Why it's not that simple to leave

2019-03-11 09:38

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Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

This is a question many of us ask ourselves when we

see victims of gender-based violence persisting with abusive relationships.

Experts have warned that outsiders should not be quick to judge these people, as their reasons go far deeper than what meets the eye.

On Monday, the country woke up to news that musician Mandla “Mampintsha” Maphumulo had allegedly assaulted his partner Bongekile “Babes Wodumo” Simelane, who is also in the entertainment industry.

The alleged incident was captured in a video that went viral on social media on Monday.

Maphumulo is seen apparently beating Simelane in the video which was beamed live on the gqom musician’s Instagram page.

Many on social media said this was Simelane’s “final cry for help” as news had surfaced last year that Maphumulo allegedly had a tendency to physically assault her.

While many pitied Simelane and called for Maphumulo’s urgent arrest, others asked why she chose to stay with her alleged abuser.

Victim lays charge so he doesn’t hurt anyone else

A local woman who was brave enough to lay assault charges against her partner after he viciously attacked her, says she did so to ensure that his “hideous act of violence did not go unpunished”.

The 30-year-old mother of two, who asked not to be named, was hospitalised after she was assaulted by her boyfriend of 14 years earlier this year.

“We had been dating on and off for 14 years. We met when we were in high school. He was my first love,” she said.

On the night of the assault, which flared up after a slight misunderstanding, her partner punched and kicked her repeatedly and even threated to slit her throat with an axe.

“The attack came as a total shock to me, my family and his family. Yes, he had slapped me around a couple of times but none of us thought he was capable of that.

“The first time he slapped me was after I had poured boiling water on his hand a few years ago. I found out that he was cheating and out of anger, I poured water on him. He didn’t retaliate immediately, he bottled his anger up for two days.

“The second incident was when I was pregnant with our second child. I asked that we take a break because we both had a lot going on and he hit me with his head on my forehead.”

She reported the second incident to the police and when she accompanied the police to his home, he had run away so the police left. “He came back and started apologising and promised to change. He even asked his aunt to ask me to give him a second chance and I went back to him,” she said.

After the attack that left her in hospital, the woman learnt that she was not her partner’s only victim. “I heard that he had knocked out one of his ex’s front teeth, he left another woman with broken bones and another woman told me that she left him after he had almost killed her.

“When we were together he used to tell me that he would never lay a hand on me but because his actions had gone unpunished previously, he did it again to me and according to people who know all his shenanigans, I got off easily.

“That’s why I opened a case against him, so that he gets punished for this and never does it to someone else. I still love him, he’s the father of my children, but no matter how much I love him, he must learn that hitting a woman is wrong.

“Sometimes people need tough love to get out of bad habits. I hope that this will help him change his ways,” said the woman.

The woman advised other women in a similar relationships to “seek help before it’s too late”.

“The first time we broke up was when he broke my virginity. I had thought I was ready but I realised later that I wasn’t and we broke up because I was so angry at him.” 

We stay because ...

Local psychologist Clive Willows says most people trapped in abusive relationships stay there because of finances. They are unable to support themselves or their children, so they choose to stay.

“The more psychological reason victims of abuse stay, is because abuse normally occurs in a cycle. The abuse is not permanent, it is usually followed by explanations, rationalisation, pleas for forgiveness and promises that things will change.

“This becomes part of the cycle and the woman wants to believe this to be true, hopes that it is true and therefore remains in the relationship for as long as there is hope. They only leave when tolerance runs out.”

Willows says that while the efforts of campaigns and drives against gender-based violence are important, they may only change the attitudes of a few people but won’t change what is happening in society.

“Despite all the commendable campaigns and the changed laws, nothing will change unless we address the issue of how society breeds violent people. Until then, we will never reduce the incidents of domestic violence.

“That breeding of violence takes place in childhood, it doesn’t suddenly appear in adulthood. How we are treating and bringing up out children is what we should be focusing on.

“We are seeing more violence at schools and in young people. We need to know that this violence won’t simply vanish from these children as they grow older. Adult violent behaviour can usually be traced to incidents of violence in their childhood, not necessarily perpetrated against them but their own violent behaviour,” said Willows.

He says the problem is that parents put more emphasis on providing for children and believe that is efficient childcare, but what hasn’t been done is teaching them empathy.

“We haven’t taught our children empathy, we haven’t taught them the ability to firstly manage their own emotions and secondly to recognise and respect the emotions of others.

“Domestic violence is easy when you don’t have empathy and you don’t recognise and respect the feelings of other people because you have a sense of entitlement and you feel entitled to treat another person in a certain way. Society is breeding narcissistic people,” he said.

Willows says the rehabilitation of perpetrators can only take place when the perpetrator makes a personal decision that they want to manage their anger better.

“By adulthood, the urge to be violent is deeply engraved and is not something that one removes completely. Just like an alcoholic decides not to drink but still remains an alcoholic, so are perpetrators of violence.

“It’s a question of managing the violent behaviour but the internal mechanisms are unlikely to be change,” said Willows.

Women fear being victimised again when reporting abuse

Cookie Edwards, executive director of the KZN Network on Violence Against Women and also a domestic violence survivor, said most women stay because they hope that their partners will change.

