The pain of caring

Dr Gabrielle Jamela Hosein -
Dr Gabrielle Jamela Hosein -

DR GABRIELLE JAMELA HOSEIN

SOMETIMES, when I’m quietly at my desk, the media calls for a statement on another murdered woman, and I haven’t yet heard the news, and my instinct is to just sit silently in shock despite demands to respond immediately. Quite often, despite having so many recommendations at my fingertips, I’m at a loss for words. It’s regret that we couldn’t do enough to save another child from abuse or another girl from disappearing or another woman from death.

Sometimes, I send the media to other advocates, from Women of Substance or the Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals or the Coalition Against Domestic Violence or CreateFutureGood or Womantra, and I wonder if their heart will sink the way mine does when they get that call.

Sometimes, I’m just tired thinking and talking about violence. It feels never-ending, like waiting for the next story, or knowing that so much harm to women and girls is occurring in the peacefulness of each night and remaining unreported. Despite the need to be aware, there are mornings when I can’t read the news. As a nation, we are so traumatised by stories we hear. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like for victims, and the cost they pay for our slowness to change hangs heavy in my chest.

It must be like this for so many who are addressing violence in a sustained way: social workers, counsellors, service providers, police officers, shelter managers, those working in child protection, those providing victim and witness support, media workers, advocates and activists. I think about the trauma they carry, as we all do, with each story. I think about how much I have to stay abreast of interviews, opinion pieces, political leaders’ statements, and debates about violence against women and girls, and it makes me very tired. Sometimes, I close my eyes and wish it was easy to not care.

Violence doesn’t only traumatise victims and families, its harm spreads wide for it also brings feelings of fear and powerlessness, injustice and sadness. People want more guns. I want more social workers. More of those healing rather than harming communities everywhere.

Sometimes, I think I’m not very good for my family, for I’m hardly present enough, and I often miss the chance to take a walk with Ziya or have breakfast together or spend time with her while she falls asleep at night. There are costs to this commitment; costs to time, energy, and mental and physical health. I wonder if I’m failing to make memories with her, for I seem to always be working, in some way, to make a difference. I wonder how much women have to give before they burn out. I wonder how everyone else does it. I dream of a month where there are no reports of abuse so I could spend more time with my family, set aside advocacy, and pretend injustice doesn’t exist.

I didn’t want to leave this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence without thinking of all those giving as much as they can to end violence in families and against children, to help victims secure justice and find healing, and to improve state response. I know they are tired. They were tired when young Shannon Banfield was killed in December four years ago. In the wake of Ashanti Riley’s killing, they are even more tired today.

We think about victims and families, and distressed communities, but we don’t often understand the impact on those responding, the care and understanding they need from their partners, and the exhaustion they carry. Sometimes, I know that they return home at the end of the day as emptied individuals with nothing more to give even to those they love.

To those that are doing this work, I wish you rejuvenation. I wish you time with loved ones. I wish you a sea bath to wash away the pain you encounter daily. I know you have dedicated your life to a better world. I know weariness will not stop your commitment. In my last words on violence for this year, I honour your contribution and impact, however incremental. I write to thank you for the work that you do.

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"The pain of caring"

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