A woman’s grave is with her parents-in-law.
“They threw me out of the hospital. Junkie, they thought.”
We smoked hash and sniffed stuff in the park, and broke into the supermarkets. I might have stopped doing all that if I hadn’t discovered amphetamines. When I put the needle into my arm I knew I’d come home.
I looked good, and I worked as a dancer and photographic model - not always with my clothes on. I went to the trendy night clubs and knew all the right people. During this time my drug addiction accelerated. I tried to give it up but I couldn’t. In the end everything collapsed. Fifteen junkies in a one-room flat for which I hadn’t paid the rent was a disaster waiting to happen.
For the next ten years I lived in a car. Actually – it was two cars. One had an engine. And sometimes I lived in a tent. And for a while I had a run-down old caravan. That was when I wasn’t living with different men ….
For the next ten years I lived in a car.
For a long time I was really proud of the fact that “at least I had never been on the streets”. Now I think: what’s prostitution? I’ve lived with dirty old men just because they’ve had drugs. And of course I’ve paid with my body.
Women who are drug addicts are doubly vulnerable to violence. For one thing, they get beaten more than “normal” girls, and then they’re subjected to different kinds of violence from the rest of society. You get spat on and kicked, and when you try to get help for serious injuries the hospital staff say things like, “It’s your own fault” or “You’ve already had an anaesthetic”.
Women who are drug addicts are doubly vulnerable to violence.
The worst thing happened with a guy I adored. He was absolutely gorgeous, and a real gentleman. And he had drugs. I moved in with him, and we lived a fairly normal life at first, but then he started locking me in when he went out. When he came home he was more and more crazy. At one time, he amused himself by playing Russian roulette with me every day. He’d put some bullets in his revolver, aim it at my head, and pull the trigger. His mates sat there and watched. They were all afraid of him.
I was locked in for three months altogether. It felt like forever. The windows were boarded up and the door padded, so no-one heard me screaming. In the end it was the police who let me out. They came round to serve process and I managed to make so much noise that they heard me.
The windows were boarded up and the door padded, so no-one heard me screaming.
I was back there just a few days later. He’d found me, said he had “good stuff” that we could share while we talked things over. Then I was locked in again. The third time I went back, he took me for a ride in the car. He started insulting me right away. He hated me, I was repulsive and was only fit to die. This time he would show me. I would never go home again. When he stopped the car he put his hands round my neck and squeezed. I was locked in the car and he was much stronger than me.
I don’t know where it came from, but I used every ounce of strength I possessed and managed to kick open the locked door. Then I ran. I was wearing high-heeled shoes and I lost one but carried on running. He drove after me in the car, just waiting for me to fall over. I did too, I fell into a ditch, but I managed to get out and then I came to a house. I crawled up the steps and rang the bell.
When the police came they had to carry me out to the car. I was completely exhausted. I needed to drink but I didn’t have the energy to swallow the water. The effort had almost killed me. When I got to the hospital they examined me, didn’t find any broken bones or anything else urgent – and sent me out onto the street. I expect they just thought “junkie”. I couldn’t even walk, and I had nowhere to live.
He was eventually convicted of attempted murder. By the time he was released, I had started working with KRIS, an organisation which helps ex-criminals, and he came to me and asked for help for his daughter, who had become a heroin addict. I helped her. That was the best revenge I could have.
I’ve been working a lot with women drug addicts, women who in my day had nowhere to go to escape a violent partner.
I’ve been clean for 13 years now. The 22 years I spent as a drug addict were terrible, of course, but I don’t regret them. It’s good to have the bad memories; they’ve given me an experience that means I can help other people. I don’t waste my energy feeling bad tempered now, everything looks much brighter. I’ve been working a lot with women drug addicts, women who in my day had nowhere to go to escape a violent partner. Things have improved, but the discrimination is still there. Like for the young addict I went to the hospital with. She was terrified. They told her she had cancer – and that her treatment would cost 350,000 crowns so she’d better pull herself together. Her cancer is as serious as anyone else’s!
Maternal deaths: 5 deaths per 100,000 births
Number of children/woman: 1.67 (2011)
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion up to the end of the 18th week of pregnancy
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: On average 17 women are killed each year by their husband, boyfriend, ex-husband or ex-boyfriend.
Saying, South Africa