Put gun away to save your life

2016-12-01 06:00

Wendy Mohapi, a mother of two young boys, has been in an abusive relationship for more than eight years.

Her story is similar to many other women who are killed by their intimate partner.

Her partner has brutalised her many times, struck her down with his bare hands, beaten her with a stick and pointed the round, cold barrel of a gun into her face and threatened to kill her.

But she is still alive.

How did Wendy not become another statistic? She was proactive in neutralising her situation by having her abuser’s gun removed.

According to recent statistics from The Medical Research Council, a woman is killed by an intimate partner every 8 hours in South Africa: 17% of these deaths are from a gunshot. A legal gun is used in 75% of cases in which a woman is shot and killed, and in 60% of cases this shooting occurs in her home.

As we mark The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, Wendy’s story is one that highlights the strength needed to break domestic violence patterns and the positive result that can come from arming yourself with knowledge.

Breaking patterns

Wendy’s struggles with her husband began in 2007 when they had moved from living with relatives to staying on their own.

“We had an argument and then he hit me, I couldn’t stay in the house with him because I was scared so I went to sleep at one of his relatives in the same area.”

In retelling the various incidents of violence that formed the narrative of their relationship it is clear that intimidation always pre-empted an act of violence. Tragically, this is not an isolated case and the reality for many women in South Africa.

As the abuse continued, Wendy says that there were always different steps of forgiveness, the first time he had hit her she had told him to write a letter of forgiveness, sign it and promise that he will not do it again. The following times all ended with her husband begging for forgiveness.

“The second time he hit me with a snooker stick, I then went to get a protection order which stated that he should not assault, insult and harass me emotionally. Two years later it happened again, he had started gambling and when I told his family he was furious. We were driving and he began hitting me while he was driving. I obstructed him and held the steering wheel so that people could see what was going on in the car. He then drove to the police station. He wanted to report me for being a hazard while he was driving but instead I reported him because he was hitting me. A Police Officer spoke to us, my husband asked for forgiveness then I forgave him. The police officer told my husband that he was wrong and also advised him to ask for forgiveness, and then he did.”

For Wendy, she felt she was taking control of the situation because she had reported his behaviour to the police, but at the same time her husband continued his wrath of abuse for many years. When a firearm entered their home, Wendy says she knew she needed to act fast.

“When I found out that he had a gun I told him that it was not a good idea for him to have it because of his temper.”

A feeling that would come to a realisation less than a year after her husband obtained the firearm.

“We were on our way home after a family function and he began arguing with me. Then he pointed a loaded gun at me and thereafter pointed it at himself. Luckily a police officer drove passed and noticed the car. He stopped and spoke to us and ended up taking the gun but ended up returning the gun back to my husband.”

“I knew I needed to get the gun out of our home, I know he has a temper, he had hit me many times, with his hand, with a stick. When he threatened me with the gun, I knew it would be no matter of time before he used it on me.”

Taking Steps

Wendy says that life with her husband began to spiral further after he lost his job and had a run in with the law.

“I found the gun inside a plastic bag; he would sometimes hide it around the car and house. I took it, wrapped it in a blanket and hid it.”

“After he lost his job, the situation at home got worse. I would say something or do something by mistake and he would relate it to the issue of him not working. I thought he was having inferior complexity because he lost his job. We were not on good terms in the house and he would threaten to find an illegal gun. He would always tell me that if he really wanted another gun he can find an illegal one because I don’t want to give him his gun back. I then reported that the gun be removed as I did not feel safe with the gun in the house together with the threats that he would make. My life, that of my children and his life was under risk.”

Possibly changing the trajectory of her family’s life, Wendy reached out to NGO Gun Free South Africa to assist her in removing the firearm from her home and to assist her with her submission to the South African Police Services. Through the process, the gun was removed.

“The FCA gives the courts the power to declare a gun owner unfit to own a gun for a range of reasons.

Wendy’s action is a great message for women to know the law, use the law and save a life,” says Adele Kirsten, Director of Gun Free South Africa.

*Wendy Mohapi is not her real name. For more information on how to remove a gun from your home visit http://www.gfsa.org.za

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