Three Survivors' Stories
Gender-based violence: Battered by boyfriends
A terrible sickness is sweeping South Africa. We know it by its official name – gender-based violence (GBV). But that doesn’t begin to tell the story of the physical and emotional abuse women are subjected to. President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared GBV the new national disaster facing the country, together with the Covid-19 pandemic. In June alone, more than 30 women and children were killed in incidents of gender-based violence. In this series, the stories of three strong women are told. A police officer, a sangoma and a musician – all have been abused and attacked by people they trusted and loved.
This article was first published by Scrolla.Africa
An abused policewoman’s life of hell
Constable Ovuwa Ramafamba is stationed at Vuwani police station in Limpopo. She says she suffered at the hands of her lover and is lucky to have survived.
She regrets having stayed in the abusive relationship as long as she did. At the time, she was a sector commander at Sandton police station and lived in the Johannesburg inner city with her boyfriend, a motor mechanic.
For the four years she was with him, she says she was never happy.
“My boyfriend would come home from work and swear at me. He would tell me that I was ugly, how bad I was in bed, and compare me with other women who I did not know,” she says.
Night of horror
On the night of 29 April 2017, Ramafamba had just got home from work when her boyfriend started swearing at her in front of her two-year-old daughter.
“After my daughter went to bed, he locked the bedroom door behind him and put the keys in his pocket. He then started beating me.”
She tells the story of a night of horror:
“He threatened to throw me from the 7th floor balcony.
“While beating me, he said he wanted to crush my head with a gearbox.
“He undressed me and made me walk around naked while he took pictures and videos of me.
“He posted my naked pictures and videos on my work WhatsApp group and to all my contacts.
“He put on my work boots and walked over me while I begged him to spare my life.
“He stabbed me with scissors.
“He smashed my head with an iron.
“I was unconscious.
“I thought that was the end of my life.”
Ramafamba says she was found the following morning around 05:00 when a security guard noticed blood dripping from the seventh floor.
“According to the security guard, he found me naked hanging from the bathroom window where my boyfriend had locked me up and left me to die.
“The guard called the cops and the ambulance that took me to Milpark hospital.”
She says her boyfriend waited for the police and handed himself over. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder. He has been in police custody ever since.
Ramafamba says it is particularly difficult for a policewoman to deal with such an attack as “society wants us to be perfect and protect them”. She says people “see you as a weak and incompetent officer.
“If you tell the next person about your domestic problem, people laugh at you. They will be asking you questions like, ‘why didn’t you shoot him?’”
But this was just the beginning of what Ramafamba calls her “horror life”.
Three months in hospital
She says that while in hospital the state stopped paying her. She said she was accused of absconding from work and asked to repay some of her salary.
“I was in hospital from 30 April to 28 July 2017.
“I was pushed out of hospital because my medical aid had lapsed.
“I am still owing the state since then.”
She says the commanders at work didn’t want to listen to her story. “They didn’t want to help me. I was left in the cold. Broke. Nowhere to go.
“I was even tempted to withdraw the charges against him so he could support me financially,” Ramafamba says.
“There is a shadow of hatred towards men that I now carry.”
When a lover becomes a monster
Sangoma Langa Libalele says that two months after she left her abusive boyfriend, she heard he had been arrested for murder. He had allegedly stabbed his new girlfriend to death.
She thanks her ancestors for saving her from a lover who became a monster in her life. “I was abused physically, emotionally, and financially,” she says.
“I was lucky to have left him while still alive. My ancestors protected me from him. I was at the hospital many times after he assaulted me.”
Born Nthabiseng Khechane, sangoma Libalele says she was beaten with a chain, bottles, sjamboks, and other objects.
It got worse.
She said that when he moved in with her, he was not working and had no place of his own. Life was tough for him.
“I used to buy everything for him. I used to buy him clothes, food, and even booze. But still, I was the bad person to him. He found mistakes in everything I did and picked fights. It was a living hell.”
She says the most hurtful thing was when he brought another woman into her house.”
“He chased me out of my main bedroom to make me sleep on the sitting room couch.
“I heard them having sex.
” Some nights, he would force himself on me soon after having sex with his girlfriend in my bed.”
Sangoma Langa says that was not all:
“He beat me for inviting his friends to the surprise birthday party I organised for him.
“He would burn me with cigarettes on my breasts, thighs, and bum.
” I live with scars all over my body.”
She says that in all these incidents, she only once reported him to the police, but then withdrew the charges a few days later.
After he allegedly stabbed and killed a woman he was dating, she says community members beat him up and he had to be rescued by police. He was subsequently arrested.
Breaking the silence
Meet Busisiwe “Lady B” Mhlanga.
An Afro-soul musician, she has released a song called Break the Silence to encourage women to speak out about abuse.
She says the song tells of her personal experience of an abusive relationship. Describing her ex-partner as a “psycho”, she says she will never forgive him for what he put her through.
This is Lady B’s story:
“He changed when I fell pregnant.
“He became someone I didn’t know.
‘He started stalking me.
“And beating me up.”
She says the man used to threaten to kill her, and himself, if she ended her relationship with him.
“He resigned from his job so he could follow me wherever I went.
“He created an account on a dating app using my details, claiming I was looking for men.
“I started receiving endless calls from men across the country.
” He would give my number to his girlfriends who kept calling and swearing at me.
“After breaking up with me, he promised to make my life a living hell.”
“Every time I hear a woman has been murdered, I feel like I’m going to be the next one. I still feel like I’m stuck in that relationship and he will come for me,” she says.
Lady B hopes her music is healing for women – and men as well – because there are some men who also endure abuse at the hands of their partners.
She urges other women in toxic relationships to Break the Silence and report abuse to the police. DM
This article was first published by Scrolla.Africa, which produces independent news for cellphones in English and Zulu.
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