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We have curated this content from the thousands of stories that South African's from all walks of life tell. They are stories of incredible strength and courage in the face of adversity. They are stories of abuse, horror, femicide, survival and recovery.
We will be adding a new story each day during the 16 Days of Activism Against Woman and Child Abuse Campaign.
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The Lead, The Love, The Conqueror
10th December 2020
The Lead, The Love, The Conqueror
Her scars were worn-out
Her heart cast-out
She had intended to give up, yet the life in her stood up
Meanwhile, her dignity searched –
Yet her fears lurched
Her bravery sneaked in –
Yet her hopelessness peaked in
The woman resolved that she had lost it all –
Love for self
Matter to all
Grit for story
Her scars endured as
Her heart was cured
Her life renewed –
when she chose her life over her fears
Steadfastly, she continues to live knowing she is NOT ALONE.
– Reabetsoe Noge – 2020
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It all just became too much .......
9th December 2020
Ever since I can remember my life has been terrible. I was born to a family living in a small farming community. My parents are strict church goers. I have three brothers, two older and one younger. My Mom was quiet and worked very hard looking after us and the house on the farm. I was terrified of my Dad and hid from him. He ignored me when I was little but as I grew he tormented me, belittled me and beat me regularly.
I never fitted into the family. It seemed as if I didn’t belong at all. My brothers are all outdoor sport mad and I would always hide away from them. They would mock me and call me a “sissie” and pathetic. It was best when they ignored me. I just had no place in the family. I would like to help my Mom in the kitchen and even help around the house but she would push me away and tell me to go and behave like a boy and help on the farm. It was almost like she was afraid.
I would go and find a secret place to hide.
When I started pre-school it was nice to learn new things and to play some of the games the teacher gave us. I met little girls and I loved to play with them and felt safe with them. I liked the way they played. My teacher said I was a good student and I loved my classes.
Then it was time for me to go to the big school with my two elder brothers. It was horrible. They were growing bigger and stronger and sportier. I just seemed to be a skinny little person with no muscles. I couldn’t compete with them and I hated everything they did. I really enjoyed learning more and more but when I wanted to be friends with the girls the boys would gang up on me and bully me and beat me up. It was so hard to hide. I even spent break times hiding in the toilets and being late back to class, which also got me into trouble but was worth it to escape the beating.
I feel like an outcast, different, there is no safe place for me in the world. I can’t talk to Mom or Dad they seemed to ignore me. It is like I don’t exist. I have nowhere to go. I have often heard my Dad arguing with my Mom about me and warning her not to go easy on me. I am a disgrace.
The bullying and beating got so bad at school that the masters spoke to Mom and Dad. They got so angry with me. They said it was all my fault and that I must learn to stand up for myself. No one would do it for me. I didn’t stand a chance against all those big strong sportsmen. I could try and block out the hateful words which hurt me so much, but I couldn’t defend myself physically. My younger brother had reached big school by now and he was just like the others. I just live my life in fear and looking for ways to hide.
One day my parents sent me to the elder of their church and he called me all sorts of names and told me I had the devil inside me. He gave me hours and hours of praying to do to get the devil out of me. I didn’t understand a lot of what he had said to me but I began to realise that I was different from the other boys and the awareness that I was gay started to enter mind, not that I understood that was what it was but I had heard the bullies call me that and it seemed to fit. I feel like someone trapped in the wrong body having to pretend that I am someone I am not. This is not making anything easier for me but somehow I have this secret person inside me that I can recognise and know even if no one else can know about it.
It is the loneliest existence. I can embrace the hidden me but somehow it feel even more lonely. Living a lie and not really existing is agony. The bullying and beatings have gone on and on and now school is over they are calling me names and are open about me being gay.
I will never be able to be true to myself. There is no escape for me. I will never feel safe. I will never feel acceptable. I can’t live like this anymore. I cannot see any future ……..
Then, Karel took his father’s gun and shot himself.
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Stories of Bravery: Me Too
8th December 2020
I shared one of my stories (I say one of, because most women in South Africa I know have a few, and so do I) about two years ago when I still felt very optimistic about the change that the Me Too movement could make. Now I feel naïve for thinking so, but still incredibly grateful that it has created the opportunity for women to share their stories. And maybe for now, that is something very important to hold on to even as the GBV numbers (reported cases) keep rising.
It’s 06:00. Your alarm pierces through the silent clouds of sleep you find comfort in. Snooze, or stop? Stop. Snoozing means ignoring the fact that the day has begun. You don’t ignore anything you’ve put in place to control your life. You don’t allow opportunities for “I told you so’s”. You lift yourself up with your elbows and look through the curtains. I was sexually abused. It’s a nice day out, barely a cloud in sight. It was my uncle. You might even be able to wear a summery skirt to work today. It started when I was four. Or that pair of navy blue loose cotton pants. I don’t know exactly when it stopped.
You don’t get up yet, you have yet to complete the first part of your morning ritual – recalling what you had dreamt so that you can do a temperature check on the mood you’re going to be in today. You have one chance to remember, and if you didn’t get a grip on at least one image of the dream, those riveting memories will be gone forever. You can’t afford to lose any more memories. You vaguely recall being a spy in your dream, walking away as a building behind you explodes. You feel a since of relief – it seems like you had completed your task. Today is going to be a good day. You slide your feet off the side of the bed allowing every remnant of the dream to slide down with you. When you feel the energy reaching your toes, you give it a little kick.
