Émilie Maheu’s legacy
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.