A baby, a beating and a taxi ride home
Lindelwa Sibisi’s* childlike features tell a story of an innocent young girl who has not experienced the harsh realities of life. But this 20-year-old woman from a rural village in Umzimkulu, KwaZulu-Natal, has seen and experienced far more than most women her age.
She has been married, had a child and been forced out of her matrimonial home by her husband and his lover. On top of that, Sibisi carries deep scars from the emotional and physical abuse she endured at the hands of a man who once convinced her to drop out of school and start a family with him.
Sibisi married her husband, who is eight years her senior, when she was 17 and still at school. Their marriage was arranged by their parents under customary law after she lost her virginity to him.
She says the first few months of her marriage were blissful. Her husband showered her with love and everything seemed to be going well – until she discovered she was pregnant.
“His attitude changed towards me. He started disrespecting me and insulted me every chance he got. At one point, he told me to go back home because he had gotten what he wanted from me. He became very abusive and would beat me up for no reason,” Sibisi says.
The emotional and physical abuse escalated over time. To add insult to injury, Sibisi’s husband had an affair with her older sister.
She says this was the last straw. “They would come in and he would demand that I prepare food for my sister. When I refused, he would beat me up until I obliged. He did not care that I was pregnant with his child. Day after day, they would sleep together in our room while I slept with his older sister in the other room.
“I was devastated, helpless and had nowhere to turn. My family seemed to support my sister because when I reported the matter to my family, instead of reprimanding my sister, my father told me to come back home.”
Sibisi, who was heavily pregnant at the time, could no longer bear the abuse and decided to go back to her father’s house. She delivered a beautiful baby girl, but her husband, who was now working in Johannesburg, wanted nothing to do with her or the child.
The young mother decided to travel to Johannesburg to confront him.
“All I wanted was for him to support our child, but I seemed to have angered him more by going to Johannesburg. The day I arrived, we quarrelled and he beat me up. His relatives intervened and ordered me in the middle of the night to go back to KwaZuluNatal.
“He gave me money and chased me out of his room. To make matters worse, the money was not even enough for the taxi fare,” she says.
A few days later, Sibisi closed the sad and brutal chapter that had robbed her of her childhood and was back at her father’s house with her daughter.
Today, she has no relationship with the father of her child.
“This traumatic experience has left me scarred for life. I don’t ever want to get married [again] because I strongly believe that men are all the same,” Sibisi says.
*Not her real name