I've been working on a puzzle... a complicated one.
I’m Raheena. I’m a lawyer, mediator, and a student of life (learning as I go). I'm currently serving as the Chair of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario's (FDRIO) Family Violence Section. It’s as fascinating as it is heartbreaking.
This blog began as a way for me to negotiate the death of Riya Rajkumar, an 11 year-old who was killed on her birthday by her father, who himself died just days later from a self-inflicted gun wound. Ontario was mourning (and many still are). I found myself, as I often do, in the position of being just another person who was heartbroken and outraged on the inside, yet committed to resolving my feelings with reason, and providing nothing less than measured responses on the outside. (Striking the balance can be as hard as a level 3 hot yoga class on summer’s day in Toronto. Yes, #Yogatree, I’m looking at you.)
I have spent a lot of time trying to solve the question of how we end family violence over the past decade or so. It’s a complex question with a multi-faceted answer and I’ve only scratched the surface. Like most difficult questions, it’s a bit of a puzzle and I’ve gone on a scavenger hunt throughout my career trying to find different pieces. My goal is to acquire all the pieces and this requires me to reality-check myself. Ie. this goal may be completely unrealistic because it may be a 3D puzzle where the pieces change shape and colour depending the angle from which you view them. I acknowledge that each piece might look different to each person because our lenses are constantly adapting to accommodate our evolving perspectives / world views.
So, in the spirit of finding a useful metric by which to measure how I’m doing in this task: I think I’ll feel successful if I can, at the very least, acquire the corner and edge pieces; package them in a box with as much of the picture as I can configure on it; and share what I’ve found with the many passionate, intelligent, caring people, who are also trying to put this puzzle together.
Under all circumstances, solving this one is a team effort and what I have found so far is not the product of going it alone. Instead, it is the result of standing on the shoulders of giants: incredible people whose efforts, thoughts, bravery, literature, advocacy, and challenges to my perspectives have fuelled my puzzle-piece hunt; and shone light on my path at moments when it was just too dark to see. I’m so excited to openly work on this puzzle with each of these giants, and with you too, whomever you may be.
Žižek reminds us: “At the forefront of our minds, the obvious signals of violence are acts of crime and terror [...]. But we should learn to step back, to disentangle ourselves from the fascinating lure of this directly visible “subjective” violence [...]. We need to perceive the contours of the background which generates such outbursts. A step back enables us to identify a violence that sustains our very efforts to fight violence and to promote tolerance.” This blog is the space in which I’m sharing what I’ve found when I’ve taken such steps back.
In sum, the purpose of this blog is to introduce different pieces I’ve found, and try to situate each in their respective place in the puzzle. Maybe I’ll never get all the pieces, or I’ll misjudge a piece which doesn’t actually belong, or maybe I won’t find an appropriate box... but I’m armed with stubbornness, perseverance, and passion that has led me to everything from late nights working towards obtaining an emergency injunction to getting my Mental Health First Aid certification. Like I said: it’s a multi-faceted problem and that means I have a multi-faceted set of responses.
Each instalment of this blog will set out a different concept, idea, or issue I find myself grappling with. These range from legal concepts, psychological and mental health, emotional intelligence, mediation techniques, book reviews, analyzing pop culture references, to a few analogies I’ve cobbled together. Even when they seem disparate, the thing they have in common is their potential as pieces of this puzzle.
So here’s my grand attempt. I hope you enjoy the journey and learn a few things on the way!