Yesterday morning, when I was brushing my hair, I stared into the mirror in shock and disbelief. No, it was not with the thought that I looked five years older than I did this time last year, but rather at something that was being said on the radio. Nicole Jacobs, the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, was being interviewed and was outlining some of the new legislation being put into the new Domestic Abuse Bill that is to shortly pass through parliament.
What caused me to stare into the mirror with shock and disbelief was Mrs Jacobs explaining that Non-Fatal Strangulation was to be made a criminal offence. I stared in disbelief that it was not already. How could one human being strangling another not be a criminal act? In terms of domestic abuse, it would appear the intention of the strangulation would not be to kill the victim, because then the abuser would have no one to abuse, coerce and control. The intention seems clear, it is to punish, coerce and control, to inflict fear in the victim.
It appears that this offence will soon carry a penalty of up to five years in prison. I find writing about this particularly disturbing, for me the thought of domestic violence is deeply saddening. Yet it appears that the last year has shone a spotlight on the terror that many, mostly but not always women, suffer behind closed doors.
At the height of the various lockdowns there was a debate in the media about the impact of lockdown versus the impact of the virus. At the time when we were acutely aware of the devastation the virus could wreak, the only course of action seemed to be to lockdown. Now as lockdown is lifting, we are beginning to see more clearly the social and emotional impact of lockdown.
This week in church the school held a number of ‘memorial’ services for the children to attend. They came to church in their bubbles with their teachers to remember loved ones and pets who have died over the last year. I was able to be there with two groups and we read the psalm, ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd,’ to help the children understand that God is with us in hard times and how he wants us to have good times too. It was wonderful to see the children again, I have not been able to go into school over the last year and have missed seeing these little angels.
But my delight was underpinned by a sense of sadness and anger as I could see sadness and pain of the last year on many of their faces. Children have suffered tremendously this last year, some living with domestic abuse or parents who felt out of control, struggling with unemployment or their own mental health issues, or living with siblings in confinement. Some children lost loved ones without being able to say goodbye. As children do, they have absorbed the emotions of their parents and those around them. The current situation in India shows us how important it is to take social restrictions seriously, but the faces of those children showed me that we have to take the impact of lockdown very seriously too.
I have been chatting with various people, as I do, about how they see the current situation and the impact that lockdown has had on us. One view which I thought was very astute was that we have all been impacted but that many of us are not even aware how much, let alone being able to process it. It seems that the last year has pushed each of us to the limit of our endurance, and the effort has been truly wearing. For many of us our confidence has been knocked and we will have to gradually learn how to socialise again.
This year has taught me the power of connection and I trust that that is something I can re-learn going forward. It is my hope that our church community will stand as a beacon of hope and healing for our local community over the coming months. Many people are in need of connection and hope and we, as individuals and as a community, will be able to offer that.
Our true hope is in God. He restores us with His grace. Let us turn our hearts to him at this time so that we can communicate His love and gentleness to our loved ones, families, friends, colleagues, and neighbours. We have a profound gift to share with the world and now is the time to share it. If you know of people in need, please let me or one of our stewards know, we have an amazing welfare team here who are happy to listen to others and help where they can. As a community centred on the Lord and connected with one another we have a powerful part to play in the journey out of lockdown.