Jessica Martel’s common law husband murdered her on Apr. 29, 2009. Seventeen months later the Morinville man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. We must never forget this or that it happened in Morinville.
Three things occurred last week to prompt this editorial. One – a former boyfriend allegedly assaulted the child of a family friend. Two – I had a conversation with a member of the Jessica Martel Foundation’s board of directors about domestic violence. Three – I saw a disturbing video of an abused Serbian woman who documented a year in her life by taking one photo each day, lumps, bruises, cuts and all.
In all likelihood the Serbian video is not real, merely a cleverly designed piece of viral theatre meant to portray the reality women like Jessica endured. The kind of reality my friend’s daughter or any woman could endure if she were to return after that first act of violence.
From the first hit to the fatal last, the life of the domestic violence victim is ugly, and, as an American friend said after watching the Serbian video, “It doesn’t get better after the first black eye. That is a great sign to get out!”
Sadly, too few women do. Too few women feel they can leave because domestic violence is not merely about fists in faces, rape and physical violence. That is horrible enough. It is about control and subjugation, about turning partner into possession. Financial, psychological and emotional abuse is part of the master plan of weak men.
We must not condone this. And yet some do. A survey conducted by Leger Marketing in 2012 and reported on in national media showed while awareness of domestic violence was on the rise, one in 10 Albertan men believed it was OK to physically assault a woman if she did something to make him angry. And that number merely records those willing to freely admit it. What then is the real number?
Though the number is shocking, so too are those willing to condone violence against women. Too many people are willing to use justification as if lifting a hand to blacken a woman’s eye or break her arm is a momentary lapse in reason. He was drunk. He was high. He lost his job. He had a bad day at work. She made him angry. She pushed him too far.
A couple can overcome minor breeches in trust, but once the trust of basic human safety is broken, evidence in shelters and in coffins shows that personal safety can and should never be taken as a future certainty.
Some numbers we should all know: Family Violence Info Line 310‑1818; Child Abuse Hotline 1‑800‑387‑5437; Sturgeon Victim Services 780-939-4590 and most important of all is 9-1-1.