Let’s talk about a girl, this week. Early twenties, studying to be a lawyer in a co-ed law school. Bright, pretty, maybe she makes friends easily. Like all friendships forged in first years of college, many fizzle out as one makes new friends or discovers some friends aren’t such a good fit. One day our girl is out with the driver, going to pick up her little sister from school. She gets her, walks down to the car and suddenly a young man wearing a motorcycle helmet leaps out at her. With a knife. Screaming and fighting, our girl goes down in a pool of her own blood on a busy road in Lahore, and during the skirmish—which sees her sister also slashed—the attacker’s helmet falls off, and our girl recognizes him. He’s a classmate with whom she wasn’t really friends with any more, but he is unmistakably someone she knows. And so began Khadija Siddiqi’s journey, over a year ago.

If you didn’t know her story, you’d think Khadija’s habit of pulling her headscarf tighter under her chin—a deft flick of her hand, hardly obtrusive—a sweet quirk of modesty. It isn’t, because her neck is heavily scarred. Stabbed twenty three times, it’s a miracle she survived at all. If you didn’t know her story, you’d think she was a regular young woman with bright eyes and a kind of concentrated, diamond-hard hopefulness about her. She’s an endearing mix of determination and innocence, and she is one of the bravest young women I have met. She’s been in and out of courtrooms for over a year now following the torturous, twisting paths the law can be made to take when justice is being delayed. It’s so common now that it surprises nobody familiar with how courts work in Pakistan. What is surprising (or maybe not) is how Khadija, like her historical namesake, is a girl with grit. Tiny in front of the elevated platform a judge sits on, she has stood in court, separated from her attacker by only a handful of people, and asked judges to listen, to help. She has sat one row behind her attacker in court, because here we have no rules or regulations about assault victims being kept decently far from their attackers. What went through her mind only she knows, but I sat next to her and not for a second did her chin droop or her hands tremble as she sat within earshot of a young man who would have happily killed her.

As a parent, this all shocks me doubly. As a parent, nobody actively raises their children to be murderous psychopaths. Nobody actually tells their child that it’s ok to attack someone with a knife just because they don’t want to be your friend, or throw acid on them, or any other permutation of violence. As a parent, nobody wants their child to be in jail either. But as a parent, you are also responsible for your child. You cannot absolve yourself of all moral and ethical duty just because the person in question is your child. If anything, you should be so ashamed of yourself, so abjectly horrified that the child you brought into the world did something so heinously wrong, that you should be throwing yourself at the feet of the girl your son tried to murder and begging for forgiveness. If you are a lawyer yourself, as Shah Hussain’s father is, you’d think you would feel doubly worse, because you are meant to be upholding the cause of justice. But no, because we must live in our quagmire of toxic masculinity, we must swagger. We must filibuster. We must harass, issue defamation suits, file writs and petitions so preposterous they fool no one. We will allow our violent, would-be murderer to openly declare he will try to finish what he started with his victim, and no judge will put him in jail. As a parent, as the mother of girls, I am horrified that this young man is free to roam in this city, that he could be sitting at the next table to my family in a restaurant, or in the checkout line at a grocery store, or, terror, in the same classroom as my child.

There is CC TV footage of Shah Hussain’s attack on Khadija Siddiqi. There are witnesses, there are medical reports, there are scars. There’s plenty of evidence; I’m no lawyer but to me this should be an open and shut case. It should have been resolved months ago, because as long as Hussain is free, he is a threat to society. The law exists to protect us from those who would willfully harm us, and who knows how many equally insecure, egotistical young men will be inspired by Hussain to do some attacking of their own? In our disgusting world the fact that Ms Siddiqi was friends with Hussain is enough for people to think she deserved what happened to her. People will say “but she knew him” as if that is some magical license for a man to do what he likes to a woman. Justice for Ms Siddiqi is crucial not just because she deserves it, but because Hussain must be made an example of, so that even the thought of harming someone’s little girl strikes fear into a man’s heart. So that the next time young men and women fall out, nobody thinks murder an acceptable form of retaliation. Boys like Shah Hussain—sulky and silent in court like an overgrown child, his lawyer fawningly trying to dismiss him as an errant schoolboy—are the reason why parents of young women worry for their safety. Ms Siddiqi’s case isn’t the first of its kind, but the outcome of it can go a long, important way towards making cases like hers some of the last.