The persistent message that ‘women are lesser’ normalises abuse

The persistent message that ‘women are lesser’ normalises abuse

Chozyn Koroheke was a much-loved daughter and mother of two. She was shot dead by her partner in April 2017.

OPINION: Last night, I snuggled my son to sleep. He had wanted his mum. As I lay there, listening to his breathing, my thoughts turned to a young girl tucked up in her bed hundreds of kilometres away.

Chozyn Koroheke’s daughter is six. Her mummy Chozyn was killed two years ago, shot in the abdomen by her partner while trying to hide in a wardrobe. In their house.

She and her brother are now raised by their grandparents, who tell them mummy is always looking over them. Recently, from her carseat, Chozyn’s daughter asked: “Do you think Mummy can see us through the roof of the car?”

The Homicide Report, launched by Stuff this week, paints the most striking picture I have seen of the domestic violence crisis this country is in.

Take a look at the figures. Half of all women who were killed in New Zealand in the past 15 years were beaten, stabbed, or shot to death by their partners or ex-partners. That’s nine women each year.

They are murdered in their homes, sometimes in front of their kids. Let’s take a moment to think about that another way – women over the age of 18 are safer running through a dark park at night than they are in their own houses. In their own beds.

Last week, I read through dozens of sentencing notes relating to these women’s deaths – that is, the comments made by judges at the sentencing of their killers.

(We are treating this as a gendered issue because it is. The vast majority – 75 per cent – of intimate partner violence deaths were men killing women. Some women did kill men. These deaths looked different. In almost half of those cases, the woman was acting in self-defence and had been the primary victim in that relationship.)

Patterns started to appear. First of all, it was very rarely a “one-off” incident. Most women already suffered physical or pyschological abuse at the hands of the perpetrator.

There were themes of ownership. The killer treated the woman like a possession, and became inflamed when she tried to leave or show signs of independence. This is in line with Family Violence Death Review Committee findings, which show the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is right after she ends it.

Take the judge’s comments in the case of Wellington woman Sarwan Lata Singh, whose estranged husband Rajeshwar breached a protection order by smashing into her house and stabbing her to death in 2014; “You considered that you were entitled to kill her. … You simply could not accept that she had the right to decide not to be with you.”

Alcohol and drugs often served to lethally escalate arguments. In 2016, 22-year-old Gurpreet Kaur was killed by her partner Akash in the front seat of his car after she tried to break up with him. He was on methanphetamine. He stabbed her 29 times.

In many domestic killings – around half, it is estimated – the force used was much more than was required to cause the woman’s death. The most well-known of these is Sophie Elliott, whose ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston stabbed her 216 times.

This level of violence is not rare. In several cases, killers were in such a rage they almost severed the heads of their partners. Experts say this kind of “overkill” represents a deep anger and vengeful rage at the victim, and often at women in general.

At this point, I had to take a break.

This is hard to think about, right? It must be, because we continually fail to address the giant festering wound that is domestic abuse in New Zealand. Sure, it’s easy enough to look at the faces of these victims and think; that’s not me. That would never happen to someone I know.

Wouldn’t it?

On December 3, 2018, a new family violence law came into effect that made strangulation an offence.

In the five months since it was introduced, 700 people have been charged with strangling.

Throttling your partner is, unsurprisingly, a strong predictor of lethal violence in the future.

There are hundreds of women at risk, right now. The fact we’re even using death as a barometer of domestic abuse is appalling. No woman should be senselessly dying at the hands of anyone, let alone someone who supposedly loves her.

What can the average person do? Police national family violence co-ordinator Fiona Roberts says we all need to own this.

“We all want to live in a society where we don’t have stories in the paper saying how bad we are. It’s not a private issue, it’s a community issue. Be kind to one another. Be really open to understanding what’s happening [around you]. You can wrap services around your friends and family and get us involved when it’s appropriate.”

But it’s not just about breaking up an argument. Damaging and misogynistic attitudes towards women are aired everywhere. At the cricket club. At Friday night drinks. On Facebook pages. Continued reinforcement of the message that women are lesser serves to normalise our abuse.

Chozyn’s daughter needs to know her mum’s murder was abhorrent. And that we are all working to stop it from happening again.

Watch article link here.