You CAN walk away from abuse

By Gabi Khumalo

One in five South African women have experienced some form of gender-based violence, according to several reports, including the latest one by Statistics South Africa.

Sadly, most perpetrators of this crime get away unpunished as their victims suffer in silence.

And 37-year-old Lerato Mbatha knows too well about the pain of suffering abuse from someone who once declared his undying love for her, but says the person later turned into a “monster”.

Like many victims of abuse, Mbatha, who hails from Hammanskraal, north of Tshwane, could not confide in  anyone about her ordeal. She was too ashamed to speak to her family since they were against the relationship in the first place. She also did not report the crime to the police because she says, at the time, she had no faith in the justice system.

That was more than six years ago. Today, Mbatha is among a group of activists involved in campaigns against gender-based violence that encourage the victims to stand up against their abusive partners.

As a survivor of abuse, Mbatha admits that it’s not always easy to walk away from an abusive relationship. The victims, she says, often tend to overlook their abusers flaws and blame themselves for making their partners angry.

In her case, when the beatings started, she couldn’t tell her parents because she was not ready to hear the truth. Her  parents were against the relationship and this made her  leave home and move in with her boyfriend.

Like in most relationships, the first few months were “perfect”. Even though she was the only one working, she had no problem supporting her boyfriend.

Things changed soon after she gave birth to the couple’s daughter. From then, the relationship would never be the same again.

“He became obsessed and started accusing me of things. He would come back from drinking in the middle of the night and start shouting at me.

“He would place a gun and knife on the table and ask me to choose which weapon I prefer him to use to kill me. I would apologise for something I don’t even know and begged him not to kill me. The following day, he would apologise and promise to change,” says Mbatha.

However, the beatings never stopped and no one picked up the signs of abuse because she covered the bruises on her face with makeup.

But tired of the beatings and protecting her abuser, one day Mbatha decided enough was enough.

She took a giant leap of faith and decided it was time to stand up against her abuser and knew that the first step was to stop protecting the perpetrator. She decided to come clean about the abuse and sought help.

She decided to join the #NotInMyName initiative, an organisation that organises campaigns calling for an end to violence against women and children.

The organisation has assisted victims of abuse to get justice and also helps them to reopen cases, which were not investigated. The social movement has a unique approach in dealing with victims of abuse in that it assists the victims of rape, drug abuse and gender-based violence by referring them to therapy to help them deal with their ordeal.  The organisation also works with boys in a bid to prevent and end the scourge of abuse.

In May this year, hundreds of people took part in the #NotInMyName march against women abuse. The march to the Union Buildings came in the wake of rolling reports of rape, murder and other gender-based violence in the country. The movement is probably the only one in the country that assists rape and gender-based violence victims to open cases and also support the victims by accompanying them during court appearances

Thanks to the holistic help she received from the #NotInMyName initiative, Mbatha is now able to spend time on raising her three daughters and fighting for justice for the victims of gender-based violence.

The 37-year-old feels that anti-abuse campaigns should also target young boys who sometimes are affected by the abuse, and they in turn become abusers.

In a month that South Africa commemorates the positive role that women continue to play in society, Mbatha is one of few women who took a decision to break out of the cycle of violence. Sadly, others don’t get to that step and some even end up paying the ultimate price. The victim’s name was changed in this article at her requestSAnews.gov.za