Libur Pieterse is a 23-year-old woman living in Cape Town. Here she shares her traumatic history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by parents and how she’s managed to overcome it
“My experience with abuse started at a very young age – and it was at the hands of a man I considered a father. I knew my stepfather, Wayne*, wasn’t my real dad but I still called him Daddy. My biological father, Steve*, and my mother Hillary* had had an affair and I was the result. I’d later learn that for their mistake, I’d pay the price.
Wayne wasn’t the easiest person to be around. He had a violent temper and a drinking problem – combined, these characteristics delivered hell on our doorstep. But being a kid, I was delighted to have a father figure in my life.
I had a cheeky attitude that clashed with Wayne’s volatile nature. Once he threw a slipper in my face because he didn’t like the way I’d backchat him. He did it with such force that a section of my eyebrows tore off. Another time, while I was asleep, he emptied a bucket of cold water over me because I never got up in time for school.
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But the most traumatic experience was when he started sexually violating me. I was just six years old. He never raped me but he’d make me do certain things to pleasure him. I stayed quiet about it for some time but eventually confided in a woman I trusted. She almost immediately confronted my mother. The matter ended up in court, but the prosecution wasn’t successful. I never asked my mother why, mostly because I was too young to understand what was happening. Wayne later came to live with us again. He suffered two strokes and died a few years later.
I thought things would improve when my tormenter was gone. No longer did I lie in bed at night, worrying about how the abuse would affect me and my future relationships with men. At least I still had my biological dad and living with him we would hopefully make up for lost time. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.
Steve and Jennifer*, who loved me like her own child, decided to take me in after Wayne’s death. I had yearned for this for many years because they were better off financially. Now I had everything I needed but I was deeply unhappy. Steve verbally abused me almost every day. I think he used me as a punch bag for his frustrations. I would hear how useless I was, that I’d never make it in life and that no man would ever want to marry me. The worst was when he told me I wasn’t his child – even after a DNA test had confirmed it.
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As the years went by the abuse got worse. Jennifer tried everything to defuse explosive situations but to no avail. Being at home was emotionally draining. Steve was a recovering alcoholic but eventually relapsed. This was when the physical abuse started.
One day I was alone at home with him. In a sudden fit of rage, he came charging towards me and threw me against a wall. I fell down and as I lay on the ground, the blows rained down. I don’t remember much besides the smirk on his face and the excruciating pain of every kick. I laid a charge of assault and was granted a protection order against him. This only after a judge interrogated me about what I might have done to provoke the attack. Steve died after a battle with cancer.
Being physically abused was hurtful but in time I recovered from it. The emotional pain and scars lasted much longer though. I couldn’t understand why Wayne and Steve never loved me. I believed I was worthy of love and everyone else loved me – why not the father figures in my life?
As I grew wiser with age, I realised that I wasn’t to blame for the abuse. It resulted from the way the two men felt about themselves. They had unresolved personal issues and to them I was an easy, vulnerable outlet. My saving grace was my faith in God. It still is. With God’s grace I was able to rise above what happened to me. I can confidently say the abuse doesn’t define me!
Still, I’ve had my fair share of insecurities to deal with. Those insecurities still show up sometimes. I’ve wondered if a man would ever love me for the person I am. If a man would protect, motivate and respect me for the amazing woman I am. And now, I can say that I’ve found him. Eugene has exceeded my wildest expectations. He’s an amazing husband and father to our one-year-old daughter Jordyn. The funny thing is, I had to let go of my battered past to accept his love.
With everything that’s been happening in our country lately – the spate of gender-based violence and femicide – I hope my story is one of encouragement.”
*Names have been changed.