An Eastern Cape woman opened up about her ordeal of being in an abusive relationship with a man who physically assaulted and manipulated her by trying to kill himself whenever she wanted to dump him.
Nelisa Grootboom, 34, from Hankey in the Kouga District, addressed the presidential dialogue on gender-based violence and femicide which was hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday night.
The virtual dialogue was part of many other initiatives that took place around the country to launch the 16 days of activism campaign against the abuse of women and children.
Earlier in the day Deputy President David Mabuza officiated at the ceremony. Flags were flown at half mast at the Union Buildings to recognise all those who died as a result of Covid-19 and those that lost their lives due to gender-based violence.
“The renewal of this nation’s soul will lie in our collective commitment to putting an end to gender-based violence and femicide. The whole nation must rise, and mobilise every street, every community, every church, and every family to join the fight against the murder and violation of women and children by men.”
“Today, we have gathered here to bow our heads, and reflect on the new path ahead,” said Mabuza.
Grootboom’s tale of manipulation and violence
Before Grootboom was subjected to abuse in a relationship, she had often wondered why people stayed in abusive relationships instead of getting out of them early.
The mother of two said it was only when she was in a relationship with a man who abused her that she understood.
“It started with a slap and he apologised and said it was a mistake. He said he was sorry and that he was not going to do it again. But it did not stop.”
“These beatings kept on going and I would be in and out of the relationship thinking that I am in love,” she said.
“It’s not easy to move out of the relationship to another one because I love this person,” she added.
In 2013 on December 16, the man hit her again and the following day she went to the police station. But when she reported the matter to the police, they only came to warn him and informed her that it was just a common assault - she did not even have visible bruises, they informed her, and therefore the case would not go far.
Grootboom said the beatings continued after that incident and did not stop as she had hoped.
“One time, we were happy having a nice time and he told me he was going back to the mother of his kids. He was breaking up with me. It was painful. I had done nothing wrong but love him. I had no choice but to let him go,” she said.
She, however, said the man would come back into her house whenever he felt like it or just to see who she was “sleeping with”.
“Eventually we got back together, and everything was okay until he started cheating again. I told him I could no longer stay in the relationship because he was cheating. I wanted out.”
“Then one night he went to this other room and he was attempting to hang himself and I thought he was just trying to intimidate me but then I was shocked to hear him kicking the table. I went to lift him up and I begged him to pull himself off the rope and he did. I could not let the father of my child die,” said Grootboom.
The couple were okay again until another incident which led to another break up.
However, the man called a few months later asking for forgiveness. She feared he might try and kill himself again so she went to check up on him.
“That night I woke up to check on him and found him in his car. He put one end of the pipe on the exhaust and the other end of the pipe inside the car through the window. I called the neighbours and called the ambulance. They gave him oxygen and said he was going to be fine,” she said, however she later discovered the man had just taken sleeping tablets and only pretended to kill himself.
Despite this, they continued with the relationship even after Grootboom’s sister told her that he was manipulative.
Grootboom said it was her bosses at a radio station she volunteered at who finally managed to convince her to get out of the relationship for good.
“I would like to tell the women of South Africa that if you are in the same situation: do not stay. It starts with a slap but it’s not going to stop there. I know that you love a person. They keep on apologising but it’s not going to stop. People must please talk and get help,” she said.
Ramaphosa said that government had strengthened emergency response teams in all provinces to tackle gender-based violence cases and to continuously work to address the case backlogs in the criminal justice system, as well as review cases that were not properly investigated.
“We have made good on our promise to this country’s women that there would be legal reforms to protect women from violence and ensure that perpetrators are given the harshest penalties possible,” said Ramaphosa.