Ontario mother of alleged femicide victim keeping her daughter’s voice alive

Intimate partner violence is something that can shatter a family unit, leaving a community in mourning, and we're learning now that it is a growing issue in Ontario. Faiza Amin speaks with Cynthia Mulligan on her investigation.

By Cynthia Mulligan

This year alone, watchdogs say 23 women have been murdered in Ontario, as advocates across the country push governments to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic.

Each number represents a mother, sister, daughter and friend. That includes Sahra Bulle, who was murdered one year ago in Windsor.

Her mother, Fartumo Kusow, is working to make sure her late daughter’s voice is heard.

“She was so broken down, chipped away made to feel like she would no one else would love her,” said Kusow.

Bulle was just 18 when she met the man who is now accused of killing her. Her mother knew almost right away that something was very wrong.

“It was six weeks in that they were seeing each other and I saw this bruise on her thigh. I said, ‘What’s that?’ and she said, ‘He had flicked her’ and I said, ‘That’s not a flick.'”

Bulle eventually married that boyfriend and they were together for 18 years. However, her mother said the signs of abuse were constant.

“Her entire body was covered with bruises and we told her, ‘you can’t go back’” But she kept going back, even though she tried many times to leave.

“She was bruised and battered and she was too embarrassed and she would only come home and contact us when she could put on enough make up and cover it up,” shared Kusow. “It was getting worse and worse … it’s a loss that is so predictable and preventable.

Bulle suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, and countless trips to the hospital. Her mother tried repeatedly to get help.

“I must have made hundreds of calls, emails, trying to figure out what needs to be done, what support she can access,” shared Kusow.

“She suffered in silence, I knew, we all knew she wouldn’t call the police, she wouldn’t charge because she was ashamed of it.”

Bulle tried to leave 11 times, said Kusow, explaining that one year ago there was hope. She said Bulle was determined to leave; she changed jobs and moved to a shelter. She couldn’t live with family because he knew where they lived.

“She called me a little after 6:00 on Friday May 26, everything was great,” said Kusow, adding she remembers the last words her daughter said that night. “I love you mom, see you Monday.”

However, that Monday never came. Sahra went missing on that Friday night, less than three weeks after she moved into the shelter.

Her body was found 12 days later.

“She was killed by inches,” said Kusow. “For 18 years, this was just the culminating act of all those chipping away at her confidence, her dignity, freedom.”

Now Kusow has questions that will haunt her forever. “What was it that I could have said to convince her to stay out?” said her mother. “Her only crime was she loved him. And she was loyal to a fault.”

Experts say a woman is at the highest risk when she is trying to leave an abusive relationship.

Bulle’s husband has been charged with first degree murder. His case is before the courts.

In the second part of this series, CityNews will explore the alarming rise in femicides and intimate partner violence.

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