My father killed my mum and sister - and toxic masculinity was to blame

This article was originally published in Metro Online

On 19 July, 2016, mine and my brother Ryan’s lives were shattered when our father shot and killed our mum Claire, and our 19-year-old sister Charlotte at the Spalding swimming pool car park before killing himself.

Only five days before, we had moved mum and Charlotte away from our father, to what we perceived was safety.

Now, we both campaign to raise awareness of coercive control.

Previously, we had believed that domestic abuse was about violence, so we looked for increasing violence to indicate the danger we were in, yet the violence came all at once. Now we see that violence is a means abusers use, only sometimes, to achieve their fundamental aim: control.

We understand that domestic abuse is about control, and the danger is related to the increase in the perpetrator’s demand for it.

Abuse is not caused by emotions, by ‘losing it’, ‘being provoked’ or being sad, but by beliefs – it doesn’t matter how traumatised you are, you will never hurt another human being unless you believe it is OK to do so.

When murder is seen as the ultimate act of control, our father’s behaviour was the next step in his demand for control over us all.

Coercive control is a crime of aggregation, not necessarily the severity of each individual action. Examples of coercive control include isolation, economic abuse, psychological and emotional abuse.

In our case, it was not necessarily what our father did to us, but what we could never do for ourselves under him.

It is a crime against liberty and creates invisible slaves. Coercive control creates an overwhelming environment by building crushing mountains from apparently weightless grains of sand.

Until we challenge coercive and controlling behaviours, our society will continue to devastatingly fail to protect women and children within the family.

Fifty per cent of murdered women are killed by a partner or ex-partner as opposed to only three per cent for men. While we do nothing, two women a week are killed in this way, and domestic homicides will continue to account for a third of all murders in our society.

Over half of all homicides occur in the home. The home is not a sanctuary but is an arena of abuse and death unlike any other within our society.

The four walls of the home, for many, are more impenetrable than the most secure prison. One in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. This is because it is too easy for some men to turn the family into an engine of tyranny and authoritarianism within a supposed democracy.

We shouldn’t be able to shut the door and shut out the law, but for many this is the result.

We do not rely on benevolent dictators to run our public lives, but the building block of our society, the domain of our family in our private lives, is rested upon an institution which has very little oversight in place to prevent abusive men turning a family into their domain for dictatorship.

As we have learned, the problems with the family are inseparable from the problems of masculinity; the masculine demand for power and control as opposed to love, the idea that a family is something be owned rather than to be a part of.

But any ideas of ownership that men have over their families are less important that the rights of freedom for women and children. We need to speak about domestic abuse and ask where we have concerns. We must remember that silence is abuser’s narrative, who wants to keep it all hidden.

Fundamentally, to address the root causes of domestic abuse we need to tackle and redefine masculine ideals. Men are most likely to be harmed and killed by other men, and men are three times more likely to kill themselves then women.

For me, these are the inevitable consequences of a masculine ideology which believes in power, control and domination over everyone, including ourselves.

My brother and I hope that by sharing our story and being part of the conversation to redefine masculine ideals, we can protect not only women and children, but all men.