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After years of being abused by Patrick Shai, he is now a changed man - Wife

By Faeza
23 August 2016

MMASECHABA Shai (50) lived through decades of abuse at the hands of her husband of 33 years – seasoned actor and motivational speaker Patrick Shai. She got married to her husband when she was only 17 years old.

MARRIED LIFE

“I knew when I first met him that he was the man of my dreams. It was love at first sight. He treated me like a queen. My peers envied me because he was an older, handsome and matured man who was already working,” says Mmasechaba. “But two years into our marriage, our lives took a horrible turn. His career as an actor was taking off and he was starring in different dramas. Fame got to him and he turned into a monster. He became a monster I feared daily. He started attending A-list events and would come home drunk at night.”

EMOTIONAL ABUSE TURNS PHYSICAL

Mmasechaba says that her husband started abusing her verbally. “He would come back home in the middle of the night drunk and force me to wake-up and talk. He would complain and raise issues that he was not happy about – issues that he did not address when he was sober.

He would call me horrible names which left me crippled emotionally. Patrick turned into a monster when he was under the influence of alcohol. I could not believe that the man who loved me would say such words to me. The verbal abuse turned physical. Every time I heard his car park in the garage in the middle of the night I prepared myself for him.

He would chase me in the middle of the night and beat me up until I turned blue,” Mmasechaba recalls. She says she opened countless cases against her husband but would drop them the next day. “The morning after the beatings, he would apologise and promise never to lay his hands on me again.  He would take me to the doctor and nurse my wounds like a loving husband. But as soon as he was drunk, he would go back to his bad behaviour,” she says.

HIDING BEHIND THE MAKEUP

Everytime she opened a case with the police, she later dropped the charges because she didn’t want the media to find out that Patrick was arrested. “I was also ashamed that people would know about the abuse ,” she says. “I mastered the art of hiding the bruises and scars to the point that no one, even my family and colleagues, suspected anything.

Many people at work and social circles didn’t know that I was married to him. When they asked me if I was related to him, I would say that we only shared a common surname and I didn’t know him personally.” Mmasechaba says she stopped going to social gatherings and having friends because of the abuse. “I would lock myself in the house so no one knew that I was home. I feared that they would find out about my abusive life,” she says.

HER CHILDREN SUFFER

She says that she protected herself more than she protected her children. “My children knew that their father was abusing me but I didn’t know how deeply this affected them. My son ended up taking drugs and living on the streets,” she says. “It pained me to see him on street corners begging while he had everything at home. He went to the best schools and got everything he wanted.

People would tease him and say, ‘Nkwesheng’s son is addicted to drugs’. At first, I thought that my son was acting like a spoilt brat until I started dealing with the abuse. Patrick and I filed for divorce a number of times but never went through with it. We both didn’t believe in divorce. We convinced each other that we will work on the relationship,” says Mmasechaba.

THE BREAKTHROUGH

She says things started changing when Patrick got a role as an abuser in a local drama called Soul City in 1997. “He played the role of an abusive husband. He broke down when he saw the recorded scenes because he could see himself in the character. The crew booked sent him for counselling and he started dealing with this, “ she says. “Patrick slowly became a changed man – the man I fell in love with. He started giving motivational talks about his abusive life. At first, I was not happy that he was opening up to the public about our life. I was not emotionally ready to deal with the questions from my family and friends.”

A CHANGED MAN

Mmasechaba says that Patrick went on to start a non-governmental organisation called Khuluma Ndoda to help abusive men. “He was ready to make a difference in his community and in the lives of his friends. He went on to star in a Brother’s for Life advertisement, speaking out about abuse. Many people thought that he was just acting and they didn’t believe that he was abusive.

He was loved by many people in the community because he was always friendly. He was a go-to-guy when one needed advice.” She says that she is proud that she is now in a loving relationship with her former abuser. “I prayed daily for him to change and my prayers were answered. He is a changed man and I thank God every day,” she says. “He is the man I fell in love with when I was younger.

” Mmasechaba says that women see the signs of abuse early in the relationship but choose to ignore them. “It’s not a bad thing to love someone and no one should feel guilty about it. And being abused doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. Even if you did, you don’t deserve to be beaten, kicked and stripped of your dignity. It means that the abuser has deep problems.”

SPEAKING OUT

Mmasechaba encourages women in abusive relationships to speak out. “No one should be embarrassed of speaking out against abuse. Family, friends and neighbours should report any violent behaviour because the victim might be killed during the attack. I expected too much from my neighbours. They knew about the abuse but they never spoke out or called the police,” she says, adding that sometimes it's hard for the victims themselves to fight back. The victims are sometimes afraid to call the police because they are afraid of being humiliated further,” she concludes.