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Today, Saturday, November 25, is International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women. And this is the day I decided to publish the video of my song 7 Minutes. 

I wanted the song and the video to convey a message of hope. 7 Minutes can change a person’s life. That’s all it takes for violence to make irreversible damage and turn a home into a prison. But 7 minutes can also be a gateway to freedom, to break away from “that house, from those chains, from those pleads”. It’s difficult but possible. It has to be possible. And we must do everything we can to make it possible. Music can help. Anything that raises awareness and puts the focus on the problem helps. We know many women make it. They find a way. They carry their scars like warriors and move on to start a new life. Unfortunately some others don’t make it. My friend was one of them. Her name was Cathy.

I found out several years after it happened. The relationship with her boyfriend was not working. I was told she left him. He stalked her. She reported it to the police. He waited for her one evening in front of her garage. Pointed a gun to her head. Pulled the trigger. Bang. Gone. Just like that. Cold blooded, premeditated  murder. I was told the family found the strength to forgive him at her funeral. The church was packed, they said. It was a beautiful ceremony. I was in shock. Forgiveness is a big word and it doesn’t always find a place in my vocabulary. In truth, it rarely does. But we all have our way of coping with the unimaginable. And we never know what it is until we are confronted with it. Some forgive. Others don’t. Some give in to depression and despair. Others fight. As for me, I write, I sing, I speak up. My voice and my words are my weapon.

Looking back, I don’t think 7 Minutes was specifically triggered by this event. If it was, it was unconscious. I was sitting in my living room one cold winter evening with the guitar on my lap and a blank sheet of paper in front of me. Out of nowhere a story started to come up in my head. Two characters emerged. A man and a woman. I could see them very clearly. I could hear them fight. I could feel the tension building up as he grabbed the bottle and blamed her for their life being a total mess. And then it happened.

“7 Minutes of brutality. 7 Minutes of insanity. 7 Minutes of violence and pleads to let her go”. And so the chorus flowed, with words pouring out and the crescendo picking up. The violence was being enacted. And I captured  it as vividly as I could. Raw. Unfiltered. So much so that the vocalists who did the back up vocals on the song were disturbed by lyrics. Later on I found out one of them had also been a victim of abuse… Unbelievable.

The more I talked about this song and the topic the more I discovered domestic violence is closer than we think. It knows no age, no gender. But I didn’t want this song to fall into a generic category. I wanted it to be specific. It had to be about a specific violence against a specific woman who found the inner strength to walk away. It was her story and through her story, millions of other women could see a way out of the nightmare they found themselves in.

Abuse can take many shapes and forms: physical, verbal, emotional, psychological. You don’t need to be subjected to physical violence to feel violated as an individual. The perpetrators are cunning in their practices, subtle, brutal; at times remorseful but never fully redeemable for they fall back into the pattern of violence, fully embracing it, embodying it, feeling elated by its effect on the victims and consequently on themselves.  Detecting the signs early on can be a life saver. When the promise of companionship, respect, and care turns into the threat of retaliation the moment there is the slightest suspicion of betrayal,  you need to walk away. And, make no mistake, a suspicious mind will always find a way to justify its actions. It is a sick mind that will only feel at ease when its suspicions will have been confirmed, whether real or imaginary. This contorted mind will create monstrous stories, connect dots where there are no connections, entangle events just to prove their victims deserve what they get. These minds are criminal. There is no other way to put it. Whether its nature or nurture at play here, this is not the question. I leave that to the psychologists and social workers.

For those who are stuck in this loop of violence asking “why” questions is not going to help. The real question is “how” to end it and is it possible to end the violence. I believe it is. And it is not an option. But everyone needs to do their part. Law enforcement agents, governments, schools, companies, leaders, politicians, lawyers, you and me. We know that statistics and numbers do not do justice to the gravity of this phenomenon. What happens behind closed doors tends to stay behind closed doors. Silence is a terrible ally of violence. It finds its roots in guilt, fear, shame, and this horrific sense that anyway nothing will change and nothing can be done.

Something has to change and something has to be done. There are still too many victims. Too many femicides. They all have a name. They all have their story. The most recent one less than 2 weeks ago: Giulia Cecchetin, 22 years old, stabbed multiple times by her ex. Anger protests are multiplying across Italy, today, Saturday, November 25. “For Giulia don’t hold a moment of silence, for Giulia burn everything,” Giulia older sister, Elena, wrote. “Femicide is a state murder because the state does not protect us. Femicide is not a crime of passion, it is a crime of power.” There can be no forgiveness. There can be no silence. Speak up. Find support. And most importantly, walk away!

There’s hope in tomorrow, keep walking towards tomorrow. Walk on. Walk on. To Freedom.

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