GBV - How to Leave and Seek Help

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By Athandiwe Ntshinga

18/06/2019

Athandiwe Ntshinga is back with her latest article where she offers advice to victims in abusive relationships.

Gender-based violence is the loudest secret some individuals and families have to gloss over. We’ve seen our best friends, colleagues, and family members try their absolute best to hide depression, scars and bruises with smiles, make-up, clothing or fabricated injuries accompanying every possible story that isn’t “my partner/parent/sibling is abusing me.”

Bedroom walls become thinner as the gravity of the abuse heightens; locations do not matter anymore because the abuser feels entitled to your life. The aggression towards the victim goes from “I’m sorry – I’ll never do it again”, to “You shouldn’t have made me angry.” Whatever level the turbulence extends to, your only hope is that the victim leaves before their lives succumb through their abuser.

Sol’s mother lost her life from a stab wound left to her by her husband and the father of her children. She was a beautiful, well-kept woman; neatest of two-pieces, pristine hair, and had a more remarkable love for her children. She knew well that Sol had done wrong to end up in prison, but she leapt at his homecoming, and she kissed Thuli goodbye with everything left in her on the day she died. Encouraged to leave the relationship by Sol and Aunt Nomalanga when her bruises could no longer be covered by foundation and pigmented eyeshadow, she chose to stay.

Despite this unfathomable dedication to keeping her family ‘together’, she was murdered by someone who was supposed to be her partner in love, and in family. Sol watched his mother die at a time when his own inflictions of abuse, arguably resulting in Tsholo’s untimely death in season 1. Everything staring gender-based violence in the eyes reflected his own actions at the very end of the trail. The walls in Sol’s family home began to close in as their father’s abuse towards their mother propelled. For whatever reason, from guilt to depleted confidence, you need to know that there is never, ever a reason that can and should warrant abuse and gender-based violence. No one can justify harming you as “teaching you a lesson” or an expression of anger towards you. Violence against you or anyone you know will never be okay.

There isn’t one way to leave an abusive environment. You may depend on your abuser financially for accommodation, you might be raising children together, or you may purely stay because you love them – all of which Sol’s mom could identify with. Violence doesn’t always have to be physical; Sol’s father noticeably exhibited abusive traits through the things he would say to his wife and children. As soon as your abuser begins to speak to you in a way that hurts you, if possible tell them[,] they’re upsetting you, but that’s most likely the first indication that you need to leave. We can’t all see these signs – which include gaslighting, bullying, instilling feelings of worthlessness, fear[,]and the like. A lot of time, the signs are subtle. Leaving an abusive setting can be extremely difficult, which is why a lot of people end up staying. If you have chosen to stay, or know someone who has, don’t come down too hard on them. They’re going through an immense amount of pain that needs more support and encouragement to rise above, than judgement.

In the event that you or someone you know has managed to leave, everything is going to be alright. Even if you’re still in an abusive relationship of some kind, ultimately, you need to try to leave. Your life is bigger than anything that is keeping you from unbuckling the shackles of abuse. Reach out to those you trust when you’re ready to start over – you will be surprised at how many loved ones are ready to help you rebuild. If this isn’t an option, there are safe havens built to protect women and children leaving abusive homes as well. You may feel alone, but there is always another way.

Every day, we are made aware of just how many people are and have been victims of gender-based violence, You are not alone. Trust that your life is worth more than whatever you’re experiencing at the hands of another person. You will be able to piece your life together again. You will continue to be loved in abundance by the right people. The biggest gift you could ever give yourself is the gift of safety.


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