You walk to the mirror and turn your head from side to side to confront yourself. You move your face closer to the mirror and smooth your eyebrows. Left to right, top to bottom you scrutinise yourself, until you see her. The little girl you used to be. Some days noticing her petrifies you, some days you can’t imagine feeling any more at home than with her secure presence staring back at you. You smile, your polite and harmless way of saying hello.
He took me to the movies. You plug in the kettle and boil water for your first cup of coffee. I think it was Monkey Trouble. You use the smooth brown ceramic cup. It was Menlyn, the biggest shopping mall in Pretoria. You grab the tub of plain yoghurt from the fridge and add it to your bowl of muesli. You remember the days when you couldn’t stand yoghurt. Or ice-cream. Any milky substance repelled you. They thought you were lactose-intolerant. Ice-cream at Milky Lane on the top floor. You add extra nuts and seeds to the muesli. Chocolate sauce and Pecan nuts – he thought that one would be my favourite.
You sit down in front of your laptop, scanning news updates on Twitter. We read social media like people used to read their morning papers. The government and media are at it again. Corruption. Sex scandals. In the lives of civil society you sweep over articles about murders, robberies, car accidents and rapes. You linger on rapes.
A 15 year old girl was gang raped by her schoolmates. Rape is a type of sexual assault… you zone out. You know the definition by heart.
Father accused of raping his 7 year old daughter. Maybe I was seven when it stopped.
As a medical diagnosis, paedophilia is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or late adolescents (persons age 16 or older) typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children. He said he was so relieved to see that I was okay. That I had a normal, in fact successful life despite what he did.
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.
You don’t even blink, you know this already. Memorising the definition doesn’t piece together your fragmented childhood memories. You’ve tried.
The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, propensity to further victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems.
He’s my dad’s half-brother. A policeman.
Slightly annoyed at yourself, you realise you’re deviating from your time schedule too much. You clear your internet search history, just in case, and slam closed your laptop. When I finally reached out at 10, it was followed by years of silence. The sun shines bright outside. Summery skirt it is. And the black sandals you bought on your trip to Zambia. They’re comfortable and make you look approachable. We never really spoke about it again. You brush your teeth and apply eyeliner and mascara. You want to look professional but not too attractive.
Five minutes countdown. You grab your water bottle and an apple as you slip out the door. You take the stairs – never the lift – the most insignificant cage can trigger a very significant claustrophobia. You get to your car, on time. As always. Always in control. You turn the key and switch on the radio. I was sexually abused. You observe all the drivers around you. Irritated men, arrogant women. It was my uncle.
I shared my story because I am committed to end the cycles of abuse in my family, my culture, my country, my world. Child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, harassment, assault, harmful stereotypes are all maintained through silence. Some of us are kept silent by our circumstances, some of us are not ready to break the silence – I am. I was abused by a family member that holds a powerful position in society. I had very little understanding or support for the most part of my life. I ended up in an abusive relationship as a young adult, where I was retraumatized by sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse.
Few people understand the gravity of intimate partner violence. The gravity of someone biting you to illustrate to you that you are too fat to go to the beach with them. When you tell them that you have developed bulimia because of them and they say “well it’s obviously not working.” The gravity of fearing for your life when you say no. The humiliation of no never being an answer, because it is not understood as an option when you are meant to be submissive to a man. The gravity of him getting drunk and punching you, to wake up with no memory of the event, and therefore you cannot hold him accountable. The gravity of every sense of self shaken up by someone more powerful than you, someone that tells you often enough how much they love you, or how sorry they are.
And then on to the next abusive relationship, where your partner – an icon, a leader in society, an honourable person with those unfortunate narcissistic traits – wiping half of your master’s thesis because you broke up with them. Survivors of child sexual abuse become easy targets as adults, especially when you only see a therapist for the first time in your 20s.
I have been diagnosed with Complex PTSD. It has been a difficult journey and I feel like I had to hit rock bottom to finally seek out the help I needed. To not rely on alcohol, self-harm, eating disorders or toxic relationships to cope, but to face myself, and to be compassionate to my inner child, guiding me to find a path to healing. I could not have done any of this work without incredibly solid support systems – I owe my psychologist my life. Most of all, I could not have survived without the strength of other women who have been willing to share their stories. You don’t “put it behind you,” and no trauma ever really goes away, but in a world that makes no sense I have found a few things that do.
To all the survivors out there, take it one day at a time. You are not alone.
To find out more about the support you can find if you are in this situation, please click the button below.
Is this our culture?
7th December 2020
Fezekile Kuzwayo, is a name that few recognise, she may be better known to you as “Khwezi” or “Accuser x”. Her name was erased to keep her identity protected at the time, while she was in the courts going up against former president Jacob Zuma where she alleged he raped her. She had also maintained that several ANC members had raped and abused her from the age of 5 years old, consequently resulting in an unwanted pregnancy and being diagnosed HIV+.
