A Lament For Hannah Clarke and Her Children

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I wake up bleary eyed. I reach for my phone: it’s 6:45am, on the 20th of February. A news alert pops up: “Three children and man die in horrific incident at Camp Hill.” I start reading with a deep sense of unease. The unease turns to horror as I realise this was no accident but domestic violence at its worst.

And I weep, uncontrollably.

I weep for these children. 

I weep for their mother.

I weep for this family.

I weep over this evil.

It’s not even a week since this incident. And Australians are in shock. Indeed many Australians have been traumatised by this story. We can’t make sense of it: How does a father incinerate his whole family? How can he plan—let alone carry out—such an act? What was he thinking? What did he believe that turned him into such a monster?

Perhaps we could have distanced ourselves if it had happened in a different country. But this happened in our own backyard, and so this realisation eats away at the soul of who we think we are. We can’t turn away.

Perhaps we could have distanced ourselves if it had happened in a different country. But this happened in our own backyard, and so this realisation eats away at the soul of who we think we are. We can’t turn away, we can’t avoid it, nor should we. What makes it even more difficult was how  “together” this family appeared from a distance: a young couple with three kids—attractive, fit and healthy. Supremely “Instaworthy”. Living the Australian dream.

Or so it seemed.

For, as the news reports flew, it became clear it was all a façade. The reality behind the images was rotten, toxic, poisonous. Hannah Clarke and her children had been living a torturous nightmare at the abusive hands of their husband and father.

As a psychologist, I am familiar with stories of domestic violence. I know how victims (especially women) struggle against the manipulation of their abusers. I’ve heard them (wrongly) try and make themselves responsible for the abuse of others: “It was my fault … If only I hadn’t said … But he said sorry.” The stories are so familiar. And yet … always so painful.

Sometimes it stirs a fury in me, and I want justice for the victim.

Sometimes after they leave the counselling room, I cry.

Often, I pray “come Lord Jesus.”

No Sense

Domestic violence doesn’t make sense to us.

It doesn’t make sense when someone says they love you, but seeks to control you or your family or your friends. It doesn’t make sense when someone who promised to care for you tries to put you down or call you names—or, worse, tries to pit your children against you. It makes no sense when that someone hits you, and then says sorry … and does the same thing again next week, or next month, or next year. 

We can’t make sense of it because it doesn’t and shouldn’t make any sense at all. [1]

Domestic violence doesn’t make sense, because it is not love.

A loving husband treats his wife like a queen, not like a slave. A loving husband lays down his life for his wife—the same way Jesus laid down his life for his church.

Jesus is Love.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever, believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).

When words escape us, when this fallen world shocks us, we look to a God who gave us love in Jesus. And we live in hope of His return, when he will wipe away the tears and trauma from our souls (Rev 21).

When words escape us, when this fallen world shocks us, we look to a God who gave us love in Jesus. And we live in hope of His return, when he will wipe away the tears and trauma.

And bring eternal justice.

Until then, we mourn.

We weep with those who weep.

And we pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Maker of the heaven and earth, and of Hannah, Aailyah, Laianah and Trey.

Father, we don’t understand this tragedy. It seems so far beyond our understanding. We don’t even have the words to express our grief. But we know you do, Lord.

You know our sadness and the inexplicable pain of the Clarke family.

Please comfort Hannah’s family. Please be close to them, and minister to them through your family the Church. Please place your people around them to be your hands and feet. Let them hear your words of love and comfort as they deeply mourn for their, daughter, sister, nieces and nephew. Oh Lord, gracious Father, please pour out your mercy upon them. Please make known your gospel to them.

In their grief help them to turn to you, the source of every comfort. May they grab hold of Jesus, who will hold them fast.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen.


If you,or someone you know, is experiencing family and domestic violence please call 1800RESPECT (1800737732) or, for further information see: https://jerichoroad.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Tip-Sheet-6-final.pdf

[1] Tragically, domestic violence may make sense in the mind and twisted logic of the perpetrator. But that doesn’t ever excuse domestic violence. There is never a situation where domestic violence is right. As Christians, and as a society, we must do everything within our power to protect the victims.

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