Au­thor tack­les ‘haters’

Vanessa Goven­der, an award-win­ning for­mer TV and ra­dio jour­nal­ist, of­fi­cially launched her book, Beaten But Not Bro­ken, on Thurs­day. In a can­did in­ter­view with Latoya New­man, she speaks about her jour­ney since re­leas­ing the book, heal­ing and deal­ing with

Post - - LIFESTYLE -­

RE­LEAS­ING her book, which re­veals abuse she suf­fered in a re­la­tion­ship, has been a mixed bag of emo­tions for Vanessa Goven­der. From hav­ing to deal with the psy­cho­log­i­cal jour­ney of putting the book to­gether and re­leas­ing it, to the fear she had to over­come of ex­pos­ing her­self pub­licly and now man­ag­ing the re­ac­tions to her book.

“For so long I was alone and trapped with my own trauma. I was de­lib­er­ately iso­lated from fam­ily and friends by my abuser and for all that time I was in that abu­sive re­la­tion­ship I be­lieved I was alone.

“I be­lieved no one would be­lieve me be­cause he was re­ally the cliched abu­sive man: charm­ing on the out­side, but be­hind the scenes and out of the pub­lic eye, a mon­ster with ab­so­lute dis­re­gard for my life or my body.

“I al­lowed him to in­stil fear in me. I al­lowed him to do the things he did to me by buy­ing into his threats and also his prom­ises of never do­ing it again.

“He ate away at my self-es­teem. Con­fi­dence was a thing of beauty that I did not pos­sess and he worked sub­tly to chisel away at it. But I am not that girl that I was back then,” she says.

“I have an army around me. I am a wo­man with a mis­sion. And I have an army of fam­ily, friends, some of the coun­try’s most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple on my team. I found them the mo­ment I spoke out and ad­mit­ted to the things that hap­pened to me. I wel­come crit­i­cism. In fact, I de­mand it.

“I want peo­ple to un­der­stand what it is like to be in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship. It has be­come all too easy for peo­ple to stand on the side­lines and pass judg­ment on vic­tims, to chas­tise us for stay­ing and not walk­ing away.

“I am here, I have put my­self out there for peo­ple to ask the rel­e­vant ques­tions, be­cause em­pa­thy is the first step to un­der­stand­ing why look­ing away or say­ing ‘it’s not my busi­ness’ is not an op­tion.

“But while I wel­come crit­i­cism, I will not tol­er­ate big­oted, misog­y­nis­tic com­ments that aim to blame vic­tims and con­done abuse,” she as­serts.

“I break ev­ery stereo­type so­ci­ety has of an abused wo­man. When you stand up for your­self and when you speak out, please ac­cept and un­der­stand you will get those who try to dis­credit you, who will try to shame you and who will try to si­lence you. Your power lies in your voice. Your power lies in speak­ing your truth.”

Since com­ing out with her story, Goven­der said she had mostly had the sup­port of the ma­jor­ity be­hind her, bar­ring two neg­a­tive com­ments on so­cial me­dia. Both were from men who she be­lieves are linked to her abuser.

“One dis­putes the ve­rac­ity of my story, say­ing he was get­ting the other side of the story and the other, a so-called ac­tivist, vent­ing spleen about me, try­ing to ‘ex­punge my­self of my sor­did past’ by writ­ing this book.

“He even went so far as to sug­gest I was a will­ing par­tic­i­pant in my abuse,” says Goven­der. ‘Housewive’s gos­sip’ is what the self-pro­claimed ac­tivist called it. Housewives gos­sip that he ev­i­dently had a great deal of in­ter­est in read­ing. Again a line that serves to di­min­ish women: we have no brains, we are in­ca­pable of any­thing but gos­sip, clean­ing the house and tak­ing care of chil­dren.

“That these sorry excuses for men ex­ist is wor­ry­ing. They are no bet­ter than the per­pe­tra­tors of abuse. I think fel­low so­cial me­dia users dealt with these com­ments ap­pro­pri­ately and in­tel­li­gently.

“Per­son­ally, I have no in­ter­est in en­ter­tain­ing the neg­a­tive com­ments or those who seek to di­min­ish me as a wo­man and as a sur­vivor. I started this jour­ney fully an­tic­i­pat­ing this.”

Goven­der says she also found out that her abuser is try­ing to do “dam­age con­trol” by send­ing text mes­sages to for­mer col­leagues, say­ing her story isn’t true “be­cause – and here is the shocker of the rea­son why this en­tire book isn’t true – I (ap­par­ently) phoned him on his wed­ding day beg­ging him not to get mar­ried”.

