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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Government is paying lip service to ‘GBV pandemic’

'Financial and emotional abuse leaves scars long after bruises have healed.'


If President Cyril Ramaphosa took gender-based violence seriously, women would not have to endure the living hell of being abused and its aftermath, a survivor of several years of abuse said.

Frances said the government simply paid lip service to violence against women and children. It is time for action but she does not expect much from the authorities, which she calls “flaccid”.

Frances did not want her real name to be used because she believes prejudice and stigma still surround one of the country’s many scourges; neither does she want a pity party.

Instead, she wants her story known so, hopefully, government will take notice and victims will have the courage to stand up for themselves.

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In the past two years, authorities have not done much about her abuser; he has not paid maintenance for his children for three years, has a ream of charges from other women against him, recently spent a night in jail for threatening his tenants and has a warrant for brandishing a firearm at someone more than once.

Frances said abuse is not just physical, either: “Financial and emotional abuse leaves scars long after bruises have healed.”

Her abuser also swindled her out of her car, appliances and other property.

Her story starts like every other relationship. A honeymoon phase but that slowly morphed into hell.

“Like Ramaphosa’s slow-boiling frog, you don’t realise what is happening until it’s too late.

“The abuse started slowly. It was difficult to really pinpoint in the beginning. It was verbal abuse, yelling and screaming and shouting. And I think it was cognitive dissonance where you believe… in the dream.“

“At first, I found excuses for his behaviour… but it was complete deceit and utter lies. And that’s how you get strung along.

“Then the cycle carries on. Abuse, honeymoon. Absolute heaven. Everything is perfect. Gifts and love. And then the tension starts again…

”The physical abuse started about three years into their relationship,Frances said. “It’s not always blood that you can see, but emotional, verbal and psychological abuse as your physical body stops functioning properly.

“I lost so much weight that I weighed in at 38 kilograms, and I’m 1.7 meters tall. I couldn’t sleep. I had constant migraines, panic attacks and I couldn’t focus and function properly.”

Within a year or two it had “increased to actual blood on my face and bruises”.

“Unfortunately, that is the only stuff that police and prosecutors look at and take seriously, and that is a great sadness.”

When Frances decided she’d had enough, the violence escalated. She asked the police for help.

“The police told me to call them if anything bad happened, but didn’t bother coming out. I had to hire a private security company.”

She remembers the National Prosecuting Authority telling her she had to drop previous abuse charges because, in the prosecutor’s view, she was not emotionally strong enough to withstand cross-examination from the defence.

She said: “This is how the authorities belittle you, make you feel like a zero on a contract. And this is how abusers get to wiggle their way out of any consequences for their actions.”

She didn’t trust the police. She had seen her abuser pay off a station commander, with favours, to make a charge of assault from elsewhere go away.

“It saddens me that the police and the legal system are just extending the abuse so much further.

“It takes so long for anything to see the light of day in a court, and only for those people who can afford proper legal representation [so] chronic and serial offenders are able to just get away and hurt more people, attack and assault more individuals.”

She went back to what she considers Ramaphosa’s empty words about gender-based violence.

“This is my question to the president. How do you expect things to get better if there are few, if any, repercussions for people hurting women and children and other human beings?

“How can they just get away with continuing to do this? There is no accountability, and the legal system is overwhelmed.”

– news@citizen.co.za

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