The trial against Jacob Zuma was an early and clear representation of the secondary victimization, and hatred shown to women who stand up against their abusers in a patriarchal society such as South Africa’s. Fezekile’s sexual orientation, sexual history, HIV status, and history of abuse was paraded in the courtroom while Jacob Zuma’s defense called on “culture”. He alleged that the way she dressed in a traditional khanga was an invitation for sex. We have come a long way in understanding rape culture today, but the idea that this argument could be used to justify raping a woman who identified as lesbian in a court of law shows how systemically both hetero and homosexual women face countless barriers in getting justice against their abusers. This narrative of a woman’s choice in clothing being a signal to say “she was asking for it” is a story that countless women recite as the reason they were harassed, abused or raped.
Outside of the courtroom in 2006, Jacob Zuma supporters – including the ANC Women’s league and the ANC Youth league- Used anti-gay, often violent speech to put her down. She was vilified in the eyes of the public, and literally spat on. Her mother’s home was burnt down in the process and someone who was mistaken for Fezekile was stoned outside of the courthouse. Her life was made a living hell for speaking her truth.
When the case was dismissed in court, Fezekile and her mother had to flee the country to escape the death threats and hate she received. Fezekile was no stranger to fleeing this country for safety, her family was exiled during apartheid when she was young, and they found they had to flee again later in life to escape the very people their family fought for all those years ago.
Fezekile passed away in 2016, from what is believed to be due to complications of HIV. She was mourned by many, and surprisingly even the ANC Women’s league who were ferociously against her seemed to have a change of heart in the end.
Fezekile’s memory and legacy forms a part of our shameful history of victim-blaming, slut shaming and abuse under those who are in power.
We will forever remember her name. We will forever remember Fezekile Kuzwayo. Khwezi. Accuser x.
I am Khanga
I am Khanga
I wrap myself around the curvaceous bodies of women all over Africa
I am the perfect nightdress on those hot African nights
The ideal attire for household chores
I secure babies happily on their mother’s backs
Am the perfect gift for new bride and new mother alike
Armed with proverbs, I am vehicle for communication between women
I exist for the comfort and convenience of a woman
But no no no make no mistake …
I am not here to please a man
And I certainly am not a seductress
Please don’t use me as an excuse to rape
Don’t hide behind me when you choose to abuse…
For contact numbers, please click the button, below.
6th December 2020
When my husband reads about a woman who has been murdered by her partner, he says ‘She must have been having an affair’.
I married my husband in a traditional ceremony when I was 25 and he was 35. At the time I was a newly qualified primary school teacher. He told me that he would look after me. I thought that sounded nice; I grew up in a poor family, and everything was a struggle. My parents gave up a lot to pay for my studies. Ten years later, we have three children, our son is 9, and we have twin daughters aged 7.
The problem is that my husband has become more and more controlling. He won’t let me apply for a teaching post, even though he is proud of the fact that I am a qualified teacher and last born are now 7. It would also be nice for our family to have more money. I tell him that two salaries are better than one. But he does not hear and says he wants me to stay at home. I often ask him how it will be for him if we spend money educating our daughters and their husbands won’t let them work. He does not answer.
Once my husband proposed that I should work with his cousin, who makes money applying for government tenders. But this plan meant that he would have to leave his computer at home for me to use and give me his password. When his cousin was showing me how to find tenders on the internet, I saw some of my husband’s emails, some of which were from other ladies. My husband closed his computer quickly and said that the government tender idea was not a good idea after all.
I have no social life. He gets very cross if I visit friends during the day when he is at work. He always wants to know where I have been. I think he must be jealous, suspicious or thinks I will run away. Soon after we met, before we married, I had an affair with someone else. At that time we were just friends and we had not declared our love to each other or told our families. And he himself had another girlfriend at that time. But I always think that his jealousy comes from this time. I used to blame myself for making him jealous, but now I know it is not my fault.
We live in a small mining town with very few shops. Whenever I want to go to a supermarket, usually on a Saturday, my husband takes me in the car. He wants to know, and be introduced to all the people I talk to, if he does not know them. He says I do not need to know how to drive because he will always be there.
He likes to go out at night with his friends and he has a problem with alcohol. He has never hit me, but when he comes home and has had too much to drink, I am frightened of him. He is menacing and threatening. He says that he and his friends always talk about news stories where men have murdered their wives or girlfriends. He says they all agree that women must have deserved it; they must have been having affairs. He says the ‘evidence’ is that all the pictures of murdered women show that they are all pretty women. How can you reason with that?
I feel trapped, lonely and isolated. The only person I speak to about my husband is my mother, and she says this is what marriage is like, and I should stay with him. She reminds me that I chose him, that he provides for us and I must live with my choices for the sake of the children and my reputation.
But our relationship is not healthy, and is not a good role model for either our son or our daughters. I have been poor before, and I know I can be poor again. It will take all my strength and courage to leave my husband, but one day I will. I must.
I have been speaking to a Lifeline counsellor for a few weeks now. It was such a relief just to talk to someone who I did not know, far away, who did not judge me for being a weak person or making a bad choice of husband. Leaving my husband will need lots of planning. I may have to get a protection order. But I am only 35 now and I want to make a decision that I will be proud of.
