‘She shines her light on us in a different way now,’ Mum says, hopeful that our future is one where women and children live free from harm.
My sister Nikita was a classically trained dancer, performing artist and choreographer. She's also a victim of men's violence.
Niki's absence is something I feel every day. That pain of missing someone never really goes away, but you find a way through every day and sometimes it's too hard and you just hope for tomorrow to be an easier day. It's especially palpable whenever my family celebrates milestones. I sat down with my mum to talk about how it's impacting her.
‘Nikita Chawla was my daughter,’ Mum says proudly, clutching the last image ever taken of Niki.
‘Niki was young, vivacious and independent. She was kind and generous, and she should've been celebrating her 25th Christmas with us this year.’
Niki's life ended in the most brutal manner possible, murdered in her sleep at the beginning of 2015. It was a final act of control by a jealous and possessive individual, armed with a meat cleaver, and as the court process my family endured clearly demonstrated, a man with no remorse for his actions.
‘I remember the last conversation I had with Niki. She wished her father and I goodnight. She told me she loved me and couldn't wait to spend the weekend with us,’ Mum reminisces.
Niki didn't make it through the night, murdered at 23. Forever young.
‘He denied her of her dignity as a human being,' Mum says. 'He claimed to love her but that's not how you treat someone you love.’
The conversation shifts from Niki to just how prevalent violence is in our community. That what happened to Niki isn't an isolated incident, but a frequent occurrence.
‘I hope the future is different to our past and present where on average at least 1 woman dies a week,’ Mum says, visibly distressed that this is the kind of world we live in.
'Men who cannot accept equality, men who have a long way to go to learn respect, and men who have ingrained beliefs that hurt women and themselves, we need to change all of that.’
I agree with her, pointing out that we need to be working together to shift community attitudes, sharing our stories and advocating for change with the support of the government.
Mum and I smile as we share our memories of Niki and picture the future of family celebrations without her shining light.
‘She shines her light on us in a different way now,' Mum says, hopeful that our future is one where women and children live free from harm.
‘Not one more Niki,’ we say in unison.
I hope Mum's right. That's the kind of future I want too.
Reviewed 26 June 2019