A Johannesburg woman who was allegedly raped by her father and fell pregnant with two of his children decided to break her cycle of abuse by reporting him to the police, fearing for her life.
Elizabeth* spoke out for the first time this week about the alleged sexual and physical abuse that she endured for several years at the hands of her 52-year-old father, following her mother's death in 2003.
This, after the man arrived home on Monday and accused the 32-year-old paramedic of being unfaithful to him, she said.
"I was off-duty on Monday at home with the children when he arrived in the evening. He accused me of cheating and seeing someone behind his back.
"As I was explaining that I was not seeing someone, he began hitting me. He hit me with his hand this time. I ran to the bathroom and lied to him that I was on my monthly period and needed to buy (sanitary) pads.
"I drove straight to the police station where I explained to the police what happened to me. I was quickly assisted and police came and arrested him at home. My children, who witnessed the beating, also gave police their statements," she said.
The man has been charged with three counts of rape and three of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. More rape charges could be added.
The accused, a retired paramedic, appeared in the Protea Regional Court on Thursday and was expected to formally apply for bail on November 14.
According to Elizabeth, her children - aged 8 and 14 - only know the man as their father and are not aware that he is actually their mother's father as well.
People thought they were a couple
Speaking to News24, the woman sobbed as she explained her ordeal.
She said many people, including the children, thought she and the man were a married couple.
One of their neighbours even described them as a happy couple that loved their children, she said.
"If walls could talk. These structures called homes, if they had mouths to speak, many would know what is behind them," she said.
Her body was covered in physical scars and the area around one of her eyes is bruised.
Her arms and the back of her left hand have two scars from stitches. Her right arm has another scar from stitches running from the hand to the elbow and below her right eye, there is another scar that almost reaches her right ear. There are also small marks on her face.
"I have many [scars] all over my body," she said as she continued to sob.
She said her children were afraid of their father.
"At work, they don't know why I am absent. I have lied to them [saying] that I am sick because I don't want to be seen like this. At times he would beat me up for spending time on my phone. He does not want me to date. I once dated and had to beg for my life from him."
Although he was against her dating, he did not have a problem with her having friends, she said.
"He doesn't have a problem when I speak to people. I have a close friend [who] doesn't know what I am going through at home.
"I don't know if it (the alleged abuse) is still affecting me," she said.
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Since her father's arrest, Elizabeth has been working on finding a new home that she and her children can move into.
"I am worried about my safety and police have told me [they are worried] too. I am looking for a place to stay closer to work. Police have also advised me about the option of being taken with my children to a place of safety.
"Any object that is next to him, he uses it to hit me. He would never apologise to me after beating me."
Monday was the final straw, she said.
"I have always been afraid of reporting him and on Monday I had no option but to come out."
Elizabeth said she has frequent nightmares and uses sleeping tablets at night.
Since the death of her mother, she struggled to find her way in life: "I don't know my dreams anymore. I don't know if I am happy with life anymore."
Victims start blaming themselves
Director at The Teddy Bear Clinic Dr Shaheda Omar said delayed reporting of abuse by a victim was often triggered by fear.
"The stigma attached to the victim, as well as fear of further victimisation forces victims to start blaming themselves. The victim then says to herself [she is a] bad person and it is [her] fault to be abused and take responsibility for what is happening to her. Victims fear to tell anyone because they are never believed."
Omar said once the victim informed people, she could be accused of lying and not taken seriously, especially by family members and relatives.
Other reasons why victims would be seen to be "allowing" the abuse to perpetuate further was also due to a lack of resources, which made it more difficult for the victim to turn to people for help.
"People don't want to believe victims of abuse [and in turn] their self-esteem gets eroded and crushed. They lack confidence and feel useless and have no love. They are emotionally disabled. They become stuck and believe nothing can [free] them.
"The victim becomes powerless and helpless. Her children are young and need protection both physically and emotionally. One day her children will question the identity of their father and this will perpetuate the situation further," said Omar.
Also read: Court awaits psychologist's report in case against KZN man accused of raping stepdaughter 900 times
Long journey towards closure
Advocacy manager at Women and Men against Child Abuse Ngaa Murombedzi said victims who were sexually groomed at a young age also had difficulty disclosing their abuse because they feared no one would believe them.
"The difficulty is societal pressure. She has been manipulated, and fears for her own children if she tells someone. She was kept in a hostage situation for a long time. One thing is that society will question her; why she didn't tell anyone when the abuse started, or some will say she enjoyed herself.
"Society is brutal towards victims of abuse. Her situation makes it more difficult for her children. This will cause another vicious cycle of trauma to her children once they know who their biological father is to them," she said.
Murombedzi said the court process, which might take a long time, would also affect Elizabeth and would open old wounds.
*not her real name.
*Names of the place of residence, workplace, as well as the police station where Elizabeth laid charges could not be revealed to protect her and her children.