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Survivors speak out against domestic violence and domestic homicide

A Western University Faculty of Education news brief:

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“Mama was by the door, stabbed 25 times and bled out to death.” Maha El-Birani describes in a blog post how her father murdered her mother, Sonia, in 2012. Now, the El-Birani family’s tragic history of domestic violence and domestic homicide is being told in a documentary film, ‘Fatal Silence.’

The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) hosted the premiere screening at the Faculty of Education. In the film, Maha discusses risk factors and potential actions that could have prevented Sonia’s death.

“There were many opportunities I see now where our community and public services could have helped our family to prevent the future murder of my mother by my father,” wrote Maha.

Maha is one of three daughters who are domestic abuse and homicide survivors. Her sisters, Ahlam and Houda, also shared their story through blog posts. “The system failed us, yes. People failed us, yes. I am angry, I am sad and I am struggling,” said Houda.

Domestic abuse is more than physical violence. It also attacks the victim’s resolve to get out of the abusive situation.

“What abuse does is it gradually kills your will. I watched the abuse - emotional, verbal, and eventually physical - destroy my mother’s will long before she was killed,” wrote Ahlam.

Multiple award-winning director Alan Powell from Facilitator Films produced the documentary. The company describes its work as content that has high impact with sensitivity and authenticity. Powell and Facilitator Films have been working with CREVAWC since 2005.

A panel discussion took place following the film. CREVAWC, Neighbours, Friends and Families, Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative and Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration sponsored the film screening. The family hopes telling their story will make a positive impact on other peoples’ lives. “We weren’t able to save her, but I hope our story will save someone else's daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, caregiver, or someone else's hero,” wrote Ahlam.

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