Years of abuse, raped a number of times, physically and emotionally abused, stalked, exploited, deceived, betrayed and penniless are all horrendous things that can happen individually to a person. Add them together, and you have a recipe for depression and suicide.
This is the story of a very brave mother of six, Slindile, who hopes that her story will help other women who are too scared to fight back against abuse. With sheer will and determination and help from the Outreach Foundation, she is taking back her life bit-by-bit, day-by-day.
“Life is hard. I have been traumatised so many times that I have tried to take my life as I saw no way out of the pain and fear.
“I met my husband when I was 18. He paid Lobolo, and I moved in with him with my firstborn. Things were not that bad until we got to our house. When I went to church, the people told me that my husband is not who he says he is. His name and surname aren’t real, and he’s lying to me.
“I never thought about it before, but I knew nothing about him. I had never met his family, and he never spoke of them either. I asked him about the claims that he wasn’t who he said he is, and he got very angry and started fighting with me.
“That was the start of 16 years of abuse.”
Slindile was locked in her house and unable to communicate with anyone for 16 years. During this period, she gave birth to five children and her husband raped her multiple times and emotionally and physically abused her, often with her children nearby or even in the room. He also shouted and cursed both her and the children. The only time she was allowed out was to apply for a SASSA Grant.
“He took my SASSA card and would draw out the money and spend it on himself. My children and I saw nothing. We got nothing. We would be hungry and have nothing to wear. I had one thing to wear, and that was it.
“One day a lady in my street couldn’t stand it anymore and came to help us. She forced her way into our house and gave us some food and clothes. He was very angry, and we paid the price. The same thing happened when my family came and tried to help us.
“I cried all the time. Eventually, my children couldn’t take it anymore. My daughter asked me if I was ok. I tried to hide my sadness, but she said ‘you are not right, tell me! I’m tired of this life, and I will kill myself or do something because I know you are in pain!’
“I was shocked and even more shocked when she told me she knows everything, including what happens in my bed.”
Slindile’s daughter told her that she had had enough and would go on her behalf and report the abuse. She did so, but everyone she spoke to was afraid of her father. But she refused to give up.
“My daughter decided that she’d go to my neighbour and ask her to draw the money out of my SASSA account. She was so brave. She got up before him and stole the card from his hiding place, jumped over the gate and gave it to my neighbour who then quickly withdrew the money and gave my daughter back the card.
“My daughter put the card back in its place. When he woke up, he took the card to get money but found nothing. He came back and shouted and screamed at me.
“I told him that it couldn’t be me because I was right next to him the whole time. That didn’t stop him from being angry at me, and he forced me to go with him to SASSA. My daughter quietly wrote a note for me to show the SASSA people.
“When we sat down with them, I handed the note with the card. They read it, and when he asked them what was happening with our money, they told him that there is nothing they can do and that he would have to wait until the next payment. He was angry and started to shout at them too. He took me to another SASSA branch, and I did the same thing, and thankfully they also told him the same thing after reading the note.
“He was very angry, and when we went home, he left us for a while. I called my children together, and we decided to put that money into an account I had that he didn’t know I had and that we would do this until we had enough money to run away with.
“We did this until December when we ran away from home. But the social worker at the shelter we went to told us we had to go back to him because they didn’t have space for us. We went back to the same abuse for a month until we got space in the shelter.”
One would think that a shelter for abused women and children would do what they could to help them and keep them away from the abuser. But this was not the case.
“The social worker was horrible and made me cry. My daughter said that she wanted to see her dad and the social worker told me that I must send her to him because he is rich and I’m not. But in the time we left, he became a drug dealer, so it wasn’t safe or good for her to go there.
“The social worker wanted him to have custody of my daughter and said that if I didn’t sign the documents, she would. And she did.
“My daughter went back to him. I was scared she would take drugs, and I was right. When I laid a case of abuse against my husband, the social worker and the police didn’t believe me and laughed at me and said they would lock me up for telling lies and wasting their time. She told me we had to leave the shelter by the end of the week.
“I had five children and nowhere to go”.
Slindile eventually found a place for them to stay, but without much money, it was a dump. There was no electricity and no working toilet; they stayed in what would’ve been a bathroom right next to a Tavern. It was all they could afford. When it rained the sewerage from the building would seep through to their area, and the water would come in. The smell was horrendous.