To find out more about the support you can find if you are in this situation, please click the button below.
GBV in the Workplace
5th December 2020
Complex power dynamics mean that sexual harassment as well as other forms of gender-based violence in the workplace can place a person in the position of having to risk not being believed or sufficiently supported and because of that losing their job or having to work in a place where they face daily trauma.
Work is how most people survive. Having work means the difference between being able to buy food for yourself or your family or not. That is why, when you start to experience abuse like sexual harassment at work it is a very scary experience. The idea of losing your job or things being made uncomfortable or difficult for you so that you end up quitting, can make speaking up an incredibly traumatising experience.
Abuse can take any form and is anything that makes you feel violated. Anything.
Because the workplace is usually a place of hierarchy (you report to your boss who reports to their boss etc.) it is not unusual that you may feel that you cannot trust your employer if you are being abused at work. This makes a difficult situation even more scary. A recent study (https://www.hlanganisa.org.za/domestic-workers-gbv-research-report/) conducted in South Africa on abuse of domestic workers showed that many women that work in other people’s homes face sexual and other forms of workplace abuse. Too many of them tried to speak up and were faced with further violence by either not being believed or being believed but nothing was done. This can be a terrifying experience when you are living on the edge already.
Some Steps to Take if You Feel that You Are Being Abused at Work
Remember that these are steps that you can take but they may not guarantee your safety. Each situation is unique and, although one of the results of abuse may be that you doubt your instincts, it is important that you trust your judgement and instincts to figure out which of the following steps (or any other steps that you can think of) are appropriate to your situation. This is not legal advice but simply steps that may assist.
1. Tell someone that you trust. This can help you feel supported or even just less alone. If possible, tell your employer or a person in charge of HR but if you do not feel comfortable to tell anyone at work then tell someone else that you trust. Remember that you can remain anonymous.
2. If you feel that you can and it is safe to, tell your abuser that what they are doing makes you feel uncomfortable. If you are experiencing verbal, emotional or psychological abuse or sexual harassment, you can try the following phrases:
That kind of conversation is inappropriate in the workplace. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes all the other women uncomfortable. Please stop doing it.
You shouldn’t communicate in that way. It’s offensive to me. Please stop talking to me that way.
Do not give me any more compliments. It makes me uncomfortable.
3. Keep a record of incidents. This may help you down the line if you are able to take more formal steps as well as keep track for yourself.
4. Speak to a lawyer, the police or your union representative. Even if you do not want to go to court or take any formal steps, it can be helpful to know your rights.
5. Seek support. Lifeline offers 24 hour counseling and is a way for you to receive psychological support. This website has many practical resources for those experiencing gender based violence so seek help.
For contact numbers, please click the button, below.
Children at the Core – The forgotten children of GBV
4th December 2020
- “Family devastated after a man allegedly kills his four children.”
- “Limpopo father accused of killing his two children appears in court.”
The news headlines go on and on and on.
These are some a few of the many stories in South Africa about men and at times, women who have abused and killed their own children in relation to gender based violence and domestic abuse. A paper by Save the Children (2007) highlights how GBV negatively affects young boys and girls – physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually. Children witness acts of violence, emotional abuse and holistically unhealthy relationships in the household which influences on their perception of relationships. At the core of it all, sometimes children lose their precious lives due to the conflict between their parents.
As children are deemed resilient beings, they are also fragile and abuse exposes them to more vulnerability. Their lives and development is stunted due to the negative influence of abuse. Children normalise the behaviour modelled by their caregivers and believe that the abuse they witness is normal and can be extended in their lives.
A lot of stories are told in the perspective of the adults/parents, while children lose their voice in the process. Motsiri (2019), expresses how children who observe the negative behaviour of violence end up experiencing anxiety and other mental health problems, while they are also prone to engaging in risk related behaviour in the future – such as the use of drugs, unhealthy sexual behaviour, alcohol abuse and underperforming at school.
Parents and caregivers alike, have the opportunity to model a different kind, yet hopeful space for children in decreasing the statistics of GBV against women and children. Toni Morrison once said; “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they (your children) walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?” Once parents/care givers acknowledge that children really are the future and at the core of what is happening between the adults in their lives, then, parents and caregivers will act mindfully to consider children’s right to life, safety and building towards a better community by fighting the surge of GBV.
Tips to ensure the safety and livelihood of children and protection from GBV:
- Always be mindful of children’s wellbeing
- Be aware if you are representing unhealthy behaviour in the presence of children
- Seek immediate support for yourself and children through your resources– extended family | police | the law | work
- Seek counselling support services
- Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre 011 484 1734
- ChildLine South Africa 08000 55 555
- Rise against GBV Africa – 073 732 6060
- LifeLine Johannesburg 24/7 crisis line 011 728 1347
- Stop Gender Based 24/7 crisis line 0800 150 150
For additional contact numbers, please click the button below.
A predator at work
3rd December 2020
I was so excited when a friend told me about a place that was looking for people to work.
I contacted them and they said I could come in for an interview. It was a call centre and they liked my voice and that I could speak several languages. They said I could start the next day.
My first days were for training on all the different calls I might have to answer. There were a lot of things to learn because it was a help line. I really enjoyed the training. It was very interesting and the trainer was very nice.
