Ém­i­lie Ma­heu’s legacy

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey

They wept, prayed, hud­dled, sang, cra­dled can­dles, clung to each other, brought teddy bears, seethed in anger, tried to un­der­stand, vowed to do some­thing. Last Wed­nes­day’s vigil in mem­ory of mur­der vic­tim Ém­i­lie Ma­heu was in­tended to help peo­ple deal with the “sur­real” slaying of the 26-year-old Green Val­ley mother.

When she learned of the woman’s death, of this “sense­less act of vi­o­lence,” vigil co-or­ga­nizer Natalie St-De­nis said, “It broke my heart.” She re­acted with dis­be­lief and then anger. And she felt help­less. So she and psy­chol­o­gist Dr. Suzanne Fil­ion de­cided to hold the can­dle­light vigil in or­der to re­mem­ber the vic­tim, to com­fort her fam­ily, and to try to raise aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“Unit­ing tonight is a con­crete ges­ture that helps us all to slowly di­gest the re­al­ity of this sit­u­a­tion,” said Dr. Fil­ion. “When we come to­gether, we are stronger,” pointed out Ms. St-De­nis. Ms. Ma­heu was de­scribed as a “bub­bly, beau­ti­ful, smil­ing hu­man be­ing,” a de­voted mother whose smile could light up a room.

“Do not let her death de­fine her life,” im­plored Natalie St-De­nis. The ap­prox­i­mately 200 peo­ple in at­ten­dance were urged to em­u­late Ms. Ma­heu, to keep her in their hearts by bright­en­ing the lives of oth­ers. Peo­ple should dis­cuss the tragedy. “When we shed light on some­thing, the dark­ness and fear go away,” said Ms. St-De­nis. All the ap­pro­pri­ate words of com­fort were said. Still, the weight of grief re­mained heavy on fam­ily mem­bers as they gath­ered around The Grotto, the cold, damp wind swirling around the con­crete shrine.

Hope­fully, the goal of the gather­ing was achieved, that the fam­ily mem­bers re­al­ized they are not alone, that the cer­e­monies helped peo­ple to com­pre­hend the in­ex­pli­ca­ble, that the shared ex­pe­ri­ence will fos­ter some good.

Peo­ple who had never met Ém­i­lie Ma­heu felt com­pelled to be there be­cause it was the right thing to do. But now what can peo­ple do? Well, you can sup­port the Él­iz­a­beth Ma­heu Trust Fund, set up to help Ms. Ma­heu’s 22-month-old daugh­ter. A GoFundMe ac­count has quickly sur­passed its $5,000 goal; busi­nesses are pro­vid­ing sup­plies and or­ga­niz­ing fund-rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Help­ing wor­thy causes can have im­me­di­ate, tan­gi­ble and grat­i­fy­ing re­sults.

More neb­u­lous are the re­sults of any con­ver­sa­tion we should be hav­ing more of­ten about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

On av­er­age, ev­ery six days in Canada, a woman is killed by her part­ner or for­mer part­ner.

In Canada, 50 per cent of women have been vic­tims of at least one act of phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence since the age of 16.

It is es­ti­mated that in Canada, one in ten women is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing vi­o­lence.

Spousal vi­o­lence has been con­sis­tently iden­ti­fied as one of the most com­mon forms of vi­o­lence against women in Canada.

The ma­jor­ity of spousal vi­o­lence vic­tims are women, rep­re­sent­ing 83 per cent of all vic­tims.

Women are al­most four times more likely than men to be vic­tims of spousal vi­o­lence.

Those sta­tis­tics have not changed over the years, de­spite im­proved ac­cess to ser­vices for bat­tered women.

The world is al­legedly more en­light­ened than it was decades ago, when the first women’s shel­ters were open­ing in small towns, and the topic of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence was still a taboo sub­ject.

One won­ders what, if any, progress has been made when the “stable ge­nius” in the Oval Of­fice, who be­lieves he is the most pow­er­ful man in the world, ridicules a sex­ual as­sault vic­tim, while his sup­port­ers yuck it up and mug for the cam­eras. Cow­ards and bul­lies use so­cial me­dia as weapons. Women are ob­jec­ti­fied; in many coun­tries, re­pro­duc­tive rights re­main frag­ile; fe­males are still un­der-rep­re­sented in pol­i­tics.

But we still must try to carry on the con­ver­sa­tion about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Tears will even­tu­ally dry; time will heal the wounds. And hope­fully, when Él­iz­a­beth Ma­heu grows up, the world will be a slightly bet­ter and brighter place.

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