‘I’m afraid to go out’

A young woman tells her tale of domestic abuse.
A young woman tells her tale of domestic abuse.
Ian Carbutt

Instead of arresting the man who had beaten up his former partner once again, police jailed the woman after she threw a shoe at him in self defence.

The Pietermaritzburg woman, who is allegedly continually being violently abused by a former partner, said she has now lost faith in the police.

The woman, whose identity has been withheld to protect her and her two children, tearfully told Weekend Witness about her ordeal at the hands of her former boyfriend which has gone on for years.

The man is the father of her two-year-old child.

Despite her taking him to court in July last year for assault, he simply continues to ignore the court’s warning to stay away from her, she said.

According to her, he was given a suspended sentence. Conditions of the suspension were that he must not assault her again and that he must attend a rehabilitation programme for alcoholism and seek counselling.

He has done none of these things, she alleges.

A friend of the victim said she believed the suspect got off lightly.

“I cannot understand why the case was just called assault in the first place as this man has each time declared he is going to kill her and should have been charged with attempted murder,” said the friend.

The victim said instead of helping her situation she believes that laying charges against her abuser has put her life even further at risk.

“After the court case he turned up twice to the counselling sessions and both times he was drunk,” she said.

“The abuse escalated. He would say he would kill me and my children because of the charges I laid against him,” she said.

She said the man did not realise she was “trying to help him too”.

In the most recent incident, the woman said she spent a night in jail after her abuser reported her to the police for throwing a shoe at him in self defence during a violent altercation.

“He came to the room I was renting in Sweetwaters last weekend and demanded I give him my wages. I told him I still have to pay rent and other expenses but he forcefully took [the money] from me and when I tried to get it back he strangled and hit me,” she said.

“I tried to call the police about eight times during the altercation but they would not respond. When they eventually did come they refused to get involved.

“After the police left the abuse continued and in an attempt to defend myself and my children I threw a shoe at him and he started bleeding.

“He went and laid charges and instead of him being arrested, the police arrested me and held me for the night, leaving my two children with that man,” the distraught woman said.

Following this incident, she has sought refuge at her employers’ home in Hilton and says she fears for her life and that of her children.

“I’m afraid to even go out of the gate because I’m scared he is following me and I don’t know who to turn to as the police won’t help,” she said.

Police spokesperson Musa Ntombela said the police are investigating a case of assault against the man.

He also confirmed that the woman had previously laid charges of assault and that the matter was finalised in court.

“We will conduct an internal investigation about her allegations regarding the treatment she has received from the police,” said Ntombela.

Lifeline domestic violence programme manager Lungile Makhonza said in her experience, most though not all police stations take domestic violence cases too lightly.

“The police often regard the case as a family matter and tell the parties involved to go home and sort it out. However, by law it is not up to the police to decide on the seriousness of the matter,” said Makhonza.

Makhonza advised women who are victims of domestic violence to get a protection order against the perpetrator and get a warrant of arrest for them. “The arrest could be for a later stage … if the perpetrator is found assaulting the victim again, deeming the incident an instant criminal offence.”

She said there are safe houses around Pietermaritzburg which can be accessed through Lifeline to accommodate victims of domestic abuse. However, these are not permanent residences.

“It is difficult for us to assist victims if the police don’t do their job,” added Makhonza.

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