“I have pon­dered this line of de­fence and it’s so lu­di­crous that I have noth­ing to say to it.

“This book is my fi­nal word, it will last for all eter­nity. Noth­ing any­one says or does is go­ing to erase the power, the mes­sage and me­mory of this book and of my writ­ten word. I think this book will also help to shed light on the level and de­grees of sex­ism and the bla­tant op­pres­sion of women,” she says.

“That women are find­ing their voices and that women are own­ing their truth, how­ever sor­did some may deem it, is clearly go­ing to irk and stir the men who pre­fer their women sub­servient and silent. So to them, the men who seek to di­min­ish and dis­pel gen­der-based vi­o­lence, I apol­o­gise, be­cause your po­si­tions of dom­i­nance and ar­ro­gance and the fear you wish to in­stil in women to be quiet and to be noth­ing more than ves­sels for your sex­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion and ob­jects on which to ex­act your anger is dis­ap­pear­ing ev­ery time a wo­man stands up for her­self and those around her.”

She said women, sur­vivors and those look­ing for a way out need to know that dis­be­liev­ers come with the ter­ri­tory.

“Their dis­be­lief can­not de­fine you, nor can it di­min­ish what you have en­dured and en­dure. The mo­ment you open up is the mo­ment you find you are not alone and you have never been alone. It’s al­most as if peo­ple around you have been wait­ing for per­mis­sion to show you love and sup­port, and that’s what speak­ing out does. It gives peo­ple the per­mis­sion to help you.”

On the flip­side, Goven­der says she has had over­whelm­ing sup­port from men and women across all race groups.

This in­cludes DA leader Mmusi Maimane who wrote her a let­ter of sup­port.

Goven­der said: “The book has been both a beau­ti­ful and pro­found rev­e­la­tion that when we own our truth and speak our truth, peo­ple are will­ing to lis­ten, peo­ple are will­ing to share their own an­guish and pain. Some of South Africa’s most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple have thrown their weight be­hind this book, from leg­endary news icon Deb­ora Patta, Devi Sanka­ree Goven­der, Iman Rapet­tie (all for­mer col­leagues) to pow­er­ful men like Peter Ndoro, Thabiso Thema, Thabiso Sit­hole, Sha­han Ramkissoon.

“And it is the en­dorse­ment of these men, real men, that will reach to the core of the male pop­u­la­tion who can stand along­side women and stand up for women, be­cause there are far more great men than there are these mon­sters.”

Goven­der is prepped for more neg­a­tiv­ity. “I have no doubt there will be neg­a­tive com­ments from peo­ple who will ques­tion how I let this go on. Un­til you have read the book and un­der­stood the psy­che of an abused vic­tim’s mind you can never ap­pre­ci­ate this.

“Both Devi and Iman gave me the best pos­si­ble ad­vice re­gard­ing neg­a­tive com­ments and crit­i­cism: this is my story, it is my fi­nal word. It is mine, it’s not up for de­bate. Peo­ple can say what they want but they are never go­ing to change this story, they are never go­ing to al­ter what was done and they will cer­tainly never wound me,” she says.“You see I have been to the depths of hell and back, I kept courtship with a mon­ster who nearly killed me. I am still stand­ing. I have taken ev­ery shameful sor­did thing that was done to me and laid it out be­fore the coun­try, do you re­ally think a few haters pass­ing their ill-in­formed judg­ments and try­ing to cru­cify me for this is go­ing to de­fine or di­min­ish me?

“But make no mis­take, and have no doubt, my abuser used his fists and his legs to send me his mes­sage. I use my words and my ex­pe­ri­ence to share my mes­sage. Words will al­ways out­last the abuse, words that carry pro­found depth and breadth that serve to em­power, shame and shun those words that seek to de­stroy and de­mean. And women must al­low this sim­ple fact to sink in to the deep­est parts of the hearts and heads, and know the rest of us are build­ing an army, wait­ing to wel­come you to it,” she says.

Do you re­ally think a few haters pass­ing their ill-in­formed judg­ments and try­ing to cru­cify me for this is go­ing to de­fine or di­min­ish me? VANESSA GOVEN­DER Au­thor and abuse sur­vivor


Vanessa Goven­der sign­ing her book dur­ing the launch at Vovo Telo restau­rant in Bal­lito. Les­ley Jar­gensen, left, and her daugh­ter, Mandy Jar­gensen, were at the event.


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