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"He had police friends so I couldn't even report the abuse": How South Africa's War on Women Impacted Me

A South African woman shares her story of gender-based violence in the hopes of helping other women.

South Africa's gender-based violence, especially rape and femicide, is a national crisis. The past week has seen women marching to bring about a solution to the widespread epidemic. The following is one South African woman's account of gender-based violence at the hands of her partner and what led her to eventually leave him.

Read her story in her own words below.


I'll share my experience, maybe it'll help other women to see the signs I should have seen long before he put his hands on me. We first met with what started as awkward cat-calling even when I didn't want his attention. I gave him my numbers out of fear but as we kept chatting he appeared to be a fairly decent guy who was actually more "charming" than first impressions led me to believe. I was 17-years-old, naive, and so I fell for him.

However, he soon began scrutinizing everything that I did and used excessive force and fear to get me to "admit" to cheating on him. He'd even threaten to snatch my younger brother from the streets out of spite, and once, he told me that he would physically tie me to his car and drag me around the township until I was exposed to the bone. Every time I tried to leave, he'd give me his crocodile tears and "I'm going to get help" sob story. For some time it would be calm and he'd love me with so much passion. I'd be naive and think he had changed and stay, and then all it would take was just one missed call to trigger the whole damn cycle again. He had police friends, so I couldn't even report the abuse, because they would just call him and then he'd really be pissed.

I kept convincing myself that I can change him when actually, he was too far gone. It got so bad that he would threaten the rest of my family as well. He once nearly hit my mom with his car. The last straw was when his baby mama was around from KwaZulu-Natal and she "caught" him and I just chilling at a local spaza shop. She slapped me so hard I had a swollen face for an entire week. But that wasn't even the worst of it. I then had to watch him beat her like a damn drum and only then did I realise what he was truly capable of. He was manic and then it dawned on me, his threats were not just threats, they were promises.

I realized that you can't change a leopard's spots. Leaving him wasn't easy and he threatened the shit out of me and my family. To this day, I still look over my shoulder when I'm at home in Cosmo City, for fear that he may still get me.

"Speaking out is hard because society makes you feel like it's your fault you're a victim."

Like you should've known better. It was always, "well what did you do to make him so angry? Surely he must've had a reason?"

But, I don't want anyone's pity. I just want to create awareness and give other women the reassurance that they're not alone and the courage to know that they can escape the clutches of horrible humans.

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South Africans are Reacting to the Constitutional Court's Ruling on Spanking

Not everyone is happy that spanking is now unconstitutional.

Yesterday, South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled that the spanking of children is now unconstitutional. The ruling upheld a previous ruling by the High Court back in 2017, that criminalized spanking after a father beat his 13-year-old son "in a manner that exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement". Parents or guardians can no longer use the common law defense of "reasonable chastisement" should they be charged with assault for spanking their children. While many South Africans as well as children's rights activists and organizations have welcomed the ruling, others have rubbished it entirely.

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Supa Mega is taking the show to Durban on the 2nd November at the ICC Arena in Durban. The artist will be assisted by The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, which is widely regarded as one of Africa's premier orchestras. A number of surprise guests will join Supa Mega on the night.

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Here's What the South African Government has Promised to Do About Gender-based Violence

They have pledged 1.1 billion Rand towards the fight against gender-based violence.

Over the past two weeks, South Africans took to the streets to protest against the rise in gender-based violence and violence towards children. These protests were in response to the horrific rape and murder of several young women, one after the other. Students at various universities across the country organized marches and vigils in while others marched to the parliament buildings in Cape Town and more recently at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the protesters outside the parliament buildings and promised that the government would respond swiftly to the rising war on women. Yesterday, Ramaphosa called for a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to discuss the way forward, News24 reports.

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Cover of Isha Sesay's 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'

'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'—an Excerpt From Isha Sesay's Book About Remembering the Chibok Girls

Read an exclusive excerpt from the Sierra Leonean reporter's new book, which offers firsthand accounts of what happened to the girls while in Boko Haram captivity in an attempt to make the world remember.

