Breaking a girls’ legs or
……forcing the gate before you’ve been given the key …
“It feels strange to think of yourself as a victim.”
I only really wanted a sexual relationship. I’d been alone for three years and I had a good life. I didn’t want anything at all to do with men. But after our first night together he came back almost every day, even though we hadn’t arranged anything; and he was often drunk.
It didn’t take long before he started humiliating me. I’d started studying so I could get a better job as a secretary, but he said I was stupid not to aim higher than that – his previous girlfriend was studying to be an architect. He made comments about my cooking. I didn’t take much notice, but it got worse. When one of my friends reacted to the way he spoke to me, he called her a whore. He lost his driving licence for driving when he was drunk, and he said it was my fault because I’d asked him to come and pick me up.
When one of my friends reacted to the way he spoke to me, he called her a whore.
I’ve got a strong will too. I did stand up to him, but it wore me down. I started spending time alone. I’d practically stopped calling my friends. We were always arguing, I didn’t have room in my life for my friends, and he called them idiots and whores.
But all the time I thought he would change.
It was hot that year. Lots of terrible things happened. I was off work after I broke my wrist. He drove away and left me when we were on an outing in the mountains, he just drove off with my keys and my wallet and my dog still in the car. I had to hitch a lift for the 20-kilometre journey home. The next morning he rang and said he’d crashed the car. I’d made the final payment that month.
And I loved him. I still love him!
We weren’t living together, but he came and went. He wanted me to give him presents but he never bought me anything. He accused me of being materialistic and at the same time he put me down because I couldn’t afford to buy the things I wanted. And I loved him. I still love him! I don’t know exactly what it is that I miss, but I miss something. It’s like a drug. I made him my drug.
A year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to go on living. It was summer and he’d broken a finger when he hit me, a hard blow to my leg. At work he said he’d caught it in a door. He couldn’t work, couldn’t cook, couldn’t clean. But he could beat me. I wore trousers and long-sleeved jumpers all the time and I slept really badly. I swallowed lots of pills, and he forced his hand down my throat and at the same time he hurt my eye. It looked terrible. I lied to our friends that I’d somehow managed to bang the broom handle into my eye. They wanted me to go to the hospital but I couldn’t, they’d have seen all the other marks on my body.
I accepted being beaten and humiliated, but I was depressed and had lost a lot of weight.
I still stood up to him. It wasn’t because I accepted being beaten and humiliated, but I was depressed and had lost a lot of weight. I’d started longing for Mondays, because the weekends were terrible, the way he was behaving. He said I’d slept with half of Cordoba, both men and women. That I was worthless. He only wanted sex to have a son, but I was very careful not to get pregnant.
And all the time I thought he would change.
After Christmas I took five days holiday. On the first evening, we went out and had a few beers and then he started picking a fight. We argued all the way home. He’d made dinner but I was so angry I threw the pan in the sink. He pulled my hair and beat me and beat me and beat me.
He puts his hands round my neck and says he’ll kill me and I say he might as well.
It’s hard to remember everything. There’s so much. So many memories. He throws things in my face, I run away and then when I call him he says I can come back - if I bring some beer. I get home somehow and fall asleep on the sofa. He orders me to come to bed. He puts his hands round my neck and says he’ll kill me and I say he might as well. I wake up on the floor and see tufts of my hair and broken china. I pick up all the hair and put it on the table and think I’m doing that because I need to be reminded. I mustn’t forget. He won’t change.
I remember all this, but I don’t know the order everything happens in. I hide in the car, he beats me and threatens to kill me and my friends. It’s the afternoon, and I don’t open the door when he comes round. I don’t answer the phone either. He tries to break the door down and that’s when I call the police, and then I throw up.
Two uniformed police officers arrive but I don’t talk to them until I’m sure they’ve taken him out into the street. Then I open the door to the police officers who say they can see that he has been beating me. I don’t want him to go to prison. I clean up my vomit and the neighbours all appear and say “Why did you wait so long to call the police? We’ve heard everything that’s been going on in your flat!”
I’m questioned, and I realise I feel ashamed. My boyfriend is held in custody and I have to go home to a smashed-up flat.
Why did you wait so long to call the police? We’ve heard everything that’s been going on in your flat!
The next day is New Year’s Eve. I surf on the net to find information and I call the national helpline. At first I don’t want a lawyer. I’m determined he won’t go to prison, that’s the most important thing for me. Then I have a meeting with the police, and we discuss my application for a protection order. I see a psychologist and have a medical examination, but I don’t have any marks on my body just then. Just a mass of piles of hair at home. That’s what he’s charged with: pulling my hair out and trying to strangle me.
The protection order comes through the next day. I have to tell the whole story again in court but he isn’t there, just his lawyer. The trial is on the 3rd of January. He’s there then and he tells the judge that his only problem is substance abuse, and that he loves me very much. He’s deemed to be cooperative, sentenced to 50 days community service and banned from contacting me for 16 months.
I carry an alarm in my bag but I’m not afraid. What’s hard is the feeling of loss.
I still haven’t understood that I’m a victim. It’s strange to think of yourself like that. But I have understood what I need: I go swimming, I go for walks, I meet friends and spend as much time outdoors as I can. I don’t talk to him now. He called me a few times, but I don’t answer any longer and now he’s stopped. I carry an alarm in my bag but I’m not afraid. What’s hard is the feeling of loss. He’s in my head, in my body. I love him!
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