This was so wonderful for me because I would be earning a salary and could provide for my family. I didn’t mind the shift work. That was fine. My neighbour would help with the kids.
I was looking forward to getting to meet the other telephone operators and moving on with the job.
The supervisor seemed quite a nice man and he welcomed me and made sure I knew what to do.
After a few days I sensed that the other women seemed to avoid him and there was an atmosphere when he was in the room.
Then came my first night shift. I was surprised to see that he was there because I had understood that we were usually on our own on the night shift. About two hours into the shift I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Suddenly he was there grabbing me from behind. He was trying to force himself on me and I fought but eventually he raped me. He really hurt me and I was so shocked and terrified. When I tried to complain to him about what he had done he told me I would be fired if I said anything.
It is like my whole world has crumbled. I am the only breadwinner for my family and I need this job so desperately, but how can I work with this person. My colleagues know what had happened. It was no surprise to them. They told me if I try to do anything about it I will lose my job. Most of them are suffering in the same way. It is so hard to find a job that they have to put up with it. They told me that some had tried to take it to management in the past but they had just been fired.
I had thought that I could make a complaint to management but now that thought is impossible.
I am trapped in this terrible situation and I must provide for my family.
It seems there is little choice in this situation.
Risking losing the job is not a luxury Maria can afford.
This man is enjoying the fruits of his power over vulnerable women suffering acute poverty.
For contact numbers, please click the button, below.
Men are victims of GBV too!
1st December 2020
This is Thabo’s story.
I married the girl of my dreams and we had a beautiful baby together. We both had work and although we moved to live in a very small place we had dreams that after a year we would be able to move to somewhere better.
COVID has come and my wife has lost her job and is at home looking after our baby full time. I am lucky, I still have my job. Jobs are very hard to find now and it is very important to do everything to hold on to the job you have got.
My wife is so dissatisfied now and bullies me all the time that I am the man and I must provide for my family and things are not good enough for her. She says she cannot hold up her head with her friends because we live in a dump and she doesn’t have clothes and money so socialise with her friends. She keeps telling me I must go and find a better job with much more pay so that she can be happy. She fights with me, hits me and screams at me and I don’t want to go home anymore. She doesn’t understand that I am being responsible and doing the best I can do. I can’t just create more money. Every day she goes on and on about it and keeps telling me to go and look for better work. This week I just needed to escape and I went and had some drinks with my friends instead of going straight home. She went crazy and left with our baby. She says she won’t see me again and I will never see my baby again. I just can’t make her see reality and that things will take time to improve. I cannot risk losing my job and then we have nothing at all.
She has fallen in with a group of women who are poisoning her mind against me. I feel they are a dangerous influence over her. I tried to ask her not to see them but she seems to choose them over me. They are turning her against me. She doesn’t love me anymore and I am afraid of what she might do to me. Sometimes I fear for my life.
I have done everything I can to be a good husband and father to my family. I need my baby boy and my wife. I just don’t know what to do. Life has no purpose for me anymore. She makes me feel like a useless failure. She disrespects me and I am losing my own self-respect. I am not a man anymore.
Thabo sought counselling for some support.
He is trying to get his wife to get counselling too and she is beginning to consider it.
For assistance and contact numbers, please click the button below.
I woke up under a bush in the park. I was naked.
30th November 2020
This is Janine’s story.
On the final day of first year university exams, I went out with five friends for a night on the town. We started out sharing a meal together, we shared a two bottles of wine between six of us, and then someone suggested that we should go to a nearby club. It was a festive evening but at about midnight four of our group said they wanted to go home and left. I was left with one other girl who I did not know as well as the other four. We ordered and paid for drinks at the bar. Two boys that we vaguely knew from university started chatting to us. I wanted to go to the ladies, and told my friend I would be back soon. I assumed that she would watch my drink while I went to the ladies. I remember being uneasy about this assumption, as she seemed quite absorbed with the other boy, and we did not make eye contact as I left.
When I came back, she was back on the dance floor dancing with one of the boys, and the other one was where I had left him, along with our drinks. I took a few sips of my drink, and that is the last thing I remember.
I woke up in a park, under a big bush, near the Pick & Pay on Main Road. I was naked. I was cold. As I started to regain consciousness I realised that my clothes were in a pile next to me with the bag I had had the previous evening. I looked at my watch, which was still on my wrist. It was 4.00am. I felt sick with horror at what might have happened. And I had no memory of it. I looked through my bag; nothing was missing. My cell phone and purse were both there. I put my clothes on and called an Uber to take me home.
When I got home I collapsed on my bed and slept until nearly 3.00pm that afternoon. When I woke up the second time, I realised that I had no option for peace of mind other than to go to a doctor and have an examination. I made an appointment at a medical practice I had visited once before. It was a Saturday and I was lucky to make an appointment for 4.30pm and ended up getting a doctor I had not seen before. I was so embarrassed and felt so foolish, but plucked up the courage to tell the doctor the truth. He asked me if I had washed, and I said no. He recommended that he should examine me, and if there was any evidence of semen, he would prescribe, with my consent, medicines to prevent pregnancy and potential exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. He could also take a blood test to test for date rape drugs.
