When men be­come mon­sters

Most of the vi­o­lence against women comes from their own part­ners. Here’s what you can do to help

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za TALK TO US What steps have you taken to help a neigh­bour or stranger ex­pe­ri­enc­ing abuse? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the keyword ABUSE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and province. SMSes cost

‘Week­ends were the worst. I knew that he would stum­ble home, drunk. Some­times he would be cheer­ful and mum­ble what seemed like an in­co­her­ent song, but most of the time it would end with me ly­ing on the floor bleed­ing and in ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain,” re­calls Sihle Mkha­bela (not her real name) from Magab­heni on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

What kept Mkha­bela (34) in this abu­sive re­la­tion­ship for three years was that she wanted her chil­dren to grow up in a home where there were two par­ents and she hoped that her man would mend his ways.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2012, men who abuse their part­ners be­come worse with time if they do not seek help. The re­port, ti­tled Un­der­stand­ing and Ad­dress­ing Vi­o­lence Against Women, also showed that women stay in such abu­sive re­la­tion­ships ow­ing to a lack of al­ter­na­tive means of eco­nomic sup­port, con­cern for their chil­dren and the hope that the part­ner will change.

“In the morn­ing he would say: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I must have had too much to drink.’ This would in­fu­ri­ate me and I would want to stran­gle him, but my con­science would not al­low me ... I would for­give him, hop­ing he wouldn’t do it again,” says Mkha­bela, adding that he al­ways beat her up again and again. And each beat­ing was worse than the one be­fore.

How­ever, her re­la­tion­ship was not al­ways filled with vi­o­lence and pain. For the most part, she was happy with her part­ner.

Mkha­bela – who worked at a chain store – de­cided to stay at home af­ter the birth of their son and her fi­ancé – who worked at a steel man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany – was more than happy to be the sole provider.

In July 2011, the com­pany started with re­trench­ments as it was not mak­ing money and luck was not on their side. He was re­trenched three months later.

For months he strug­gled to find an­other job. Frus­tra­tion trig­gered by loss of in­come turned Mkha­bela’s fi­ancé into a drunk, and he be­came ag­gres­sive and ver­bally abu­sive.

The ver­bal abuse later turned to phys­i­cal abuse. The first time he beat her was af­ter she told him she was preg­nant with their sec­ond child.

“I went to the clinic hop­ing to get flu treat­ment and that’s when I found out I was preg­nant. As I walked home, I kept think­ing how I was go­ing to break the news to him.”

The day Mkha­bela told her fi­ancé she was preg­nant, he left home with­out say­ing a word. He came back in the mid­dle of the night – drunk – and ac­cused her of tak­ing too long to open the door when he knocked.

When she asked him why he had left his key, he re­sponded with a slap across her face, ask­ing her if this was the way to “talk to a man”.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know how to re­spond. As he stum­bled past me, reek­ing of al­co­hol, I stood there won­der­ing which spirit had taken over the man who once loved me so much,” Mkha­bela said.

That slap marked the be­gin­ning of an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship. At first, Mkha­bela made ex­cuses for her man, say­ing that he was frus­trated be­cause he was un­em­ployed. When her friends ad­vised her to leave him, she would say her chil­dren were too young and her mother had told her to per­se­vere as “chal­lenges do sur­face in a mar­riage, but a strong woman doesn’t al­low strong winds to blow her home away”.

Mkha­bela en­dured the abuse at the hands of the man who once claimed he loved her, un­til he beat her up so badly she landed up in hos­pi­tal with bro­ken ribs. A so­cial worker con­vinced her to open a case against him and she did.

He was con­victed of as­sault with in­tent to do griev­ous bod­ily harm last year. He is cur­rently serv­ing four years in prison.

Mkha­bela, on the other hand, is cur­rently fin­ish­ing a one-year home-based-care course at a pri­vate nurs­ing col­lege in Dur­ban. Her chil­dren, aged seven and two, are liv­ing with her mother in Mth­walume on the south coast of KwaZu­luNatal.

What you can do to end gen­der-based vi­o­lence

Speak out against woman and child abuse En­cour­age silent vic­tims to talk and re­port abuse, and en­sure that they get help Re­port child abuse to the po­lice En­cour­age chil­dren to re­port bul­ly­ing to school au­thor­i­ties

Seek help if you are emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally or sex­u­ally abu­sive to your part­ner or chil­dren

Talk to friends, rel­a­tives and col­leagues to take a stand against abuse of women and chil­dren Try and un­der­stand how your own at­ti­tudes and ac­tions might per­pet­u­ate sex­ism and vi­o­lence

What can you do to be safe?

If you feel you are in danger from an abuser, call 10111 or your lo­cal po­lice sta­tion

When the po­lice ar­rive, tell them ev­ery­thing. If you have been hit, tell the po­lice where. Tell them how many times it has hap­pened. Show them any marks on your body. Marks may take time to show up. If you see a mark af­ter the po­lice leave, call the po­lice to take pic­tures of the marks. They may be used in court

If your abuser has bro­ken any prop­erty, show the po­lice

The po­lice must write a re­port say­ing what hap­pened to you. Po­lice re­ports can be used in court if your abuser is charged with a crime

Get the of­fi­cers’ names, badge num­bers and the re­port num­ber in case you need a copy of the re­port

Get a pro­tec­tion or­der against the abuser. If he vi­o­lates the or­der, he will be ar­rested

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