Below is an excerpt from the seventh chapter in Sierra-Leonean journalist and author Isha Sesay's new book, "Beneath the Tamarind Tree," the "first definitive account" of what took place on the ground following the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.

Continue on to read more, and revisit our interview with the reporter about why it's important for the world to remember the girls' stories, here.

***

"We should burn these girls!"

"No, let's take them with us!"

"Why not leave them here?"

The men were still arguing, dozens of them trading verbal blows while Saa and the other horrified girls looked on. None of the men seemed particularly troubled by the fact that the lives of almost three hundred schoolgirls hung in the balance. Amid all the yelling, the girls had been divided into groups. Each batch would burn in a different room in the school buildings that were aflame just a few feet away. Tensions were escalating when a slim man with outsize eyes suddenly appeared. Saa had never seen him before. Like many of the insurgents, he too looked young and was just as scruffy. But when he spoke, tempers seemed to cool for a moment.

"Ah! What are you trying to do?"

"We wanted to burn them!"

"Why not take them with us, since we have an empty vehicle?"

His suggestion triggered a fresh round of quarreling. The same positions were expressed, and the newcomer continued to calmly repeat his idea of taking the girls with them, till he finally got his way. The girls later discovered his name was Mallam Abba. He was a commander.

"Follow us!" the men shouted.

None of it made any sense to Saa. Why? To where? As the insurgents shuffled her out of the compound, she felt as if her whole life were on fire. All Saa could see was the ominous orange glow of flames consuming every one of her school buildings. With every step, the fears within her grew. She struggled to make sense of the competing thoughts throbbing in her head. This isn't supposed to be happening. The insurgents had asked about the boys and the brick-making machine; they'd systematically emptied the school store, carrying bag after bag of foodstuffs and loading all of it into the huge waiting truck. With everything now packed away, Saa had thought the insurgents would simply let the girls go home. After all, that's what had happened during their previous attacks on schools—they'd always let the schoolgirls go, after handing out a warning to abandon their education and strict instructions to get married. Saa had simply expected the same thing to happen once more, not this.

She scanned the crowd of faces surrounding her; the creased brows and startled expressions of the others made it clear that everyone was equally confused. Whatever the turmoil they were feeling, they kept it to themselves. No one said a word. Saa fell into a sort of orderly scrum with the men corralling and motioning her forward with their guns, each weapon held high and pointed straight at the girls.

Saa and Blessing moved in unison, along with the hundreds of others, snaking along in the dark through the open compound gate, past the small guard post usually occupied by Mr. Jida, which now sat empty. Yelling came from nearby Chibok town. Saa could smell burning, then heard the sound of gunshots and people running. It was bedlam.

Just beyond the compound walls sat a crowd of bushes. As she and the men moved out into the open, Saa felt their thorns spring forward, eager to pull at her clothing and scratch and pierce her body. Careful not to yell out in pain, she tried to keep her clothes beyond the reach of the grasping thicket with no time to pause and examine what might be broken skin.

Saa retreated into herself and turned to the faith that had anchored her entire life. Lord, am I going to die tonight, or will I survive? Desperate to live, unspoken prayers filled her mind and she pleaded, repeatedly, God save me.

She was still praying as they walked down the dirt path away from the flaming school. The shabby-looking men with their wild eyes gave no explanation or directions. They simply motioned with their heads and the sweep of their rifles, making it clear to keep moving. As the reality began to sink in, Saa felt her chest tightening. Her heart was going to beat its way out of her body. But she couldn't allow herself to cry or make any sound. Any kind of display would make her a target, and who knew what these men might do?

The insurgents walked alongside, behind, and in front of her; they were everywhere. Every time Saa looked around, their menacing forms filled her view. Initially, all the girls were steered away from the main road and onto a rambling path overgrown with bushes; the detour was likely made in an attempt to avoid detection.

Parents lining up for reunion with daughters (c) Adam Dobby


***

This excerpt was published with permission from the author. 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree' is available now.

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