Check in on your 'strong' friends today

This week, one of the things that is messing with my head is what happened to Hannah Baxter. With a very young baby, I've found that I miss out on a lot of current events, except for those big news stories such as the Corona Virus and this tragedy about a mum and her three young children being killed in a car fire. How awful it is that the news I am hearing about revolves around death. (Cautionary note: I reflect on the news of a murder-suicide here.)

Being a new mother, I can only imagine how Hannah was feeling seeing her children perish, and from the early accounts in the media, perish at the hands of their father. I have never heard of Rowan Baxter before this, nor of his wife, Hannah Clarke (her maiden name). I am not privy to any of the facts surrounding their separation or the details of the incident that led to the death of the couple and their three children. My thoughts and feelings are greatly influenced by what I am reading in the news articles and on social media. Still, I cannot imagine a good enough 'excuse' to set the car where your wife and three children are sitting, on fire. 

There may be many sides to this story. I am not a news reporter, nor am I a crime scene investigator, so I won't write about the facts. I don't want to get into any of the politics either. Instead, I want to share the thoughts, feelings, and questions this incident has raised in me.

The police are asking people not to be too hasty in their judgments and to remember that there are two sides to every story — possibly one of the wife that may have been subjected to domestic violence and another one, ‘of a husband being driven too far by issues that he’s suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form’. Still, I struggle with the notion that being driven too far by issues is a good enough excuse for what may well be murder. Is there a justifiable excuse that exists in this case? How do we factor in his mental health issues if his actions were alleged because he was distraught that his wife kept his kids away from him? Did Hannah fear that he may be capable of physically hurting her and their children? Again, these are just my own personal thoughts and feelings based on the limited amount of information that is available at the time of this post. It also reminds me to keep checking in with all my friends who may appear to be ‘strong’ all the time. Sometimes the ones who want to stay strong forget that strength also lies in saying ‘no’ and in walking away to get to safety. Strength also lies in being able to ask for help and in reaching out to tell your story to safe people.

Finally, I reflect on the value of the research that I do as part of the bigger work on gender equality. There is cause for urgent action on gender equality. Inequality provides the inherent underlying social conditions for violence. In the psychological research work that I do, sometimes reflections like this become a part of the PhD endeavour. I am glad the University offers such great support, such as counselling support, to its staff and students. Here is the link to Counselling Support:

Tagged in friends, self-care, phd, mental health