Written by Anonymous
The video of Babes Wodumo that went viral touched a very sore spot for me, and even though years have passed, I am still raw from my experience at being abused by a man I loved, a man I had thought taught me what love is up until that time. A man who I came to be financially dependent on and who orchestrated my life to make sure I was dependent on him. It is always easy to judge women in abusive relationships and we will all ask why Babes stayed when she essentially had “an out” when Masechaba interviewed her last year and exposed to all of us that Babes is abused by the man that helped build her career and a man she was involved with intimately for many years. All I can say from my own experience is that it is not that easy, especially when the abusive and dependent relationship starts when one is young.
I share my story of abuse in the hopes that I can contribute towards shaping a society that does not tolerate men who physically abuse women, and men who use the economic, social or political power to emotionally and mentally abuse women. We forgave Mampintsha too easily, he should have been shunned and ostracized if the justice system was not an option. I wish someone had stood up for me, I wish my mother had stood up for me, I wish there were more people around me I knew that would act and protect me if I asked for help. The silence around girls and women’s abuse is deafening.
By the time I was 12 years old, I have been repeatedly abused by my Aunt’s boyfriend and my older half brother, whom I idolized. They would have sex with me in the house when nobody else was around. I never cried for help because I didn’t know that what was being done to me was wrong. My “uncle” started molesting me when I was around 9 years old as far as I remember, and he made me believe he loved me the way I had seen him love my Aunt. I should have known it was wrong because he made me promise not to tell anyone.
My three bothers, my sister and me, were brought up by my father with the help of his sister, my Aunt. My father was away studying in the UK for about four years from when I was 8 – 12 years old, and we were cared for by my Aunt. Her boyfriend was around most of the time, and he was a policeman, it’s so crazy that he was a policeman and molesting me, now that I think about it.
I don’t remember ever living with my mom, she and my dad separated and she left her three kids with him, I only became close to her when I fell pregnant at 17 and my father kicked me out of his home. That’s a story for another time.
I think my oldest brother, my father’s first born, saw my Aunt’s boyfriend molesting me, and because I wasn’t complaining I guess he thought I liked it. My brother is 5 years older than me, and even then appeared more mature and had a very quiet, nerdishness to him. He was in high school doing very well. He didn’t have many friends like his younger brother did. My father’s second born, also a son, was a handsome charismatic guy, that all the girls around liked and he had loads of friends. He was also naturally kind and funny, an all round likeable guy. I adored both my older brothers, even though they had their own mother. I am the first born of three kids between my mother and my dad. None of my siblings know that our oldest brother molested me when we were younger. He had a pious nature about him, was into the Bible in high school and is now is Pastor in a church. I don’t think they would ever believe me if I told them today.
I have not seen a therapist about how I grew up and my being molested but I assume that growing up in a home where my father was absent pursuing his career so he could take care of us, and an absent mother, made me look for love and attention in all the wrong places.
By the time I am in high school, I know that boys like having sex with me and I think sex is a tool to be loved and have attention. I remember telling my friend when we are around 15 years old that I have slept with more than one hundred boys. I didn’t understand her shock at that time I thought she was jealous. Yet, with all the boys I slept with in high school there was always a hole in my heart, I was always craving love.
Whilst I was molested from a young age, which is violent in itself, my first time encountering a violent man, who beat me is when I am 23 years old. I had been living with my mother for a few years. After having a baby at 17 years old, I completed my Gr12 but didn’t think to pursue college because my mother said she didn’t have money. At this stage, I am no longer just sleeping with me men for love, I am sleeping with them for love and money. I never ever lost my craving for love and yet never experienced love. I don’t remember feeling loved except by my sister, my two brothers and a few friends. I know my father loved me but not the way I needed him to love me, his love was conditional. I needed to be a certain way for him to love me, and be proud to have me as his daughter. My mother took me in because that’s what mother’s are supposed to do, but I never felt loved by her.
I met an older man in his 60s at a shebeen, he owned several shebeens and other businesses and had money, was one of the wealthier men in the township. I had been hanging around the shebeen to escape my mother and also to find guys my age to buy me airtime. I wasn’t working and my looks got me by in terms of attracting guys to care for me. I don’t know why I didn’t think to find a job. The owner of the shebeen and I started a conversation and chatted for hours. I can’t remember what about but I remember feeling that this is what it must be like to chat to a father who loves you. He took my number and we would chat a few times a day. I never got the impression he was interested in me. I started opening up to him about my dreams and what I felt limited me. He offered to pay for my college fees. I was excited, he really was the dad I never had.
