16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
"I" Stories: Demanding change
2008-12-03, Issue 410
I am a 38-year-old woman born in Lubumbashi, who did not enjoy love from her parents. At the age of three, my father passed away and my brother and I had to separate from my mother. The way the culture was then, the husband’s family must take over everything including the children. My mother remarried her husband’s brother and we started our new life with problems in a house with two wives and nine children. I did not understand why my mother had chosen to marry her husband’s brother.
I am a 38-year-old woman born in Lubumbashi, who did not enjoy love from her parents. At the age of three, my father passed away and my brother and I had to separate from my mother. The way the culture was then, the husband’s family must take over everything including the children.
My mother remarried her husband’s brother and we started our new life with problems in a house with two wives and nine children. I did not understand why my mother had chosen to marry her husband’s brother. When I reached twelve years I started to see that this was wrong and then this new father chased me out of his house. I went to stay with my other uncle until I got my matric.
Because of this life, I was forced to leave my family and start my own life. I met a man whom I thought would make me happy in this world. It was a very good beginning when I got my first child in 1995, but eight months after the child was born, everything changed. The first time he beat me was after his mother had left her house keys with me, on his arrival later, I could not find the keys and he got angry and started beating me. During the beating, he tore my dress and he left me half-naked in the lounge. After the beating, he went to the bedroom and I used that as a chance to run to my neighbour’s place for help and peace of mind. Following this incident, there was a family meeting and I had to stay with him as it was expected of a wife to obey her husband and to forgive him.
A year later in 1998, we came to South Africa because of what was happening in Congo.
Fortunately, I found a job and I was away from the house from 7am to 7pm. My love, unemployed at the time, would be at home waiting for me to come back from work in order to do the housework. This situation was very stressful to the point where I felt happier at work than at home. Going home was like being in prison charged with slavery. He expected me to perform my duties as a wife and to provide the money for us to survive.
In 2006, on Christmas Day, he came home with two men and they started drinking from 8am until 10pm. During this time, he left the house to drop people off and while he was away one of the man started to fight in my house. I asked him to leave but when I wanted to close the door, he pulled me out onto the steps and opened the gate, which came back and hit me on the face, and my face became green with bruising. When my husband returned he did not react. He said he could not take me to the hospital unless I put petrol in the car. I went to open a case at the police station, but I did not know the guy who had assaulted me because it was my first time to see him. My husband did not want to show me the guy and he said I deserved what I got because I’m a bitch. His reaction hurt me.
On a another day he came home late drunk, he found a letter from school that my son had jumped through the window. At the time, I was sleeping and I didn’t know anything about the letter; he entered the bedroom demanding an explanation about the letter and when I had no answer he started to hit and strangle me and said he would kill me. I went to apply for a protection order and after a postponement and several appearances, the matter was concluded after a year.
During the time of the case, the two of us were not even communicating. For example if he wanted to talk to me, he would send one of the children to talk to me. Throughout this, I tried to leave but because of the children, I had to go back to him. On the last day of the court appearance, he apologised for his behaviour and promised not to hurt me again. I chose to forgive because I believed him. I am glad to say that he has not beaten me since.
I decided to speak out about my story to help other women to know their rights and if there is an abuse problem to ask for help from organisations working with abused women and they will get help.
* Not her real name
* This story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.