A mother’s battle; a community’s shadow

Monday, April 30, 2018

“My son is a recovering addict & spent most of his teen years involved in gang life,” writes Lorna*. “He’d been thriving – but suffered a mental health breakdown and during that time he got into real trouble…

“I’ve always had a sense of pride that my values were the same in my personal and professional life. But a social norm within my community is one of paramilitary retribution in order to deliver justice. This is something I am against and have spent a considerable part of my life opposing.

“But when it came to my son being in trouble I felt a dilemma within… I made attempts through statutory agencies to seek help – it didn’t come.

“As a mother my natural response is to protect my children against any forms of harm and my inner battle was – do I entertain the offer of allowing community justice to intervene and seek retribution on someone, on behalf of my son. Or – do I stay true to myself and appeal to everyone to let justice take its course…

“The pain and turmoil this created has forced me to explore the darker aspect of myself. Everyone carries a shadow within…

“Over the past number of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my ethics, my purpose within the community where I’ve been raised and my strengths and skills.

“I needed to battle internally in order to find the strength and courage to stand over my values – to ensure I made the right decision here.

“I believe that by gaining courage to face my shadow and unpick the dark feelings and emotions, to apply the logic, understanding and empathy that I would use in my professional practice with young people and their families in times of crisis – I found myself making sense of the situation.

“As a society we need to break this circle and to trust the rule of law and the justice system. I believe that by remaining true to my integrity it shatters the perception that people within our communities are reliant on community based justice as a means of building stronger communities.

“I believe that I have found courage through compassion. Going through the turmoil of figuring out what I felt was the right thing to do I could have quite easily pushed aside my compassion and integrity. I could have justified the tit for tat behaviour that is widely accepted within my community, but yet I couldn’t justify it to myself.

“At times, both professional and personally, to be an activist takes bravery and dedication – especially when you live and work within your own community. This can be a lonely road…

“As a result of my work I’ve got relationships with people who have become victims of community justice. I openly condemn this route of justice…

“And so I can’t publicity & professionally ask people within my community to respect the rule of law and reject the paramilitaries – but personally allow them to act on my son’s behalf. What example do I set for my children if I raise them in a home of compassion and empathy, to always stay true to what you believe, and then erode these values because I was hurt and in emotional pain?

“I felt that the battle I was having was one of the loneliest periods of my life. But I’m coming out the other side stronger and more confidently, both as a mother and as a professional worker.

“I’m now trying to help other mothers in this situation. I firmly believe this whole journey has made me not only more skilled but also stronger in the knowledge that I am being true to myself regardless of how much crisis I find myself in.”

(*Name has been changed to protect the individuals in this story)


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