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Tuesday , 28 September 2021

A silent scream: amplifying the voice of a Filipina bashed to death in SA

A call for justice for Cherry Gerente Ogar

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With the death of Cherry Gerente Ogar, domestic violence finds a voice in the public sphere and is amplified for concerned people to be heard.

In a series of messages from Angela Gerente over Facebook for her mother, Cherry painfully describes the pain and anguish of a daughter. She posts her messages to Cherry that she is on the way to the hospital, that she will treat her out to shop because it’s her payday and that she is still hopeful and waiting for a response. Until she says, ‘Ma?’ and still a long silence. 

Two figures in the community share their views on violence at home. Melba Marginson is the Chair of The Silent Witness Network, and Asther Bascuña Creo is a columnist for The Philippine Times and a copywriter. 

Melba Marginson writes,

“Sorry Ma kung magle-let go na ako. Ayoko ng mahirapan ka pa Ma. Mahal kita.” These were the last words of Angela Gerente to her dying mother, Cherry Gerente Ogar, as she permitted the doctors and nurses to take her off life support.

“No mother or daughter could fail to be moved by Angela’s loving words to Cherry in her Facebook posts, “Don’t worry Ma. I will always look after myself….Ga-graduate ako. Magiging lawyer mo ako. Kahit nilisan mo na kami. Guide me always. Ask God to keep me strong. We will be seeking and assure to serve you justice.”  

“The news of Cherry’s death, allegedly at the hands of her husband Anthony Ogar, who is now in Police custody, came as a shock to the people of South Australia and the wider Filipino-Australian community across the nation. To those of us who raised the issue of domestic violence against Filipino women back in the 1990s and documented the killings of roughly 45 Filipino women in Australia, Cherry’s death seems like it may be all too familiar. Should the courts confirm that Cherry was the victim of domestic violence-related murder, she would be the 25th such woman to die in Australia since 1 January 2021 (Counting Dead Women Australia, July 2021).

“The Australian Government had finally put significant resources into addressing family violence in 2015, 25 years after the Filipino community raised the issue country-wide. What precipitated the national campaign led by the Filipino community was the surge in domestic violence incidents against Filipino women in the 1970s, which peaked during the 1980s and 1990s. The campaigners of that era did not stop monitoring and documenting the murders and disappearances of Filipino women, and with Cherry’s death, the number has now reached 45.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the suffering of family violence victims as they have had to isolate with their abusers, and those who managed to leave faced added uncertainties due to lockdowns and unemployment. We do not know the details of Cherry’s life as that will be revealed as the case goes to inquest and trials. However, this much we can know: many women in Australia continue to live in dangerous conditions because they are often unaware that their lives are at risk, and if they do, they may not know what to do or where to go for help. It is why primary prevention of family violence is crucial to its elimination. We need to educate and empower families and communities around the issue of family violence. They need to be able to identify the signs of family violence and know how to deal with it, using the resources now available in the wider community.”

Asther Bascuña Creo remarks,

“The death of Cherry Gerente Ogar allegedly from domestic abuse is one of the ugly realities that can, unfortunately, happen in seemingly blissful homes. I saw this news a few days after someone told me that domestic violence happens more commonly than we think in our community. Admittedly, maybe naively, I was surprised it happens in worry-free Australia. 

So apparently, no one is suspicious that something sinister may be happening from behind closed doors. Unfortunately, sometimes it is too late, like in the case of Cherry, that we realise that we could have done something to save the victim. For those left behind, while justice can be served and the perpetrator put behind bars, nothing can bring back a murdered loved one. So the act of crime must be caught before it’s too late. It is easier said than done, but perhaps we can start by looking more closely, listening more carefully to what our friends say or don’t say, and act proactively at the slightest indication that something is amiss. Rest in peace, Cherry.”

WATCH VIDEO (Courtesy: Channel 9)

Hotline Australia-wide: If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732.

In the Filipino community in Victoria, there is a Hotline number to call to receive support through a Filipino worker who will refer the caller to the agencies that can assist. The Hotline number is 0490 517 346. If you want to get involved in family violence prevention efforts of The Silent Witness Network (TSWN), kindly email: tswn.coordinator@gmail.com or send a message on FB: https://www.facebook.com/TSWN.Inc

Feature image from Cherry Gerente Ogar’s Facebook profile

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