Taking a stand

Date: January 1, 1970
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I am 47 years old, married with children. I have a son and two daughters age 24, 19 and 14. I got married at the age of 19. When I got married I was already working. I started to work in the age of 15. I come from a poor family. My parents drink heavily and used to fight everyday. When I grew up I looked for a job. When I married I had been working for four years. In our culture or tradition women they must bow down and worship their husband as king. I had to give him my salary even though he was working too. He earned a lower salary than me.

That was where the jealousy started because I was earning more money than him. I complained about giving him my salary because both of us we are earning. He said that he paid lobola for me and everything I have is his and everything he has is mine. In reality it was not like that because he took all my salary and never shared his salary with me. I complained to his parents. They used say have courage one day it will be all right. He started to drink, he used to get drunk every Friday. He would come from work drunk and ask me food and money. When I refuse he beats me. I use to sleep outside to hide.
I ran away to my mother’s house stayed there for two months. He begged me to come back home. My parents said I must go with him. I told my mother he will beat me again and she said he would not beat me again.
When we arrived home he told his parents that I am stubborn and I do not want to listen to him. He called me names and was drunk, my mother in law said I must not answer him because he was drunk, so I kept quiet until the next morning. He asked me for money because he had a headache and needed some tablets. When I asked where is your money he started to fight again. I said to him you told my parents you would not do this again but you started again. He said you made me angry because you refused to buy me tablets for headache.
I use to respect him as my husband.  Since he started abusing me I have no respect for him at all. He stopped me from visiting my family and friends. He said I am wasting money by visiting.
He forced me to have sex with him. If I said I was tired he forced me or beat and said he paid lobola for me. I must give him anything that he wants. He said he married me for sex. So I have to do what he wants just to make him happy. Every morning he wanted breakfast even though there was no food at all.
In 1984 when my son was one year old my husband decided to leave his job. I said how could you do this, he said he want to go to school. I continued to work. He asked me for money for transport and food. The burden was on me because I had to look after my son and his father.
He went to school for one year only. After that he said he wanted to go to driving school. Again I paid all the costs for driving lessons. When he needed money for something he would fight with me. I used to give him money because I was afraid of being beaten. If I asked him anything such as how was your day, his answer is its not your business, bring me food I want to eat I am hungry. I would have rush around and make food for him.
After he got his licence he started a job as a driver and was working five days a week. Every Friday things would he would shout and say open the door while banging on the door. I get very and do not know whether to open the door or not.
In 1991 we bought a house and by now I had daughter. I had lost my job in 1988 and decided to use some of my package to pay for the house. We arrived at the office to pay for the house and it was closed. The following day I was tired and decided to stay home and have a rest. My husband went to pay for the house alone. He took the cheque for R30 000 and disappeared for two months. I ask him where the money was and where he had disappeared to. He just sat down and kept quiet, I started to shout at him, he became really angry and hit me.
One day I told my sister about my life, my sister said that it was time to get a lawyer and divorce. The lawyer began the process and found out that my husband used the R30 000 to go overseas.  In 1995 I received the decree of divorce but we still lived together.
My husband started an affair and had sex with this woman in my bed in front of me.
My husband was working but did not give me money to buy food for children. My children were affected because they saw what was happening. My son hates his dad because his best friend is his dad’s girlfriend’s son.  Both boys got very angry and wanted to beat my husband and his girlfriend. I stopped them and told them violence does not change anything.
After I cam to the “I” stories workshop I went home and told my husband about the experience. I told him I am aware of my rights and that there are places I can go to for help. He was surprised and started to say that everything will change. He became afraid and his blood pressure rose and he had to be admitted to hospital While he was there I asked about all his policies and he gave me access to all of them. I will not allow him to beat me any more.
* not her real name
This story is part of the I Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence

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