But he told me that if I wanted to lay charges I should go to the Emergency Sexual Assault Centres within one of three Netcare hospitals nearby. There, he said, I would be examined to find any of the perpetrator’s DNA, as though my body was a crime scene. Trained personnel had the equipment to ensure that DNA samples taken from my body would be correctly bagged and stored. They would probably also ask to keep my panties. They could also do the necessary blood tests for date rape drugs.
He recommended that I should have counselling and that I should have follow-up HIV testing in two weeks, six weeks, three months, six months and a year later.
I agreed that my GP should examine me. He did find semen. He wrote a prescription for the medicines I would need. He reminded me of the options that I had and what I could do next.
I went straight to the pharmacist, got the medicines and then went home. I took the first of the pills. I phoned Lifeline. The Lifeline counsellor told me the same thing that the doctor had told me. I had to get myself to the police or one of the Netcare Hospitals near me if I wanted to lay a charge of rape. She said it was my choice.
For additional contact numbers, please click the button, below.
How Being Stalked Changed My Life
29th November 2020
Content Warning: Stalking, Emotional Abuse, Self-harm
Sam was funny, irreverent and flirtatious. He had a mysterious past, smoked like a train and spent most evenings drinking draughts at the local pub before getting into his car and driving home to his parent’s home, where he still lived.
I, a hopelessly insecure mid-20 year old woman, met him at work. I liked the fact that he was so funny and mysterious. When he made flirtatious advances to me I brushed them off, as I knew that he was involved with someone else. But something about the rebelliousness of his advances drew me like a magnet. I slipped into a turbulent friendship with him, spending most nights sinking into the oblivion of drink with him and his friends. And one night, when we were alone, he kissed me.
I could say I’d resisted, but that would not be true. I ran into his arms, where I misinterpreted the brightly burning red flags for passion, and what followed was about five months of a tumultuous relationship. He told me stories of how he’d been hurt in the past and how it was impossible for him to break up with his current girlfriend for me. But he was also conspiratorial, sharing secrets, giving me gifts, promising things about our future together. I clung to his advances, believed it to be love.
At the time, I was self-harming most days, using physical pain to help me cope with the deep psychological pain of self-hatred. I was working through deep depression with a therapist and starting on antidepressant medication. And although my judgement was rife with my own insecurities, I started to recognise that the relationship with Sam was not healthy for either of us. And so I tried, softly and with as much love as possible, to break up with him.
It was an immediate relief and for the first time in months, I looked up and saw some light on the horizon of a life that I wanted for myself.
Sam cried when I told him. Then he begged me to take him back, refusing to let go. He said he’d do anything. Streams of messages came through the next day. And the next. He waited outside of my apartment, begging me to speak to him. Eventually, I conceded to go to couples counselling with him on the condition that after that, he would leave me alone. But he didn’t intend to retreat, and the more I told him to leave me alone, the more fervently he pursued me.
A blurry few weeks followed. By that time I had blocked him on whatsapp, but he contacted my friends. He sent letters to my therapist, left letters for me in my postbox. With access to my computer at work, he would hack into my PC and leave things on my desktop – playlists, films. The most unsettling was a video of my face cut out of all of the company photos I was in – a disturbing 10 minute programme that must have taken hours to create.
Rattled, I decided to visit my mother who was staying in a small town just outside of Cape Town. On the highway, I noticed his car behind mine. I was truly frightened at that point. I called my best friend, who suggested that I change routes. At that point, though, he appeared to have turned off. I continued to drive, shaking.
That night, I was walking home from dinner when he confronted me outside the flat where I was staying. Luckily, I managed to jump behind the security gate quickly so that I was standing safely in the door jamb. In physical safety, I told him he was scaring me with his inability to respect any of my boundaries. He begged for me to take him back, refusing to listen to my request for him to leave. I explained that if he really loved me, the kindest thing he could do at that point was to leave me alone. Eventually, I turned my back and retreated into the flat, my heart pounding. I switched my phone off and tried to sleep, unsure of whether I was safely out of his grasp.
The next morning, I awoke to a series of emails from him threatening suicide. That afternoon, I received a call from his uncle, asking me if I’d seen or heard of him, as he had gone missing. Sam reappeared after 48 hours.
That was the point at which I decided to get help. I didn’t stay at home, rather sleeping at friend’s houses. I messaged a group of friends whenever I left the house for work, when I arrived, and when I went to the shops. All the while, he continued to message my friends, oblivious to my demands to be left alone, seemingly unaware of how scared I was of him.
I tried to go to the police, but they said that they would arrest him. This approach felt too dangerous for me; if he was let out on bail, what would he do to avenge himself? I went to the family court and got an interim protection order, which the police had to serve to him. For some reason, they said I needed to be present when they served it, so they took me along in the police vehicle. I slunk into the seat of the police car, hoping Sam wouldn’t see me, utterly afraid.
Two weeks later, I arrived at court to solidify the interim protection order into something permanent. The court experience was surreal; starting from when my friend and I were confronted with Sam in the family court waiting room (there are no separate rooms, it seems, for domestic violence victims and accused). The family court corridors were dark and ominous; there were lights broken and no clear signage, and I was grateful to have my friend’s hand to hold.