“I managed to find a job sweeping the streets, and I thought things were going to get better. A little while later, I met a man, and he proposed to me. But because I had been hurt before and I have children to worry about, I said no. I didn’t know that he was stalking me. He knew everything about me, where I lived when the children would be there, what I was doing. He knew my every move.
“One day I was ill, and while getting my medicine, I received a call. It was him. He asked me where I was and that he loved me and wanted me. I told him to leave me alone. I got home and there was a knock on my door, it was him. He forced his way in and on me. No one heard my screams.
“When he eventually left, I ran to the police station to lay a charge. While there he called me and told me not to do it. Again he knew where I was. I put the call on the loudspeaker for the police to hear. He threatened me and then told me he’d pay me R1,000 to keep quiet.
“The police told me to accept that. Police in plain clothes went with me to catch him. He didn’t come. He sent someone else with R500, and other people tried to force me into a car, but luckily I was with the police. I was so scared for my life and my kids’ lives.
“The threats kept coming, and the place I was living in had no security. We were so afraid. We were so lucky as another old man helped us. He asked for a photograph of my attacker so that he could find him and get him away from me.
“He managed to find him at the very same tavern that I stayed next to. The police arrested him, and he is now in jail.
“Meanwhile, I was raped in November, and my daughter who went back to my husband was raped in December and became pregnant.
“But I had nothing, and I was worried about my daughter, so I was forced to go back to my husband. As soon as I returned, he started to rape me all over again. We were stuck there until Jub Jub through his programme Uthando Noxolo, heard my story. He helped me get out.
“We are now in a shelter, except for my daughter, we hope she will get in soon. I’m on medication for depression. I see psychologists and psychiatrists and have many really bad days, but I have to be strong for my children. I’ve got to build up a life for us.
“One of the best things for me has been to come to Outreach Foundation. There’s a safe space for my children when I go to the Foundation’s counselling centre or when I go for training at the Foundation’s Boitumelo.
“The counselling is helping me. Mama Sizwe has helped me a lot especially with me wanting to commit suicide as a way to get rid of all the pain. I know I have to be strong for my children.
Outreach Foundation has made me believe in a future. I want to go to school and get my matric. I have a lot of skills like hairdressing, but I have no papers. I want to be independent, and I want to raise my children with pride. I am learning how to sew at Boitumelo, and I hope I will get a job after. I’m working hard there.
“My goal is to become a traffic officer eventually. I want to make a good future for my children. I want them to see they have a future too and can be what they want to be.”
Slindile wants every woman to speak up for themselves. She is encouraging women to refuse to be a doormat.
“Just because you love him doesn’t mean you need to be his slave or a sex slave. Don’t be afraid to expose him and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“Silence is killing us women. Talk!
“Stress from what we go through is also killing us. Get help!
“And I want us to watch out for the children. They are after money and sugar daddies. We must tell them to love themselves more. They must educate themselves. And they must know that there are many men out there who are monsters and will hurt them. They must be careful and if anything happens to talk and find help.
“I’ve been lucky to come to Outreach Foundation. They are helping my children and me. I ask everyone in the world to be as patient with people going through trauma as they are. It can be the difference between life or death.”
According to Statistics South Africa’s report ‘Crime Against Women in South Africa, an in-depth analysis of the Victims of Crime Survey data 2018 (Report 03-40-05)’,
“…Rape, targeting women and girls, is a serious problem in South Africa. The 2016/17 Victims of Crime statistical release reported that 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual offences compared to 120 out of every 100 000 men. Using the 2016/17 South African Police Service statistics, in which 80% of the reported sexual offences were rape, together with Statistics South Africa’s estimate that 68,5% of the sexual offences victims were women, we obtain a crude estimate of the number of women raped per 100 000 as 138. This figure is among the highest in the world. For this reason, some have labelled South Africa as the “rape capital of the world”.
In the same report, the question was raised to the respondents as to whether it was acceptable for a husband to hit his wife in various situations. The summary of these results are as follows:
Graph taken from the STATS SA Crime Against Women in South Africa Report
The report highlights many issues surrounding abuse toward women both in the home and externally. It covers topics such as attitudes and perceptions of crime trends, fear of crime, knowledge and access to shelters and the assistance received from them, experience of household crimes, the experience of individual crimes and the reporting of crime to the police and the response victims have had.
*not her real name