Evelyn’s Story from Safe Haven Halfway Home Mauritius

Date: April 3, 2023
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Getting out of the shadow of fear and violence

“At that moment, I asked myself: why should I accept to be hit?”

My name is Evelyn and I am 43 years old. I have six children, three boys and three girls. I came to Safe Haven Halfway Home in October 2021 following years during which violence had become normalised in my life.

My husband is an alcoholic who constantly used to fight with me and my children, especially when I returned back from work. He was also coercive and controlling, for instance, he did not like when I was using my phone. I always did what he wanted me to do; complying to his wishes was a way of “simplifying my life” and avoiding endless arguments. I had to get out of the house around six in the evening daily to prevent his anger from escalating and being hit. It was crucial for me to get some breathing space away from the stressful environment that I was living in. I was constantly on edge, not knowing what he will do next or whether he will start nagging my sons and hence developed insomnia. I was exhausted and shouldered the responsibility of being the sole breadwinner of the house. Nonetheless, I had faith and used to pray every day and I believe this has helped me cope with my daily struggles.

The turning point in my life came about when teachers at school noticed that my daughters’ academic performance was declining. When one of my daughters was doing her PSAC exams, she experienced hair loss due to extreme stress and I had to help her in her studies, without the help of outside tuitions. She passed her Primary School Achievement Certificate (PSAC) exams. Furthermore, the matter got complicated when my elder sons once intervened during one of the fights and hit their father. Luckily, my daughter’s caring teacher introduced me and my family to Safe Haven Halfway Home (SHHH), after realizing the chaotic situation we were going through. At that moment, I asked myself: Why is the teacher showing interest? Why am I unable to create a more conducive environment for my daughter? And fundamentally, why should I accept to be hit?

Due to lack of available space at the shelter at that time, I kept on looking for other houses to rent. Nevertheless, people turned my requests down because I had many children.

I realise that I put up with a lot of physical and mental violence. Infact for many years, I accepted that the situation I was living in was normal and natural. I was constantly justifying my husband’s behaviour by saying that maybe he was stressed. I even went to the police station to lodge a complaint about him but then I became pregnant and removed the case. I wanted to remain on good terms with my husband and also thought that I did not have any other place to go with my six children. Although my father proposed to cater for me and my children, I did not want to be a burden on my elderly father.

I was warmly welcomed at Safe Haven in October 2021 and the first thing I did was to sleep properly. Anushka Virahsawmy’s (Country Director of Gender Links Mauritius) words have touched me when she said that it is not normal that someone insults or hits you. My children are much better at Safe Haven Halfway Home. Most importantly, I and my children have obtained a safe and peaceful space where we can have some time for ourselves. I am continuing to work and save my money.

During my free time, I enjoy sewing. Ever since I was young, I was curious and observed my aunty who was a seamstress. I followed a course on bag sewing and also learnt patchwork via YouTube videos. I managed to find the appropriate equipment to do patchwork. Sometimes, I would also sell the bags that I made during the sales fair organized by the National Empowerment Foundation (NEF) in December. I enjoy cooking and my children and I usually bake cakes on Sundays. I also like reading romantic novels and downloaded an application on my mobile to do so. I also enjoy planting chilli, basil, tomatoes, and pepper in small pots.

I want to have my own house. I will first put a ‘Home Sweet Home’ sign board and will endeavour to create a peaceful home environment: without constant quarrels and continue to practise good habits that we learnt at Safe Haven for example doing dishes after dinner and being well organized with our time. I explained to my husband that I want to stay on good terms with him solely for the sake of our children. Nevertheless, I am firm about not going back to him. I also want to learn driving formally. I even have recurrent dreams where I am driving cars! Having my own car will enable me to save on the cost of travelling to my sister’s place and to avoid walking a long distance to my workplace.

I am glad today that I have a safe and secure environment to express my bottled-up emotions and thoughts. I have also told my children that if ever in the future, their partners hit them, they should return back home. Today, my son is able to play football freely, and just seeing this makes me happy that I did not give up hope.