Arriving in front of the magistrate, he demanded to know who my friend was. “Only family are allowed in here,” the magistrate said, ordering her to leave. Having shooed her out, (I was now the only female in a room with the magistrate, Sam and his lawyer) the magistrate proceeded to ask me if I wanted the protection order to stand. I said yes. He responded by saying that the matter would have to go to trial.
And here, exhausted, I retreated into my privilege. When I applied for the interim protection order, I had bumped into a family friend who was doing their articles at a law firm at the time; he offered to help me settle the matter at a reduced rate. This would mean avoiding going to trial, which would be better than reliving the trauma in front of a room of strangers. And so we drafted a “memorandum of understanding” that said neither party would contact the other. Once signed, Sam finally stopped contacting me.
This was four years ago, and although I’ve worked through a lot of the trauma, the experience has made me realise a lot of things about Gender-Based Violence.
Firstly, it is the all-encompassing role of privilege – particularly class and race – in these struggles, and how it continues to determine all aspects of South African life. If I was not white or middle-class, I would not have had access to friends who helped me, alternative and safe places to stay, or legal assistance. My experience was traumatising, but I could access some of the State’s safety nets, and when those safety nets were not sufficient, I could outsource alternative protection. Ultimately, I was able to resolve the matter quickly and not get any more hurt. I have been able to afford the therapy and medication that helped me out of a toxic relationship and recover from the trauma of being stalked. The same cannot be said for the majority of GBV cases in South Africa.
Secondly, I have thought a lot about the ways in which we communally create psychosocial conditions for GBV as a society. When going through the trauma of being stalked, I was told by many people that “Sam is just really into you”, or “that’s what men do when they’re really into you.” Normalising the breaking of boundaries as “romantic” is something that we communally reaffirm, and collectively we need to stand up against it (men, particularly, need to call out other men when they see this behaviour taking place). Violence is insidious, and it sneaks in through the doors that we leave open for it.
Finally, being stalked helped me to experience, in my body, the permanence of gender inequality and how hard it is to be a woman trying to stand up against a perpetrator. Feeling powerless and frightened is a feeling that prevents rational thought, blurs vision, disables activities like driving a car or carrying out simple tasks at work. I had nightmares for months afterwards, and I still have them occasionally. All of this was experienced from a “mild” form of emotional abuse. The turmoil that it creates in the body and the ability to stand as a “rational” seeker of protection is significant.
As such, and as is common, I continually gaslighted myself throughout the process, asking if the stalking was “bad enough” to warrant legal protection. I felt like I was to blame for bringing the experience on to myself. And this was backed up by the very system that I sought for protection: A few months after the experience, I encountered the lawyer-friend who’d helped with the memorandum. A mutual friend had commented on the fact that I had a new love-interest and he looked at me, laughed, and said, “Another one? Haven’t you learnt your lesson?”
In a culture of oppression, it’s easier to be caught laughing at a joke that blames the victim of a crime than to be supportive. And as a society, we need to change that.
To see some steps to take if you feel that you are being stalked, please click the button below.
Shhh! A tale of a hidden reality !
28th November 2020
This is Uncle Joh’s story.
Uncle Joh (not his real name) lived in a rented room with his wife, ausi Mimi and 2 children in Soweto. When the tenants moved in next door to our house, they had the picture perfect family image – they were building their life together.
As uncle Joh went to work, while ausi Mimi would take care and clean their room during the day. Then, one day, when Uncle Joh came home from work he hid himself to hide some money inside his socks. This was apparent that this behaviour was odd, “why would a family man hide money inside his socks just before entering his home?” I thought to myself.
Then on a liberating day, uncle Joh disclosed to my grandfather that his wife abuses him emotionally and financially. He felt humiliated and disrespected. He was so fearful of his wife that he referred to her as “mme” which means mother. He would sometimes go to his parental home for dinner, while he came back home late in the evening – his wife sharing food with her children. This abuse was now apparent in the sense that his children were now disrespecting him.
He had lost his sense of worth, dignity and self in the relationship and as a father, until his family decided that it would be best for him to leave his wife and go back home before any damage was made to his dignity and his relationship with their children. Although, their union and family dream life was lost, he survived an emotionally abusive relationship and slowly started to regain his life and worth.
This account of Uncle Joh’s story draws to the silent screams that men experience in their relationships. As we are campaigning 16 Days of Activism against the violence of women and children, with the mind to always create a VOICE 365/366 days and a new conversation is being encouraged to also empower men to have a voice too.
What do we learn from this story?
- Gender Based Violence can happen to men
- Disclosing to a trusted friend opens up opportunities of growth, healing and restoration
- The emotion of shame and self-worth is injured
- Being mindful of support networks – neighbours, family and finding a solution that is best for the victim, the perpetrator and sometimes, the children involved.
- Mindfulness: If one feels they might be abusive to their partner or family, it is never too late to take a stand in your life and repair the broken pieces of yourself to save yourself and your loved ones.
For additional contact numbers, please click the button, below.
