The initiative by Independent Media #DontLookAway as part of 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children continues to highlight the plight of victims.
On Sunday, the 16 Days comes to an end.
This does not mean we have to wait for November next year to highlight the problems. We need on-going programmes and have to sustain the awareness.
Minister of Women, Susan Shabangu, has agreed we must turn it into 365 Days of awareness.
We need to protect our women and children. Shabangu will host a ministerial Imbizo in Tokoza at the weekend to outline the plan of action.
Let’s continue to DO our bit. #MakeSASafe
#DONTLOOKAWAY REPORT IN THE STAR:
WHILE some women sometimes choose to stay in abusive relationships despite how toxic they are for various reasons, for some, once beaten is indeed twice shy.
*Meagan, 50, is one of those women.
She had been in a relationship with her partner for five months when he beat her up severely one day, leaving her with a fractured nose, an eye infection, as well as a bruise on her eye that was still clearly visible three months after the attack.
Although it was the first time her boyfriend had laid his hands on her, Meagan was so shaken that she terminated the relationship and opened a case against him.
For Meagan, leaving wasn’t negotiable and staying wasn’t a possibility.
“If I went back to him, it would have taken my power away from me. Many victims go back to their abusers and that strips off a form of their power and independence,” she said.
Another thing she realised, she said, was that the man – who is an amputee – was filled with self-loathing, so he took out his frustrations on her.
Although it has been a few months since the incident, Meagan remembers that day as if it were yesterday.
It was Women’s Day and her ex-partner had been out with his son. They returned at about 10pm.
Meagan was sitting in the dark as there was load shedding. She said her ex-partner’s son walked in and greeted her.
“Good evening,” he said. “My response was ‘how can it be a good evening? There is no electricity and I am all alone in the dark’.
“My ex-boyfriend then limped into the room,” she said.
Meagan said she was on the bed when her ex-boyfriend started punching her in the face.
“After he beat me up, he said ‘I’m going to break your legs and you are going to crawl out of here’.
“That was when I realised that the abuse had nothing to do with me and that he was a broken person and he in fact hated himself (for being an amputee),” she added.
At that point the son stormed into the bedroom and told his father to go and wash the blood off his hands.
“I think that was his way of helping me escape, and I told him to open the gate. I went straight to the police station.”
According to Meagan, all the systems put into place were filled with employees “who lacked compassion, passion and empathy for their jobs because there was no assistance given to them as victims”.
Instead they were made to feel like the perpetrators, and you were basically left all alone, she said.
Meagan said she was told at the police station to get a J88 form.
The next day she took the police to her assailant and then went to a clinic, but after waiting for two hours, staff told her they could not assist her and that she would have to go to a hospital to have the J88 form completed.
“I feel like nobody advises you that it is going to be a long, difficult and painful road. I mean, if they were effectively trained, the person helping at the clinic could have told me from the outset that they would not be able to assist me.
“And it’s worse when you don’t have money, as it has the ability to make all one’s problems go away,” she said.
Meagan said she was later required to perform a urine test.
“The hospital conditions were appalling and the doctor did not even examine my documentation properly.
“I was left feeling dirty and ashamed as though I had brought this ordeal upon myself,” she said.
After her assault, Meagan left Joburg for Durban to recuperate at her cousin’s place.
“I couldn’t be seen in public with the horrific bruise on my eye. People have this stigma attached to abuse. It diminishes all forms of your dignity,” she said.
When she returned to Joburg, she tried to get a protection order against her ex-boyfriend.
However, she said that was turned down because it was an ongoing criminal case and he had not tried to abuse her again.
The matter is before the courts now, and despite her pain and suffering, Meagan wants the court to give her attacker counselling as opposed to jail time.
“Prison is a terrible place and if he were to get locked up he would come back more messed up as opposed to being rehabilitated,” she said.
Regarding what abuse victims go through after their ordeal, Meagan believes employing the right people in the right jobs could make a huge difference.
“Various departments in the justice industry should have mandatory tests performed, to analyse if these potential employees are fit to deal with all these broken people they are subjected to daily.
“To them it’s just a job and the victim ends up more frustrated than before.”
Gauteng Department of Social Development’s Mbangwa Xaba said the reason some victims did not feel that they received proper assistance was because of the terrible conditions they were subjected to on a daily basis.
“Caregivers should be well trained and caring because it took a lot for the victims to report the crime in the first place.
“Caregivers’ days are often long and they also experience a high volume of victims, which can be very stressful to them.”
The Social Development Department has a toll-free number to assist victims to report abuse anonymously and offer them support and counselling through the court proceedings. The number is 0800150150. *Not her real name.
*Yusuf Abramjee is an anti-crime activist and Namola’s Chief Ambassador. He also heads-up #MakeSASafe