Today marks five months since Colleen Lois Sillito had the tapestry of her life cut short in a cowardly act of domestic violence. Imagine the unimaginable. The life of someone you love extinguished in the blink of an eye in their very own driveway. I tell you certainly six months ago this is not something I could have ever imagined.
On October 2, 2015 the world lost one of the most compassionate, caring, kind, loving, badass women that I have ever met. In an instant a mother lost. A sister taken. A best friend and inspiration to many. A yogi, an artist, an individual that truly made the world a more beautiful place for her presence.
Since she has been gone I have tried to honor her beauty in as many ways as I possibly can. I have told any that will listen tales of the lessons she taught me and that which we had learned together. I made a promise to her that day that her story would not end there in her driveway. I made a promise that I would find some meaning in what had happened and continue to do my best to honor her spirit. She is with me always. I can feel her presence and I draw strength from the woman she is. Colleen made things beautiful, I made shit happen. I will continue to do my best to make beautiful shit happen for my Colleen.
Inevitably when I tell the story of how the threads of her life, in the midst of weaving a most enchanting pattern, were abruptly cut short, I hear the oft heralded refrain “Something needs to change”. Believe me when I tell you that I have pondered this phrase relentlessly for the last five months. I have met with a number of different organizations at both government and non-profit levels who are committed to making ‘something change’. I am dually impressed by the actions being taken and yet staggered by the statistics. The impact that this issue has on our world is astonishing.
- In Canada, over 1.14 million people reported they had been either physically or sexually assaulted by their partner or spouse in the last five years. 1
- It is estimated that the total economic impact of spousal violence in Canada in 2009 is $7.4 billion, amounting to $220 per Canadian. 2
- The percentage of self-reported spousal violence in Alberta was 7.6 per cent, compared to 6.2 per cent nationally. 3
- Alberta has the second highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in the country. 4
- Nearly ten per cent (9 per cent) of Albertans find it acceptable in at least one situation to be physically violent towards their spouse. 5
- In Alberta, “having to address ongoing domestic violence, even after women have left an abusive situation, has cost more than $600 million in the past five years, with $521 million of this tab being picked up by Alberta taxpayers.” 6
The excerpt above was taken directly from Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence
The first reaction that most people had to the tragic news of Colleens death was to talk about how the ‘system’ let her down, which it undoubtedly did and trust me, I have had many conversations on the subject of ‘How to Build a Better Restraining Order’.
Unfortunately patching the system, while necessary, is really akin to putting a band aid on a cancerous flesh wound. You can patch it, mask it, create a temporary fix, but unless you address the underlying root cause the cancer will continue to spread and envelop it’s host, band-aid be damned.
I could easily spend all of my time and energy railing against the justice system that surely failed her, but I believe my personal resources will be better served, not trying to protect women from the evil that walks among us, but ensuring that future generations will not tolerate the existence of such evil. That our successors will propagate a culture of equality, respect and zero tolerance for anything less than reverence for the worthiness of all humanity regardless of gender, orientation or beliefs.
One of the greatest barriers I see to making this happen is that men like me, who do not perpetuate violence, tend to nod, put on our most sympathetic look and firmly agree that “something needs to change” when the issue is brought up. We somehow believe that this problem is not ours. We do not own it because we, after all, are not the problem.
I am embarrassed to say that six months ago I, albeit unwittingly, would have fallen squarely into that category.
Let me assure you that if this issue can touch my sheltered, privileged, protected, upper middle class, white ass living in the affluent bubble of Sherwood Park, Alberta, it can certainly touch yours. I can give you equal assurance that you do not want to wait until you or someone you know is devastated by it’s reach to make “something change”.
We never think that these type of horrific occurrences can touch our lives. That the toll of these monstrous events will never rear their ugly head within the sanctity of our blessed lives.
I had the exact same thoughts while sitting in the back of the police car being interviewed as to our movements the previous night after abruptly hearing the simple statement from the officer “Colleen’s dead”.
This can’t be real. This doesn’t happen in real life. This certainly doesn’t happen to me. This kind of thing only happens in the movies. Clearly there is some kind of mistake. This is a cruel joke or a viscous nightmare that I am sure to awake from drenched in sweat. It was not.
So many of these thoughts raced through my mind as the officer was trying to take a statement from me. When he handed me the business card for “Victim Services” and encouraged me to “talk to someone” I think it was then that the reality of it really set in. How was this possible? She had left my house with a kiss and a smile on her face only hours earlier.
If you think it can’t affect you, You. Are. Wrong. Period.
So if you think, as I do, that “Something needs to change” then let’s stop making the statement “Something needs to change” and start asking the question “What can I do to make it change? What can I do today? How can I make a difference to someone in my world?”
Now I am not suggesting you all need to quit your day job and volunteer full time for a non-profit organization somewhere but I am suggesting is that there are things that you can do today to make a difference. Maybe today, it was as simple as reading this article. Maybe today it is as simple as starting to change your viewpoints about whether this matters or not. If you are unsure, I can introduce you to a five children to whom this issue matters a tremendous amount.
For me it starts every day with my 15 year old son, and 13 year old daughter. For me it starts by having the conversation with you. Every day I learn a little more. Every day I talk a little louder. Every day I look for ways that I can make a difference.
Sometimes that is as simple as trying to lead by example and show those around you a path of compassion, caring, kindness and tolerance. Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail.
Sometimes you just have to take all the shit in your life and set it on fire so that you can be a beacon for others.
Whatever the ‘issue’ is in your life, stop saying “They need to do something” or “Something needs to change” and start asking yourself the question “What can I do? What can I do right now?”