27th November 2020
I am a married woman with two children, a girl of 5 years old and a little boy of 2. My husband has physically abused me for a long time now and I feel I just cannot take it anymore. I am afraid for my life. Some time ago he provoked me beyond my endurance and I just flipped. I started screaming and hitting him and I felt out of control. Later I discovered that he had been filming me on his phone. I was so shocked and horrified. Whenever I try to discuss leaving he threatens to put this video out on social media and he says the police and the law will never believe me after seeing the evidence that I am a mad woman.
I was so desperate a friend told me about a divorce lawyer to help me for R500. He has written the paper to give to my husband but he said I will not get anything if I leave him. I have to collect the paper to give to him but I am so afraid what he will do to me. I think he will kill me. I wonder if he will let me go with my baby boy if I leave my daughter with him.
I need help. I must look for someone to help me so I looked on internet to see if there is any help for me.
Lindiwe’s survival actions
Lindiwe is a strong and determined and very brave woman. She has taken several steps of action which have empowered her to fight for survival and kept her ability to fight alive.
Lindiwe phoned Lifeline as a result of her search on the internet.
She was given the following potential sources of support to address her legal rights and her immediate safety.
Thuthuzela Care Centre 011 933 1140
Legal Aid Clinic 0900110110
Rise Against Violence 072 732 6060 (an organisation operating in the Johannesburg area that will come and take you and your children to away from danger. You have to be ready to leave with them.)
For additional contact numbers, please click the button, below.
Suffering in silence : Jane’s story
26th November 2020
Here is Jane’s story.
What is financial abuse – If someone forcibly controls another person’s money or other assets, it is financial abuse – and it occurs in almost all abuse relationships. It is usually part of a larger pattern of domestic violence aimed at getting and staying in a power position in a relationship and creating dependence on the abuser. Jane’s story is not new and is not different to most of the abuse stories we hear. It did take a great amount of bravery to share the story.
I am sharing this story because I feel that there is so much shame associated with being a victim of abuse. Women often feel stuck and hopeless, but I want you to know there are ways out of it and you don’t need to suffer. Many women are suffering and surviving in silence. We inherently believe we are weak because we are victims of abuse – this could not be further from the truth.
My story starts off like all fairytales – he was a kind and charismatic man that cared so much for me. I would receive flowers at work and come home to supper cooked. Our relationship flourished and quickly became more serious. Then comes the baby in the baby carriage – you know the song… At first he was insistent that he would take care of me and I could be home raising our child. After the birth of my child, He quickly became more controlling, questioning expenses and what and how I would spend. The more I tried to be frugal the more he belittled me. I pleaded to start working again so that this financial pressure point in our relationship could end and we could just go back to the way we were. However these fights would escalate until one day he snapped.
From there on things just became worse. He started isolating me from our family and friends. And then things started becoming violent – first a shove then a slap and soon I was receiving stitches from a flying frying pan. Thinking back I believed he had the ability to change, but the more I think about it he was pulling me into his darkness. I needed out.
After one particularly brutal attack, I decided to reach out to an organisation that helps women in vulnerable situations. The counsellor listened to my story without judging me or telling me what I should be doing. Instead, she encouraged me to explore my options and work out a safety plan for me and my child to live in a safe environment where I can be empowered. Calling them was step one in my journey to leave my abuser.
It took some time to document the abuse that followed and carefully plan a get away so that it might not aggravate him more. In the end I know I did the right thing. Looking back I can’t believe I stayed in that relationship for so long – I felt so hopeless and so lonely in the situation, but desperate to save my baby and create a safe and happy home. I know I am no longer a victim, but a survivor and I am proud to be alive to tell the story. Hopefully encouraging someone to make the first move.
If you are experiencing physical or financial abuse you can reach out to the LifeLine Stop Gender-Based Violence Line – 0800 150 150 for counselling support and to find more resources.
Read more about financial abuse by clicking on the button below ………
A day of remembrance
25th November 2020
Our president has called Gender Based Violence(GBV) our “second pandemic” and called for a week of mourning. Mourning of the loss of lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to those who we have lost to GBV.
Today on the first day of 16 days of Activism – we would like to remember and mourn the people who didn’t survive, the ones whose voices are only heard in their demise. These names are not just statistics on a document, but people. People whose lives were cut short because they were seen as lesser than, because of their sexuality, because they were “other”, because they were wearing a skirt, because they were seen as property, or simply because they happened to be there.
There may be names that you easily recognise, names such as Tshegofatso Pule, Uyinene Mrwetyana, Meghan Cremer, Karabo Mokoena, Siam Lee – these names are heavy on our hearts and were pivotal in gaining recognition of how serious South Africa’s problem is. But, let’s also recognise the hundreds and thousands of others whose names we don’t know and those whose names will never be discovered.
South Africa has sharply become aware that we are facing a crisis. For years people have been fighting for a voice, and finally this voice seems to be heard. Now, South Africa, hearing is not enough. We need to hear, we need to listen, and we need to act.
At LifeLine Johannesburg, we receive countless calls from people who are being abused, have been abused or fear they will be abused. We have heard your stories of pain and loss, and we want to help in the best way we know – by sitting with you in your darkest times and really listening to you, by giving you the resources to make a change, and by highlighting your strength.
We also receive numerous calls from people who are scared they will become abusers, people who have abused and would like to change, and people who see no way out from this vicious cycle.