Put yourself in her place

Date: January 1, 1970
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To this day, it pains my heart when I see her.
I?ve asked Cindy* for her forgiveness. I?ve told her I am sorry; that I?m in counseling; that I?ve changed. At first she did not want to speak to me, I didn?t blame her. When she did accept my apology my heart was sore, it still is?

To this day, it pains my heart when I see her.

I’ve asked Cindy* for her forgiveness. I’ve told her I am sorry; that I’m in counseling; that I’ve changed. At first she did not want to speak to me, I didn’t blame her. When she did accept my apology my heart was sore, it still is…

Every day time passes by and it seems I am still the same man I was yesterday. I am still the same man I was the day before; the month before; or the year before, who knows? But I alone know one thing – I have changed.

I have a daughter who teaches me something every day. I pray that she grows up into a healthy girl; that she does not experience what many women are experiencing today. When I was growing up I believed that love is all about sex. I wish that she does not believe this when she grows up. Having her in my life is like having the whole world to myself – she is my angel.

My mother taught me that real men don’t abuse women. Real men don’t rape women and they don’t beat women. I didn’t listen to her.

My friends used to tell me that if I want my girlfriend to respect me and to listen to me, then I must beat her. That’s when she will respect my wishes. They said that I can have sex with her at any time I want and any way I want, and that she must do it. I listened to them.

I realised too late that they were wrong.

About six years ago, when I was still at school one of my friends told me that he saw my girlfriend with another guy. He told me that she was having a relationship with that guy and that they were holding hands. My friend told me that it was not the first time he’d seen her with him. He said I must something about this.

“But what must I do?” I asked my friends. “Something,” they replied.

One of them said that to get her straight I must have sex with her. They said she was having the affair with the other guy because I wasn’t having sex with her. I took their advice and told her that I wanted to have sex. She refused saying that she was not ready to have sex. I became angry and asked her if the reason she did not want to have sex with me was because the other guy was satisfying her.

When she asked “what other guy” I told her about what my friends said they saw. Then I started to beat her. I felt bad the first time I slapped her. The second time I felt that I was showing her who is the boss and who made the rules. So I took advantage of her and made her have sex with me whether she wanted to or not. If she didn’t want to I would beat her until she did. She used to beg me not to have sex with her and cry painfully during intercourse.

One day when she refused to have sex with me, I started kicking her. I kicked her between the eyes and she bled. I was scared. But my friends told me not to be. She wouldn’t open a case against me because she knew I would l kick her again. They told me that they respected me for what I did, saying – Uyinja sbali uyisikhokho, “I am the man.”

When I went home that day my mother was angry; she was shouting at me that the police came to pick me up for beating and raping Cindy. My mother went with me to the police station where I was locked up. A female police officer beat me and told me that the next time I was thinking about raping someone, I should think of her – the next time she would beat me to death.

The next day my mother and sister bailed me out of jail. The police said I was lucky that I was under age – next time I did something like that they would lock me up and throw the keys where no one would find them.

My sister realised that I needed help. She arranged a counseling session for me at the Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) project in Alexandra. She took me to ADAPT and introduced me to a group of men who had the same problem as I did and who were trying to change.

It was in this group that I realised something – that my mother was right; and that it is not ok to beat and rape women. I promised myself that I would never beat a woman again. The counselor at ADAPT asked me how I would feel if I were a woman and my boyfriend beat and raped me whenever he wanted. I pictured myself being that woman I was beating and I was raping and I could not stop crying because of the pain I was feeling. And that was the day that my life changed forever.

*Not her real name. The writer and Cindy are no longer in a relationship but keep in contact with each other.

This article is part of a special series of articles produced for the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign.

This article is part of the GEM Opinion and Commentary Service that provides views and perspectives on current events.

janine@genderlinks.org.za for more information. 

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