Breaking a girls’ legs or
……forcing the gate before you’ve been given the key …
“I don’t want to stop hating, it’s my right.”
Things were always chaotic in my family. My mother died, I was young when I left home and I had a few dramas with boyfriends.
But this man didn’t say much. I imagined we would have a quiet life. I didn’t have any strong feelings for him and that felt good. We were the kind of couple who don’t talk much and are rarely at home at the same time. I suppose I was kind of silent. And I lived for my work as a psychologist.
For seven years I worked at the national women’s organisation and built a career. All the time I thought that when I got to the top I would be able to change things for real. But it wasn’t like that. The feminist movement in my country is almost an enemy for women; they’re so obsessed with campaigning and rhetoric that they don’t see the real needs. I can give you an example: there was an advertising campaign for a deodorant, with pictures of a female body. OK, they were a bit provocative but I couldn’t understand how the women’s organisation could spend so much money on a counter-campaign, money that could have been used to buy shoes and glasses for children who live with abused mothers!
It was a difficult time, but I was proud of myself.
I found it increasingly difficult to put up with all the politics, so I resigned and found a new job, for a company which was supposed to help children of poor single mothers, children who had been abandoned or who were growing up with substance abuse and prostitution. The children had so many needs. They didn’t have anything, they didn’t have any physical contact. Some of them had been raped by their mothers’ customers. I was supposed to look after 80 children and I tried everything to make the management understand that this was impossible. I spent most of my time going round looking for the children. They never went to school; I used to find them in the parks. There was a conflict with the management who took me to court. Eighteen lawyers claimed that I wasn’t doing my job properly, but the police testified in my favour. The court found strong evidence that the private care company wasn’t doing its job properly, and my children were awarded damages which they will receive when they are 18.
It was a difficult time, but I was proud of myself.
And I decided to get a divorce.
I suggested we should separate, and then he cried and promised to change.
By this time he had started taking cocaine. It made him aggressive. He accused me of being unfaithful, banged on the walls and shouted. I suggested we should separate, and then he cried and promised to change.
It sounds stupid, but I didn’t know how to end it. He was dependent on me. I felt such guilt too, because I’d never had strong feelings for him. Who was I, who was so indifferent to my husband? Was I a woman who was incapable of loving a man?
He didn’t stop taking cocaine. He rode a motorbike while he was high and injured himself. I looked after him all summer. And one night he hit me. He used his elbow against my head, and my stomach. I came round because he was raping me and holding his fist against my temple, at the delicate point where I’d been operated on for that brain tumour. He said, “One more blow and you’re dead.”
A voice in my head said: it didn’t happen.
I didn’t say anything to anyone. A voice in my head said: it didn’t happen. At the same time other thoughts came up: it’s your own fault. I felt that my inability had created the situation, my inability to feel and to communicate. Just like with that brain tumour. I had been determined to look after myself, take responsibility for myself. But I hadn’t managed to do so.
And I felt the shame creeping up on me.
All I wanted was for us to separate quickly and painlessly. We met in a bar, I said I wanted things to go smoothly and I wished him luck. Then he took hold of my wrist under the table and twisted it, and said that he would make my life hell and kill my brother.
Then he took hold of my wrist under the table and twisted it, and said that he would make my life hell and kill my brother.
That changed the situation. I’m very close to my brother. It was my brother I went to with my injured wrist, I said I’d fallen and he helped me get to the hospital. I told the staff there what had really happened and said apologetically “I know, I should go to the police.” But they didn’t say anything. No-one tried to persuade me to report it to the police!
My husband cried again – this time he would change. I was stupid enough to believe him, and started living my own life while I was waiting for the divorce.
After a while I began to see him. He would stand on the street almost every day. One day the front door had been forced, and he’d left a note in my underwear drawer: Whore. I went straight to the ironmonger to change the lock, but it had soon been forced again. My money disappeared. The letter box was damaged almost every day.
I began to be really worried. He went to my relatives and cried and they called me and asked me to give him another chance.
When I had told a bit of the story, the police investigator stood up, closed the door and turned off the phone.
It went on like that, until the day I saw him following my brother to the underground. And once again the situation changed. My brother helped me then, without realising it. I went to the police. When I had told a bit of the story, the police investigator stood up, closed the door and turned off the phone. He wrote down everything I said. Then he advised me to disappear.
I said I didn’t want to make a formal police report, just give them some information that would be registered without me having to pursue it.
Nine months passed. My husband refused to co-operate on the divorce so I hired a detective who managed to serve the papers at the third attempt.
One day as I was walking along the pavement I saw him again. He drove straight at me, and two police officers suddenly appeared and pulled me out of the way. That was how I knew I’d had police protection all the time. Two police officers continued to follow me for another three months, but his lawyer put a stop to that.
He drove straight at me, and two police officers suddenly appeared and pulled me out of the way.
After he’d tried to run me over, I completed my police report and was granted a protection order. He carried on. Eventually, we had to meet in court for the divorce to go through, but by this time I was no longer afraid. I just wanted to kill him. My instinct for self-preservation had awakened, finally.
The last I saw of him was when he tried to follow me, but two police officers caught up with him from behind.
That was three years ago. I’m no longer a woman who has to control everything in my life. I used to be, but I’ve twice experienced what it means to lose control: first with the brain tumour, and then the other thing. So I’ve learned to let go, and now I live with another man, a man I can talk to about everything.
I don’t know what my ex-husband is doing now. A part of me hates him, I must confess. I don’t want to stop hating, it’s my small revenge. It’s my right. I don’t need the hate, but he hurt me. I have the right to hate!
Maternal deaths: 6 deaths per 100,000 births.
Number of children/woman: 1.47
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: 400 incidents of violence against women are reported each day. 73 women were killed by their partner/husband during 2010.
Breaking a girls’ legs or
Saying, South Africa