If I remember correctly, I went to my lectures, and would leave when I came back from uni. I went back ‘home’ with the intention to leave, only to second guess my choice, like I had done in the past.
I was going to stay again; and he beat me, again.
I’ll spare you the details, and avoid triggering myself along with that. I picked up the phone to call Abongile, my sister. She immediately left work and drove from Centurion to Joburg. Akona, a long time friend of hers, came with her.
The following day, Abongile and I found my son Kgosi a daycare centre, and she helped me back up during that time, playing pillar to me, and being a loving co-mother to Kgosi. I was still able to finish my degree, and I was encouraged to keep on dreaming. This month marks three years since that time.
I give so much of where I am today, to finding the strength to leave. I give that to my sister for believing me the first time. I also give it to myself for believing that my circumstances deserved to change.
The challenge now? Believe victims.
Here are some things I took away from my experience:
1. Don’t be angry at yourself for not being able to leave the first time. I didn’t. Abuse tends to be just as psychologically exhausting as it is physically. They don’t just hit you. I was ignored for days on end, belittled, compared to ‘stronger’ women, gaslit.
2. When you hear abusers say things like “she/they overpowered me and I fought back”, they’re usually leaving out facts to protect their rep. You will fight back in an attempt to protect yourself.
3. Don’t be disappointed when your abuser’s mother and sisters tell you that they don’t believe you.
4. I never opened a case for two reasons at the time: I didn’t want to be blamed for the absence of a father in my child’s life, were he to get locked up. I also still loved him. I chose not to open a case because I didn’t want to rehash incidents pertaining to my past anymore. Whatever you choose as a survivor is okay. Put yourself first. I chose to go to therapy; I chose personal healing.
5. If possible, remove yourself from spaces that excuse issues of inequality, and injustices like Gender-Based Violence. This includes friendships, jobs, interactions with family, etc. You will constantly be triggered, and that will set you back immensely.
6. You might still display the after effects of your abuse in new relationships. Mine include overthinking; sensitivity to words — understanding some dialogue as criticism rather than openness; overreaction to small problems or mistakes; anxiety during disagreements; and the constant urge to fix things. Staying aware of these things is cool, and being gentle with yourself as you heal is dope. Also, having a partner who helps me identify some of the things I’ve mentioned when they happen has helped me heal, too.
7. It’s okay if the people you know or met through your abuser are reluctant to disconnect with them. I have accepted that they owe me nothing and I, instead, remove myself.
8. I was able to believe I could be something bigger than my situation. My wins have been quiet, but I am fucking proud of how far I’ve come. Sure, I get to be the best mother through these efforts, but I also get to be the bad bitch I truly am. I can’t be a good mom if I can’t love myself first.
* Athandiwe Ntshinga is the name of musician Amarafleur. Find her work here.
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