the unwitting face on the shadow of society

When I rolled over and scrolled through my Facebook in bed this morning, a name came glaring at me in my recent searches. “Cara Cochrane”. Why was I … ? oh. Right. Cara.

The tsunami of grief washed over me again. Because I didn’t have to know Cara to know Cara. And neither did you.

It’s taken me this long to fully process what I read about Cara’s haunting story from right here in my *new* little home town, population 124 000. We’re a medium-sized metropolis facing the same problems in society that plague each community, from rural to city-scape.

Cara Cochrane was the single Mom, in her 30s, with a full-time career who lost her battle with domestic violence June 7th. That was the weekend I was dying the hair of my oldest. Blowing out birthday candles from a cake created by our very littlelists of the brood. Feasting on a glorious turkey dinner provided by my incredible, supportive, loving, wonderful partner and served up hot by the middle two of our family.

(Interlude, I’ve been begging Spotify to just play a song while I blog. It’s been slow, bogged down. Taking forever to load. It finally selected ‘Strong Enough’ by Sheryl Crowe. Eerie.)

The news of Cara’s harrowing final moments were chronicled by our news outlets in record time. Soon, Facebook splashed photos of she and her young son. A GoFundMe was properly organized to assist the family, and her wee dude in the wake of this nightmare. “She was an amazing sister, daughter, and best friend to all those who knew and loved her, and more importantly, the best mom ever to her 4-year-old son Maximo,” the fundraiser reads.

In a few, precious moments, Cara became the unwitting face on the shadow of society. Domestic violence churns in the darkness of our communities. Since the pandemic began, the uptick in domestic violence attacks has been documented globally. Women and men locked into abusive relationships are now in actual lockdown with these abusers. Our Minister for Women and Gender Equality went as far as to say the pandemic has “empowered perpetrators”. She isn’t wrong.

One quick Google search, specifically calling out Kingston, produces hundreds of returned articles detailing various domestic violence attacks recorded here at home. Canada-wide, the CBC notes that these attacks account for an average 70 deaths per year. But this statistic only spotlights what we already know – domestic violence is still claiming lives. It does not reveal how many moments, how many times, how many nights and days these victims lived in fear for their lives. How the abuse began. How it escalated. How the victim stayed until she was immortalized into another study on “how to do better next time”.

While Cara’s story wanes on my PTSD, daring it to resurface, I can’t stop staring at her beautiful photos. And though I didn’t know her personally, nor did any of my close friends, her death lingers over all of us. We failed Cara. We, as a collective, failed her.

I’ve scoured the story, and I’ve read about how she died. How her family was forced to make the unforgiving decision to let her go. I’ve read about how this monster extinguished her light. I’ve read how her colleagues loved her. Her son loved her. Her family loved her. But he – he who she probably believed loved her – he killed her.

Since Cara’s death, the investigation has been shifted to a homicide case. Police say to expect upgraded charges, in the days and weeks ahead.

In 2020, in a small city, with “multiple accessible resources available”, Cara still died. Her young son now lives with her memory. Anger, and violence dominating his life before he was even 5, this boy will one day become a man and be provided with paths to choose from. The same paths my children will decide between. On Tuesday, I said to my 13-year-old, “your power lies in choosing whether or not you want to be happy”. The man who took Cara’s life had these very choices. Look within, and decide. To get a reign on the anger. To get a hold of the anger and confront it, instead of using it as a vice to justify attacking someone. And not simply someone – the person you’ve committed to loving and protecting. I read this week: “their trauma is not an excuse”. Their trauma is not your cross to bear. My heart bleeds for Cara’s son. How he will compute the senselessness of how he lost his mother when he was barely school-aged. How I pray he is incubated in love and support.

And now this Mama, daughter, friend – this beautiful, young woman resides in the hall of memories with the others we have lost to a cycle of violence we didn’t stop. We, as a society. We, as spectators. We, as the collective. We, as those who read the stories, hear the rumours, watch the news wheels. We have an opportunity to speak up, speak out. We have an opportunity to save another Cara.

Fly on, sweet girl. You’re free.

And I am so, so sorry.

— c ☆

If you, or someone you know, is currently experiencing domestic violence, please speak out. Resources in Kingston include Dawn House. Talk to someone you love about domestic violence. You are not alone. The GoFundMe to support Max can be found here –> https://www.gofundme.com/f/future-for-max?fbclid=IwAR3BKAS8i0kZ3t__dVqLn770hNHpcE9Vxivskq3GAYsdFf80EqVeAbSW89E

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