useless in my opinion. Sending offenders to court ordered counselling for anger management in exchange for a conditional discharge is a slap on the wrist, and not an effective deterrant for a man who is likely to re-offend. In fact, conditional discharges effectively erase the record of the assault. Should he then commit assault in the future, against her or another woman, the previous offense does not hold force as a history in court, as it was “discharged”. Been there , done that.
The government / justice system/ social services ,all fail women who are victims of spousal assault in numerous ways. The reality is that there are not enough support systems in place to help women in need, when they need it. Support is vital in the weeks and months following the assault, both emotional and financial, to prevent the victim from being forced back to her abuser in order to avoid homelessness, destitution, and take care of children. The time has come for policy makers and law enforcement officials to sit down with real women who have lived and been through the horrors of spousal abuse and find out what needs to change, and what will make it better- no more “studies”. Just come and talk to women like me, and we will tell you how to help us stand on our own two feet, and keep us safe in the process. Women stay with abusers for a variety of reasons, and until those issues are managed effectively and are widely available, women will not feel safe and supported enough to break free. Enough is enough.