Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.
“No money, no food for the children, no diapers – just six children and another on the way.”
It’s six months since I gave up and left the man I’d been married to for 18 years, the father of all the children. He’s always been controlling, but the violence has been more emotional than physical. Yes, he’s beaten me so badly that I’ve seen stars, but that hasn’t been the worst thing. The worst thing was his bullying – it was ‘his way or no way’.
The fighting just got worse, and he started going for the children. I lost all my energy, felt there was no hope left. Two months before I finally managed to leave, I called here and they encouraged me. I needed that time to get myself together. I was afraid of leaving him. Afraid he’d try and take the children from me.
A women’s shelter! I, who had always looked after myself.
Coming here was terrible at first. I had nothing with me. No money, no food for the children, no diapers, just six children and another on the way. I just cried the first days. I felt such a sense of defeat. A women’s shelter! I, who had always looked after myself, was suddenly dependent on other people, for everything.
I didn’t belong here. I thought it was just homeless women and poor women who lived in places like this. Now I think it’s the best place in the world, a house that made me believe in myself. We’ve been given food and clothing. The children have been given school uniforms and backpacks. I’ve even been able to get a car, so I can drive my children to school. I can start working, and I know how important that is for your feeling of self-worth. I’m being encouraged to deal with my life myself. My children are proud of me and we’re having fun together. They can see I feel better.
My children are my pride and joy. They still go to their old school and they’re clever. They’ll go far, and make me famous. Then I’m going to do voluntary work. After all the help I’ve been given, I want to start giving something back.
Before this happened, I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever be able to live on my own. Where can a mother with seven children go if she no longer has a husband? Now I’m on the waiting list for a four-room townhouse. I won’t have to go back to my husband. A huge black cloud has been taken away.
I have to start thinking about myself. It’s my turn now.
My relationship with the children’s father is better too. He doesn’t know where I am, but he thinks I’m on a Women’s Empowerment Program. We communicate better now, and the children can meet him. When he starts insulting me, I just hang up. I’ve spent my whole life trying to make other people happy, but I have to start thinking about myself. It’s my turn now.
Maternal deaths: 16 deaths per l00,000 births
Number of children/woman: 2.06
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion. Some states have regulations making certain information to pregnant women mandatory, including the size and appearance of the foetus.
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: one woman in six has been subjected to sexual violence.