Date: April 7, 2016
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I, *Saartjie, would like to share my life story and what I have experienced from an early age until now. I was six (6) years old when I was raped for the first time in my life. My stepfather raped me when I was six (6) years old and I thought what he was doing was right and did not tell my parents. But when I was seven (7) years old it became more difficult for me and I started wetting the bed and became very withdrawn.

I tried to tell my mother but she did not believe me. Later on I told my grandparents and they adopted me into their lives. I tried to forget about the rape but I could not because every day it played through my mind like a movie. I went for our counselling and my grandparents stood by me until the end. It is not easy when your parents do not want to believe you but I am very grateful for my grandparents who never left my side.

I grew up, got married and had three (3) children. At the start of my marriage it was all sunshine and roses but one day my husband came from work and started hitting me. This is where my life took a knock again because it took me back to my childhood days. He started getting involved with other women and many nights myself and the children had to sleep outside.

One Sunday I woke up in hospital with machines and drips on me and my children standing around me. When I asked what happened they informed me that their father stabbed me through the lungs and that the doctors had no hope for me. But I thank God for His grace and my children’s prayers that I can speak with pride today. It is not easy for me as a mom to tell your life story to others but today I am a very proud woman through the help I received from Gender Links (GL).

In 2013 my daughter was also raped by a stranger and then everything that happened to me started playing out in my mind again. My daughter was broken with me because we both felt that we are failures in life but through the grace of God and the help of GL I can say that we are winners.

I want to encourage other women ‘you as women are not born to stay in your circumstances. There is hope.’ GL helped me get my self-image back and I want to tell women out there today that is experiencing gender violence enough is enough that you are being abused. Stand up for yourself. Do not let other or your husband walk all over you. Speak; say that no one will walk over you as a woman. Know there is a way out. For those who have not heard about GL go to your nearest municipality and hear you can get into contact with them. You can have a better and peaceful life. It is not necessary to lie down, stand up for yourself.

I joined the training in 2007 and have attended all three (3) courses. I did not find anything unnecessary about the training and I also found the opportunity to talk as a way to overcome many of my challenges I was facing. Before I started the training I was a housewife but now I am working at the George municipality. The training helped me to get to where I am now but unfortunately the council could not assist me and the only other assistance I received was from GL who taught me to stand up for myself and start my own business.

I was previously abused my husband and stepfather but am lucky not to be experiencing violence anymore. My faith (religion) and God changed my life and many changes are now also seen by my family and the response from them has been very good. I do believe that there is a link between economic empowerment and reducing gender violence because if a woman works then she feels free and that she is empowering herself.

The changes in my life have also influenced the lives of others because they saw the circumstances I lived in and now I can freely talk to women about gender violence. My community sees me differently no because I stood up for myself. We also know more about our rights now because it is 50/50 and both males and females are now found in the police, navy, politics, etc.

I am creating knowledge by speaking to my neighbours about what women can do if they are being abused. I have also learned that it is not necessary to stay in your circumstances. You must stand up and I apply the lessons I have learnt by speaking to others about what happened to me. My future plans include to never allow a man to abuse me and by 2030 I would like to own my own business.