South Africa: *Joan

South Africa: *Joan

Date: April 7, 2016
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I am my grandmother’s child but at the age of nine (9) I left my grandmother’s house to go and live with my mother and stepfather in Johannesburg. I started my school career there. My stepfather smoked dagga (cannabis) and drank alcohol. At the start things looked very good for me as a child but it was not too long and he started smoking and drinking more often. I was not use to that kind of life in the City because I was born in Mossel Bay and there we did not have fighting and arguing.

Later on I would start to get hidings (beatings) and I wanted to go back to my grandmother but because I was underage I had to stay with my mom and her husband. I also have a sister who is his child (stepsister) and as much as I loved them very much I could not handle the abuse. I had to go to school with swollen hands and a sore body because of the way my stepdad would beat me. I always hoped that it would stop but I had to put a stop to it myself.

At the age of 13 years old my cousin and I who were visiting by us ran away from home and ended up in Witbank. Black people took us in to live by them and we were there for about three (3) months. News started spreading in Witbank that my mother was looking for me and when she finally found me my mother begged me to come back and said that her husband has changed and that things will get better. We did house work for the people where we lived in Witbank and they put on a train to go back to Johannesburg.

Things were good again, I went back to school and my cousin went back to Mossel Bay. We started over as a family, they even changed my surname and I now became his daughter. I was happy to be back at home and things looked better. The fighting and arguing stopped. We then moved from Wesbury to Eldorado Park and they had to keep up a happy front because we lived in the flats and the people here were very decent and he was shy to show his true colours (real manners).

I will never forget the Christmas Eve he started fighting with my mom again. The Christmas lunch and ginger biscuits that I loved so much all lay on the kitchen floor. My mom was screaming and ran away bare feet because he would not stop hitting her. My sister and I could only cry and look for our mom. We cried for the last few hours left of Christmas and prayed that our mom comes home. He fell asleep and when he woke up he made as if he was looking for his ’lovey’ – this is what he called my mom and still calls her this.

At the age of 15 years old I ran away from home for the second time and this time with a friend named Nellie, we are still friends to this day and she live in Gauteng. But this time we had boyfriends and they were familiar what I looked like after my dad physically abused me. My boyfriend Pieter then decided that we will live with his parents in Lawley, a small farm away from Eldorado Park. I stayed there until my 16th birthday. He bought me a watch for my birthday because he worked already and I loved my present very much. His birthday was two (2) days after mine and I did not have a gift for him. He was wiser and more experienced than me. He told me that if I sleep (have sex) with him it would be the best and greatest gift I could ever give him. My friend and had sex for the first time with our boyfriends on the same night on the 17th of April that year.

Our parents started looking for us and could not find us. But also did not want to be found and when we spotted them we would hide. Then things took a turn because my boyfriend’s mother wanted to use us as her slaves and I had enough. So we decided to go back home and ask forgiveness. All was forgiven and things went well but we were not children anymore but young women and also pregnant women as the cherry on top. I spoke to my mom; she cried a lot and told me to speak to my dad. I gathered all of my strength and told him. He just told me he does not want that shame at his home and that I must get married. So at the age of 16 years old married the love of my life and moved out of their house.

I was a married women and left school at Standard eight (8). Out of that marriage three (3) beautiful daughters were born. My husband died at the age of 32 and never in my life was I that angry and upset with God because He took my husband away. I had three kids, I was unemployed, we had a house and debt. I lost my house and went to live with my parents who now lived in Extension 9 in Eldorado Park, and my baby was just 11 months old. I do not want to cry because I don’t want my girls to see me cry and then they will start crying with me. So I have to be strong for my girls. My mom said that I will have to do something because we all cannot all live together and they were not use to the noise that the children make.

I went to the housing department and also to the welfare departments in order to get a grant for my children. The God knows I was so angry at before came to my rescue and I got a grant and housing gave me a flat. I was on my own with my girls, it is hard sometimes but I kept my composure and started a small business for me and my girls. They were on school and I had to provide for them. I will die for my girls. Even now, they are my life.

I lived in Bele Vista and my life in the town was not easy a single mother but I survived. For three years I raised my girls on my own. I wanted to marry again because I felt young and wanted someone in my life. To my regret I married a drunk. I did not want that for my girls. I was there before and did not believe I should choose a husband like my mom’s one (my stepfather) who abused me. I chose my girls and we hit the road. Each one just took what they could and left the house with that man in there.

I went back to Mossel Bay but was an adult now and could not be dependent on people. So I had to work and find a place to live for me and my girls. This is when I had to separate my girls; this was very heart-breaking for me – one in Gauteng with her grandparents, one with my niece and nephew and one stayed with me. It was the hardest time in my life and I never want to relive that experience again. My baby started school in Mossel Bay and I worked in a shop as a saleslady. I also had a char job cleaning a house for white people. I lived with my aunty and my life continued.

Again I met a man and we dated for a few months. We decide to move in together, things worked out well and we got married. It was my third marriage and I took the chance for my girls because I wanted all three with me. Things went well the first two years with just love and sunshine. My husband started working long distance and this is when the adultery started in my marriage. I thought that this is probably what I am destined for; happiness does not seem to be meant for me. In our fifth year of marriage I decided to divorce him because I do not have time for this (adultery) in my life. I received the divorce date and it was on the day we got married. What a waste of five (5) years. I prayed to God and ask why on my anniversary date and the answer I received was that I had a choice, I could either divorce him or I give him a second chance. I then decided to give him a second chance and this was the best decision I could have made.

We then started living in a caravan and this was very uncomfortable with the girls but today we live in a big house. My eldest daughter is married with two beautiful daughters, my middle daughter has one child with another on the way and my youngest daughter is busy studying. I am so proud of what I could give them until now. My husband is their father, the father they never had. I also had my son that I was praying for many years. God blessed me with him. We are not the perfect family but we pray together, fight together, visit together and we all also live together. I don’t regret for one moment that gave my husband a second chance.

I now tell my girls that in this life you have a choice and that is what you make of your life. I am there to help their broken hearts, to help put together the broken pieces but I promise then that I will never involve myself in their business. But the men that they choose also know that they must not mess with my girls. I am like a female lion over her cubs.

I will say that I did well for myself and I am satisfied with my life so far. Things can only get better. I am older, wiser and with God on my side I don’t back down to anything or anyone. My husband and I talk about everything no matter what it is. And this is what my friends are to each other honest; leave the white lies because it does not work out. Really communication is the part of the biggest success.

I am proud of myself for what I achieved despite the hurt I experienced in my life.