Eswatini: Emotional abuse often ignored

Eswatini: Emotional abuse often ignored

Date: January 7, 2021
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By Bongiwe Zwane,

Mbabane,  7 January: “Had I woken up ten minutes earlier, perhaps I would have saved my daughter,” Nomthandazo Masilela says. The 54-year-old mother of three is still struggling to accept the death of her 30-year-old daughter Temave who committed suicide in 2018 following a long history of emotional abuse by her estranged husband.

Nomthandazo says her daughter was fresh out of college when she married her high school sweetheart Muzi. She says following a beautiful intimate wedding, the couple settled into a life of marriage that was the envy of many.

“I had my doubts about my daughter marrying young. She was only 23 and Muzi was 26. My fears were allayed when I saw how happy they were together. Muzi was a very attentive husband and his family loved Temave very much. They were always together and this made me very happy because I raised her and her siblings single-handedly,” she says.

Nomthandazo says everything went smoothly for a while until they celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary. She says what changed things was the couple’s failure to conceive.

“My daughter spoke to me about how sad she was that she still hadn’t fallen pregnant.  I advised her to see a gynaecologist and she came back a few weeks later excited that she had been given a clean bill of health. The doctor had actually requested that Muzi also be medically examined, a request he flatly refused to entertain. Temave tried everything she could to convince him to undergo tests but he refused and that was it. That was the beginning of a horrid journey of emotional abuse,” she says.

She says her daughter would often call her in tears to let her know that her husband would torture her at every available chance. He called her a useless, barren woman in private but when they were in public he pretended to be a good person. This went on for years and his even started having affairs openly and when their families tried to intervene, it yielded no results. Muzi would sometimes disappear from the house for days and when he returned, he would belittle his way at every turn. She lost a lot of weight and started having self –esteem issues. After her mother saw that her daughter was on a downward spiral, she advised her to move back home just before her 30th birthday.

“Lomave and I had a lengthy discussion about her toxic marriage and she was prepared to leave Muzi because she had also had enough. I decided to throw her a surprise 30th birthday party and asked a few of her friends to help me organise everything. Sadly, we buried her on the eve of her birthday. She never got to celebrate her birthday and start life afresh which really breaks my heart.  On August 25, 2018 I went to bed very early. I had a headache and decided to take some medication and sleep it off. Lomave was watching soapies in the lounge when I went to bed. I woke up around 4 a.m. and noticed that the light in her bedroom was still on which was odd as she always sleeps in the dark. I walked into the bedroom as my child drew her last breath. I rushed to her side and shook her but it was late. There was nothing I could do for her. She had overdosed on over 60 pills. I was devastated,” she says.

Nomthandazo says a few days after the tragedy, she finally had the courage to read the suicide note that her daughter had left behind. She says it explained in detail that Muzi had driven her to the decision to take her life as he kept taunting her even after she had left their mutual home.

“My daughter couldn’t take it anymore and I am sad there was nothing I could do for her. I just take comfort in knowing I had spent her last moments alive with her. I struggle every day with guilt and anger,” she says.

Lomave’s story is representative of what many Swazi women go through in their lives. Emotional abuse is one of the most neglected forms of abuse as it is under-reported and often ignored. One Billion Rising Campaign Africa Regional Coordinator, Colani Hlatshwayo says people who are emotionally abused often suffer from severe health problems and may end up committing suicide. She says most victims find it difficult to share what they are going through because there is no physical evidence they can show.

“It is advisable that any form of violence that women are subjected to is reported. Violence is violence. Anyone who hears or witnesses a case of violence is advised to report it as not doing so is a crime,” Colani says.

Dumisani Mamba, a mental health advocate and practitioner says in cases of emotional abuse, it is critical that professional advice is sought by the affected party. He says getting professional psychological assistance can save one’s life.

“Depression is a complex matter and should not just be taken at face value. The missing link in Lomave’s case was getting professional help – perhaps her story would have turned out differently. We need to prioritise mental wellness in our society,” he says.

Psychologist Lombuso Mthethwa says Lomave’s case is a reflection of what is happening in society on a daily basis but such issues are often not openly discussed. She says Lomave’s life could have been spared had those around her been more aware of the underlying issues brought on by emotional abuse.

“Her mother was clearly supportive and even welcomed her back home after she left her husband but we have seen that walking away from an abusive situation is not the end of the ordeal for the abused person. It is clear that the continued abuse from Lomave’s husband even after she had walked out of their marriage made her feel helpless. This is exactly what made her end of life because she felt trapped. Professional counselling s critical in such cases” says Lombuso.

As a society, it is imperative that we raise our voices in unison against all forms of gender-based violence – but even more against emotional abuse which is rampant but hard to prove.

“Emotional violence takes place in the form of verbal abuse, name calling, swearing in the form of disrespect, as well as intentionally belittling, embarrassing and humiliating the other person. These acts can affect an individual’s sense of self, self-confidence and self-esteem.”  (Ludsin and Vetten 2005)

Bongiwe Zwane is a journalist from Eswatini . This article is part of the GL News  Service

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