She said there are many other factors that force women to stay with abusive partners, such as children, unemployment and emotional dependency, where the woman says: “I love him and hope he will change”.

Edwards said a contributing factor, especially for women who are financially dependant on their partners, is that there are no alternatives for them as there are not enough safety shelters available for abused women.

“Even if a woman goes to a shelter, how will she manage with no money because all she gets at the shelter is a roof over her head, safety, toiletries and food. Another thing is that safety shelters can only house you temporarily, what happens afterwards?

“I have nothing against shelters as we always encourage women to go to shelters but we need to make sure that there is a way forward. We need to have that secondary stage where women are assisted in building themselves up and finding jobs. I think there is only one such facility in South Africa and that’s in Cape Town. We need more of these places,” she said.

Edwards said she doesn’t condone what happened to Bongekile “Babes Wodumo” Simelane, but asked why ordinary women who suffer at the hands of their partners don’t get as much attention.

“Babes’ matter received attention from the police commissioner. Must you be a celeb to get police to jump in? How many women have been treated badly when reporting such sensitive cases at police station?

“That’s another reason women stay, they fear being victimised again when reporting abuse.”

Edwards said she suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs and was almost killed several times in her previous marriage.

“He [abusive husband] died the way he lived. He was a womaniser, he went to clubs and he was murdered in town. I was unemployed and had dropped out of primary school because of circumstances.

“I had to draw from my inner strength and challenge myself to be where I am today. I refuse to be a victim again, I am not a victim, but I am a survivor. I’ve turned negatives to positives and want to help women who are going through what I went through,” said Edwards.

She said people cannot force women in abusive relationships to just up and leave with no alternatives in place.

“All you can do is give her moral support, listen to her when she wants to vent, tell her about organisations out there that can help her, and offer to accompany her when she decides that she needs to speak to someone. There is help out there.”

From experience, Edwards said it takes a lot to walk away from an abusive relationship and try to rebuild yourself. “In an abusive relationship you have no self-esteem and you feel helpless. You have to overcome all of this and rebuild your confidence. So it’s important that people around you offer their support.

“I am now married to a wonderful man. I didn’t know there were good men in the world. We’ll be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary later this month,” said Edwards.

Girls made to believe they must persevere

Director of LifeLine Pietermaritzburg, Sinikiwe Biyela, said 70% of women stay in an abusive relationship and 70% drop charges against their partners after reporting the matter to the police.

She said the reason many women stay in abusive relationships is mainly due to socialisation.

“Young girls are groomed and socialised to believe that they will have to persevere and make the relationship or marriage work. The church also emphasises this belief — ‘The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.’

“Therefore, women see themselves as failures and the ones to be blamed for everything that is wrong in a relationship and because they don’t want to be seen as failures, they stay and persevere, hoping that the situation will change for the better.”

Biyela said contributing factors include low self-esteem, emotional or financial dependency, hope that the situation will improve, false promises that it will never happen again, nice gifts and apologies, pressure from the community and families not to humiliate the family, and fear of the unknown. “The main reasons women drop charges are: they hope that the partner will change, they are fearful, and they do not have faith in the justice system.”

Recalling an incident reported to LifeLine that she worked on last year that left her completely shattered, Biyela said they assisted a women who had her ear chopped off by her husband.

“The husband claimed that the ear did not do its function, and he decided to remove it.

“The major problem is that women report abuse very late as they keep hoping that the partner will eventually change.

“Unfortunately, the longer they stay, the higher the intensity of the abuse,” said Biyela.

She advised people close to victims of abuse to stop blaming the victim as this makes the situation worse.

“People need to support the victim’s decision and provide information on where to get help and the resources available to them.

“Try to be patient with the victim as they explore other options, don’t put lots of pressure on them as this will drive them straight back into the hands of their abusers.

“Also, start educating girls early to value themselves, and to know that men are not oxygen, we do not need them in order to survive,” she said.

Biyela said they have a few shelters in KZN that take in survivors of abuse. “Unfortunately, they are not publicised, in order to protect the victims. If a person needs to be admitted to a shelter, they need to contact LifeLine or the SAPS who will then transport them to a shelter,” she said.

Be financially independent

Dheran Ghela, a local financial adviser, advises women to be proactive in ensuring that they are financially independent while in a relationship.

“Women must maintain their own bank accounts and store accounts, and the ability to make financial decisions for themselves and have proper input on relationship finances. They must have their own savings and retirement plan. If you need to contribute or share money in a relationship, set up a joint account where you can contribute for joint or family responsibilities,” he said.

Ghela says it is important for housewives in an abusive relationship who are considering leaving their abusive partners to know their rights in terms of what they can claim from their partners, if there is a split in terms of pension fund share and maintenance that they can claim.

Ghela suggests a joint account for couples where both partners are employed and wish to consolidate their finances.

He says women must ensure that they know how to budget.

“They should look at ways to supplement their income via savings and/or acquiring skills that can be converted into money either after hours or on weekends, thereby building their own nest egg,” he said.

gender based violence

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  gender based violence

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