Women are mum about gender abuse, says survivor

Nonceba Family Counselling Centre social worker ,Nozuko Conjwa, showing how they engage with young victims.

Government has done a lot to combat woman and childabuse, but at least one victim of gender-based violence from Khayelitsha believes more needs to be done.

According to Nokuthula (not her real name), without strong voices willing to tackle the issue at community level, the rights of women and children will continue to be violated.

Nokuthula, who broke her silence about the emotional abuse she suffered, on Monday November 27, has had her hope and dignity restored at the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in Khayelitsha.

The heavily pregnant mom, who smiled as she answered questions, did not mince her words as she spoke about being a survivor of gender-based violence, and why women remain silent about rape, assault and other crimes perpetrated against them.

She said the root causes lie in the imbalance in power relations and gender inequality.

But, back to her story.

Her troubles started when she fell in love.

At the time she was at loggerheads with her cousin she stayed with at the time.

Her lover, who lived in Makhaza, took advantage of the situation and asked her to come stay with him. She welcomed the offer with open arms. But then, she said, “He changed.

“He was not the man I fell in love with before.

“He criticised every mistake that I made. Depression hit me, hard. I was at a point where I could go mad.

“Instead of working with me on that he went around telling people that I am losing my mind. At one point he sent me groceries but he needed change so he can buy a train ticket. But the money was shot.

“He told me to take back other stuff for the ticket. But I refused and told him the shop owner would not take food back.

“He took the things back and told the shop owner that I was mad. “He joked around about me being mad,” she explained.

After that incident, she was helped a psychologist at the Michael Maphongwana Hospital who asked her to go to Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital where she would get treatment for her depression.

“Now that I went to that hospital he justified the fact that I was mad, (that) I was losing my marbles.

“He never spoke to me or asked me questions, but ran away.

“The sad part is that I was already pregnant.

“I contemplated terminating the pregnancy but I am Christian. I thought, no let me keep (the baby).

“The hospital then referred me here. This is my home at the moment and I will deliver here,” she said. She urged women to come forward and report cases of abuse and commended the government’s developments and endeavours to redress societal ills affecting women and children.

But, she said, NGOs and other human rights campaigners would never succeed in ending violence against women as long as women themselves did not take the fight against abuse seriously.

“This is a daunting task. It is a challenge that needs us all. Women need to be true and honest about their situations.

“There are many more who are in silence as we speak. They need to know that gender-based violence takes many forms.

“It can kill if you keep quiet for too long,” she said.

Nozuko Conjwa a social worker at the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre said many people were still ignorant when it came to issues of domestic violence.

She said the launch of the 16 Days of Activism For No Violence Against Women and Children campaign , which is marked every year from November 25 to December 10, was of a great help to them and raised awareness about abuse.

“At this time statistics rise because people come out and talk about their issues.

“We are always open platforms for them to speak and come forward. Fortunately for us we have victim empowerment programmes.

“As service providers we are expected to have programmes that fight violence against women and children. “We are happy that the campaign continues to raise awareness among vulnerable communities about the negative impact of violence against women and children. People, including men, are being abused financially, emotionally and otherwise. We need to speak out,” she said. Ms Conjwa said those who were still trapped in abusive relationships should find ways to get out, which may mean applying for a protection order.

And, she said, they need to know what role is played by police, the courts and other stakeholders.

Nonceba Family Counselling Centre was established in 1998 in a desperate attempt to combat rape.

The centre has since grown and, among others, provides trauma counselling, supports the victims of violence and crime, and runs programmes to educate and raise awareness aimed at preventing and reducing the levels of sexual abuse and domestic violence.