Safety in an unsafe world

Today, the sad news broke that 24 year old Karen Buckley was found dead after a three day search. At the time of writing this blog, a man has been arrested for her murder. Karen’s disappearance and subsequent death has saddened everybody: people who are in their twenties who know only too well that they are not immune from her fate; parents who worry about their children who have left the nest and are living in all corners of the world; parents of younger children such as myself despair at how we have brought our children into a world that is so dangerous that we become suspicious of our neighbours and sometimes even those we love.

I was talking to my aunt about this degeneration of modern society, how the world has somehow descended into utter chaos, a world where nobody bats an eyelid at reading about murders, rape, kidnapping, muggings. ‘I find it very sad and disheartening that Ali is growing up in such a horrible world where people don’t give a crap about who they hurt. Drugs and violence everywhere. Things are so much different nowadays.’ My aunt, having one or two more years’ life experience behind her than I do, smiled and said, ‘We have seen the atrocities of Northern Ireland, the muggings and the drug wars have raged on for decades. The only difference is that you now have a child. And when you have a child, the world seems to be a much scarier place, because you suddenly have to protect your child from it.’ These words came to mind as I read the news this morning.

Twenty-four is so young. I try and cast my mind back to what I was like in my twenties. I remember with more than a pang of guilt how I arrogantly screened my mum’s calls because we had fallen out over something trivial, and I didn’t care if she was worried. As a mum now, I’ve no doubt that she was sick with worry. What if something had happened to you? she’d said angrily, her face white from sleepless nights. ‘But nothing did, I’m fine, would you calm the fuck down’ was how I responded to her ‘ridiculous outbursts’. Yeah, I’m really not nice when someone tells me what to do.

As a college student, I went out on the town at every opportunity. I remember being in Blackpool and singing the Irish national anthem at the top of my lungs outside the most British pub I could find (I strongly believe my speech impairment saved my life that night. Incidentally – true story- a man was seriously injured in a fight a couple of yards from the pub, a few hours later. We were so lucky. And so stupid). I remember going to Mojos in Mullingar with a friend and walking/getting a lift on her knee through Mullingar while blind drunk, wading through the throngs leaving the nightclubs. Both of us were probably wearing short skirts at the time. And yet, if we had been attacked, would we have been blamed because we were in short skirts? Or because we had disabilities? Would it have been our fault?

My dad follows this blog (often he’s the only one to leave comments here – hi dad *waves*) and he is probably furious at me for being so reckless and irresponsible. It’s a wonder how he gets any sleep. I’ve tucked my baby up in bed and although I will get up a few times during the night to check her (as you do), I’m reasonably confident she will be okay and not wander off anywhere. When she was younger, we baby-proofed the house, and we put everything sharp/dangerous out of reach and hid washing and dishwasher tablets. Now she is more independent, making friends and slowly moving away from the protective bubble wrap I envelop her in. I have to trust when I leave her with others, such as friends and family, that she will be safe. And I’ve always found that so difficult, but that’s more my problem than anyone else’s. It’s hard sometimes to believe that I’m the same person as that twenty-four year old I described above. How I’ve become so cynical, so untrusting, so guarded in everything I say and do (except for this blog of course).

I would like to end this blog entry with this thought. Karen Buckley (who I don’t know and have never met) did not ask for her fate, and neither did anybody else who may have experienced a similar fate. People, young and old, make mistakes, act foolishly, do things that they regret, but nobody deserves to be murdered or hurt for making these mistakes. There will probably never be a world where there will be no need to tell our children ‘Don’t trust strangers. Don’t walk alone or you will get hurt. Always tell somebody about your whereabouts.’ Whatever happened to Karen was not her fault, and we must remember that. Only by exonerating the victim of any responsibility can we ensure that we create a safer world for others, and especially our children.