Mauritius: Perpetrators must break the silence to stop the violence

Date: November 25, 2013
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Port Louis, 26 November: Violence against women (VAW) continues to plague our societies. There is great emphasis placed on the need for survivors of violence to speak out, not only for individual healing, but to encourage broader social change. However, the need for perpetrators to do the same is equally as critical. Without their testimonies the spiral of violence and silence will continue.

According to the Gender Links VAW Baseline study in Mauritius, one quarter (24%) of women in have experienced some form of gender-based violence (GBV) in their lifetime. A similar proportion of men (23%) admit to perpetrating this violence against women.

Some of the men that do admit to their crimes also see the value of speaking out. This expression not only allows healing and behavioral change, but also breaks the silence among other men, encouraging perpetrators to stop the violence.

Eight years ago, Selven Amédée’s life was turned upside down. “I was the father of a six year old boy and my wife was pregnant with our second child. We had just moved into the district of high Plaines-Wilhems where I had made some new friends. One day, a friend offered me a free hit of heroin. Out of curiosity I accepted, just to see how it would make me feel.”

The first hit became a second, then a third, until Amédée was an addict. To support his heroin habit, he had to dip into the household savings needed to support the family.

“Initially, I spent about 500 Mauritian Rupees, but my need for heroin only grew. To buy drugs I used money needed to purchase business supplies and necessities for the new baby. I remember once my son asked me to buy him ice cream while the dealer made his rounds. I lied and said I had no money on me. I kept the money to buy myself heroin,” explains Amédée.

Because of his addiction he could no longer perform at work and was often absent, so his boss eventually dismissed him. He began stealing valuables from the house to pawn a for drug money. His wife found a job to support the family, but he demanded that she gave him her salary every month.

When Amédée did not get his way, he went into a rage, breaking everything in sight, including his wife.

“Nobody could control me,” he says, “When she refused to give me money, I hit her. She suffered violence almost every day. One day, I did not have any money to buy drugs, so I ransacked the house and screamed so loudly that my wife ran to the neighbors. I was so ashamed of myself that I hid in the bathroom and cried.”

It was only after four years of addiction and abuse that Amédée realised he had a serious problem. “I hated to admit it, but I had become like an executioner.”

With great difficulty, his wife finally convinced him to go to a rehabilitation centre. “I wanted to run away but she told me to stay. When they asked what my problem was, I admitted that I hit my wife, to get a daily hit of heroin.”

The centre placed him in a residential programme for six months and he went to therapy three times a week. From then on, he began to change and rebuild his life.
Once the centre allowed Amédée back into his community, he remained on a part-time programme for another year.

“Now that I have completely recovered, I can say that heroin is the greatest poison that exists. It made me do such horrible things. I hit my wife, made her life hell and deprived my children of food. The drug turned me into a monster.”

Amédée is now a new man who is living life to the fullest being an active father and caring husband. It is truly admirable that Amédée openly tells his story to create awareness about the evils of drugs and domestic violence, with the hope to inspire other men to change. His story shows that speaking brings psychological healing and can be used as an advocacy tool to educate people about GBV and bring change to the lives of many men and women.

“My message to those who are in similar situations is not to be ashamed to get help. Alone, it’s impossible to fix the problem. It is never too late to get better and change who you are.”

Laura Samoise is a freelance journalist in Mauritius. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service, special series on 16 Days of Activism, providing fresh views on everyday news.



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