Look­ing strong, feel­ing strong won bat­tle against abuser

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - @Aman­daMal­iba

“LIV­ING in fear is the hard­est thing to do,” says 25-year-old Zinhle Masango, fit­ness coach and abuse survivor.

She is from Davey­ton, in Ekurhu­leni, and is one of many South African women who have suf­fered vi­o­lent abuse at the hands of their lovers – in her case, her fi­ancé.

“At the be­gin­ning of our re­la­tion­ship, it was amaz­ing. He was per­fect,” she said. “I had a se­cret crush on him for years and when he fi­nally asked me out, I said yes. The re­la­tion­ship was great. There was trust and all roses for us.”

A year into the re­la­tion­ship, they ex­pected their first child and he went to ask for her hand in mar­riage from her par­ents. “Life was great,” she said.

But the pic­ture of her “hap­pily ever af­ter” col­lapsed when she en­dured one beat­ing af­ter the next.

“The first abuse in­ci­dent was trau­matic. We had bro­ken up at that time but de­cided to con­tinue liv­ing to­gether for the re­main­der of the month be­fore I could move out. And dur­ing that time, he sus­pected that I was dat­ing some­one else.

“I got home one evening and he started ar­gu­ing with me be­cause of his sus­pi­cions. He started fight­ing for my phone to see ‘who I was talk­ing to’, while my son was in the room with us,” said Masango.

Dur­ing the strug­gle, he pulled her braids off and knocked her a few times un­til she bled. The fight went on for hours, while their son cried at the sight of all the vi­o­lence. Her then fi­ancé locked her in a room be­fore driv­ing off with their son.

“I was so scared and con­fused at what was hap­pen­ing. I man­aged to get my par­ents to come, but all my mother could say to me was ‘the rea­son you are bleed­ing so much is be­cause you were drink­ing.’ That hurt me more be­cause my own fam­ily wouldn’t sup­port me.”

Masango re­calls how she al­ways lived in fear, hav­ing to watch what she said or what she did – all in the name of not “of­fend­ing” her former fi­ancé.

When she left him af­ter that episode, and with nowhere else to turn be­cause her own par­ents did not take her side ow­ing to “lobola pay­ments” and ne­go­ti­a­tions, she had no choice but to re­turn to her abuser.

“We moved into my par­ents’ house and he would still abuse me there, too. Knock­ing me against the cars, stran­gling me – while my par­ents were around or not. I was de­pressed and felt like giv­ing up,” she said.

Masango said she needed to re­gain her self-con­fi­dence. She had al­ways thought that look­ing in­tim­i­dat­ing and strong would help pro­tect her. “I took to the gym be­cause I wanted to be able to pro­tect my­self. Not only for my­self but my son, so I went to lift­ing weights.

Over a pe­riod of time, Masango also re­called how she started gain­ing con­fi­dence in her­self again.

Her now grow­ing brand, Fit­nessJun­kee, helped save her life. “Soon af­ter the men­tal tran­si­tion, my con­fi­dence be­came a re­al­ity chis­elled into my body. I re­claimed my be­ing,” she said.

With Fit­nessJun­kee, she stands against any form of abuse and also aims to help other women feel good about them­selves through healthy liv­ing.

“I am beam­ing now. I feel lib­er­ated and have re­gained my phys­i­cal and men­tal strength. I want other women to feel this free­dom and I be­lieve through all this, I can help other women break free, whether from men­tal, emo­tional or phys­i­cal abuse,” Masango said.

“Leav­ing your abuser is not easy, trust me I know, but I plead with any­one be­ing abused to leave im­me­di­ately. It is not go­ing to stop,” she said.

“If he keeps say­ing ‘sorry, it will never hap­pen again’, there are great chances that it will.”

“The so­lu­tion to vi­o­lence is never vi­o­lence but through chal­leng­ing the mind. Turn­ing from vic­tim to vic­tor is the first step to win­ning the bat­tle,” she said.

Fol­low her on In­sta­gram @ Zee_­fit­nessjunkie

I plead with any­one be­ing abused to leave im­me­di­ately

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