The tail of a salmon and the words of a girl are the slipperiest things on the planet.
“I asked him to forgive me for making him beat me.”
He shouted “Who is the man in this house?” I said he was the man, but he said he couldn’t be, because if he was then I would have been sitting at home waiting for him – not the other way around. When I didn’t say anything he yelled that I was insolent and started beating me. He used a whip. I tried to protect my face. He broke a glass and started cutting me. You can still see the scars. I was saved by his mother who came and pulled him off. Then I ran home.
The next day I went back and said I was sorry. “Please forgive me for making you beat me” I said. I can’t understand it now. I was the one who was injured and scared. And yet I said I was sorry.
My grandmother brought me up. My mother worked and lived in a family where she wasn’t allowed to have her children with her. My grandmother wasn’t always at home, and an older cousin, who must have been about 30, started coming to my bed in the evenings. In the end it was a teacher who noticed that I had changed. “What’s happened?” she asked. “Nothing,” I said, but when she threatened to beat me I told her. Then the teacher sent for my grandmother, they reported what had happened and I had to move. Sometimes I lived with my mother, sometimes in a children’s home.
How can you expect anyone to ever love you when even your own mother doesn’t?
When I was 18 I moved in with my boyfriend, the one who had cut me. He promised he would never beat me again. I wanted to get away from my mother. She didn’t like me; in fact, she told my boyfriend she hated me. He used that against me later: “You’re a dog. How can you expect anyone to ever love you when even your own mother doesn’t?”
We lived in a small house in the yard behind his mother’s house. I had two children while I was living there, boys who are one and two years old now. He beat me the whole time, with a whip, broken glass, his fists, whatever he had. Sometimes he called the police afterwards. He told them I was crazy, that I screamed and argued all the time. Not even the police believed me. “You have to stop arguing and opposing him,” they said. “He’s a man. You have to understand and accept that.” He made me believe that it was me who was mad. I made an appointment to see a psychologist once, but when it was my turn I just got up and left. I was sure she would say that I was mentally deranged. I didn’t need to hear that again.
The most important thing is that I’m learning to love myself, no matter what other people think.
In the end I couldn’t take any more. He beat me every time he was drunk, and that was almost every day. I took the children and left him. I was living on the streets with my sons when the police found me. They brought me to the women’s shelter.
Here I’ve learned to look after myself. I’ve always been so dependent on other people. But the most important thing is that I’m learning to love myself, no matter what other people think. I didn’t believe in love, not when even my own mother couldn’t love me. When people have been nice to me in the past it’s been because they wanted something, sex or money or something else. Here people give me a hug, several times a day, and people tell me they love me. And they mean it.
Maternal deaths: 236 deaths per l00,000 births
Number of children/woman: 2.3 (2011)
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion during the first three months of pregnancy depending entirely on the wishes of the woman. Thereafter up to the sixth month of pregnancy if there are special reasons, such as the health of the woman or an abnormality of the foetus. (2007)
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: in 2010 almost 68,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported in a six-month period, most of them rape. It is claimed that almost 28 per cent of the male population have raped a woman or girl. 40 per cent of South African women stated in a report published by the WHO that their first sexual experience took place without their consent.