LETTER: A personal reflection on the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

Every year MPs debate the scourge of violence against women and children in Parliament as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. These debates usually just escalate into political squabbling and mudslinging with the real message often getting lost. This year was no different. Perhaps it is time to remind public representatives of the real people and faces behind the statistics they use against each other for political point scoring?

There are stories that transcend race and class reflecting the often silent and private horror many women and children suffer daily. Most of them do not have “famous” abusers or abusers in high office to give prominence to the violence they suffered. Every account of violence against women and children, highlight the need for lawmakers and government to start walking the talk and make a real difference in the fight against violence against women and children. This is one such reminder. The writer chose to remain anonymous.

I am a graduate; an assistant director and I have long been an unofficial advocate for the 16 Days of Activism campaign. My advocacy started in my hometown during university holidays. It started as a small thing of talking casually to other women and empowering them. I would even call the police if a violent fight broke out between couples.

I made a vow to myself and prayed that I would only date a guy who showed no signs of aggression or rudeness. In 2002 September I met a guy and we instantly fell in love. He was perfect. He was kind, loving, soft-spoken and I believed he wouldn't hurt a fly. He had good manners and was polite - a perfect gentleman. What else could I ask for?

Nine months into our relationship, I saw a side of him I never saw before. I saw him physically hitting his 17-year-old (at that time) sister who was bunking. In my heart, I said: “I might be next". Still, I intervened and rebuked his action harshly. He insisted his sister had to be taught a lesson. He was never aggressive towards me until we decided to get married. During our wedding preparations, I saw a spark of aggression when I saw several missed calls from him after I forgot my phone in another room. He was furious. I, however, brushed it off as just stress due to the wedding planning. We were happily married for a while until I joined Facebook in 2010 and he insisted we become friends on Facebook. I thought it was odd as we stay in the same house and can say whatever we needed to each other in person.

Thereafter he started being furious when guys liked my photos or commented on my Facebook status updates. He would check when I logged off and this caused a lot of unnecessary tension. I am very transparent by nature and he knew all my login details and pin numbers because I had nothing to hide. I then discovered he would open and read my emails. He would then tell me how inappropriately I had responded to some emails. Gradually the violence started with a slight push and in time escalated to hitting, then swearing and the last straw was when he kicked me in public in full view of our small children. They were 4 and 6 years old at the time. I fell and injured my foot. The pain still comes and goes. I immediately went to the police station to lay a charge and they wanted to arrest him the same day. I stopped them and they arranged for him to rather have a talk with the police captain.

My reasons for stopping his arrest? I felt sorry for him. I thought a high-ranking deputy director at the national Department of Justice sleeping in a holding cell would be horrible. He had an important business trip coming up and I thought if he didn't show up at work people will know everything. And then, the only time I thought of myself, I feared he would kill me the minute he was released. Sadly, it took this incident and him threatening my life later to break the silence and tell my family. I still have not yet broken the silence completely. It also took that incident for me to plan my exit without absconding from work and disrupting my kids' school programme. I secretly applied for jobs and schools for the kids in another province where I knew I would get a good support structure. I am now living in a different province. I didn’t divorce him. I still love him deeply but I am scared of him.

This week's articles

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Parliament’s proposed ‘To Do-list’ for tackling gender-based violence

‘Do better’ on sexual violence, political parties are told


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