He gave me money to go to Durban and look for schools there. I called up my best friend who was studying down there and we hooked up and went to schools to apply. Whilst there, my friend told me of an international artist performing there that weekend, we both didn’t have money but this was an artist we grew up loving. I told my old man about the concert and he offered to buy us tickets. My friend and I went to the concert and had the best night ever. Later when we went clubbing my friend asked about this person who bought us tickets, and I confided to her about this man and how he was the one who sent me to Durban and would pay my college fees. She was skeptical and worried and warned me to be careful. I told her this guy was just interested in taking care of someone he sees as a daughter. I remember my friend reminding me that he already had two grown daughters, but I didn’t get it.
I regarded myself as street smart by this time, a broken soul that still believed in love and was searching for love. The rich, old man did not raise any alarm bells. He was attentive, reaching out to me instead of me chasing him. He seemed completely open and comfortable with me as time passed, about a year knowing him he started sharing about his family, he had a big family, seven children. This reminded me about my family that I was now cut off from. So I loved hearing about the family. He had one wife, even though he was traditional and it could be expected that he would have multiple wives as some of the traditional Shangaan men around had, especially because he could afford it.
He would share news about a grandchild being born, his excitement about it. He would share news about his children and what they were upto, he was proud of most of them. I remember him sharing news of his eldest daughter getting a divorce and he was hurt by it but supported his daughter in leaving this man that was continuously cheating and abusing her, he was really angry at that son-in-law, I thought he would kill him!
Then he started sharing things about his wife, at first small complaints like his wife forcing him to go to church or to go to a family gathering. Then it became more and deeper and soon I believed that this man was unhappy in his marriage and home and that is why he always stayed away from home late. I felt bad for him and started hating his wife, whom I had never met.
When it came time for me to leave for college in Durban he cried tears, crying that he would be alone and I was the source of happiness. I decided to postpone my studies for a year and he gave me a job managing one of his shebeens. He would come to that shebeen every night and would drive me home. Rumours started spreading that we were dating, but that wasn’t true. My mother knew it wasn’t true but encouraged me to date him any way, she was like he was already treating me as a wife since he was over-paying me for the job I did. I refused to see it that way, I thought my mom was trying to make me feel like I wasn’t just loveable for being me.
Then one day when I was accompanying this old man for an admin run in the city, he told me he loved me and that his sangoma told him I am to be second wife, I am the key to his happiness. I was shocked and saddened at first, because I honestly saw this man as a father. In the eighteen months I had known him he had only treated me as a daughter.
I told my mom, she was deliriously happy. She encouraged me to date him and marry him. What kind of a mother encourages her 24-year old daughter to marry a man almost 60 years old and to be a second wife?!
The old man sensed my hurt and started keeping a distance, and soon I was seeing him once a week. This went on for about two months and by that time I was miserable, missing him, missing the love, attention close companionship. He came around one Monday evening, it was a slow day, and confessed to missing me but knowing to keep his distance because he stilled yearned for me to be his second wife. I acquiesced and we became lovers with me under the impression that we would soon be engaged as soon as he followed traditional protocol asking his wife to take a second wife.
Things seemed to take longer than expected. He rented a nice house for us where he would visit, but he never slept over, never spent the night. My house was nice, very comfortable, I had decorated it how I wanted, I wanted for nothing materially and financially. I had enough money to even renovate my mother’s house and make sure she lived well, she made sure to get as much out of me as possible. Although she never asked to meet this man, never asked his about his proposal, only spoke about me finding ways to get money out of him.
This was now about 30 months into knowing this man, and he had shifted me to a job in town because people were beginning to ask how I was affording the house with my shebeen salary. I eventually told some of my friends about the arrangement and me being a second-wife-in waiting. I remember one of my friends, saying I should add “perpetual” before second. I didn’t ask what she meant.
At exactly 36 months of knowing this man I found out I was pregnant with his child. I was so excited and thought for sure these news would push things on our making things official, me becoming his second wife. Instead that evening I saw a side to him I never could have dreamed existed, I could see the anger in his eyes even before he spoke. But before he spoke I was hit by what I thought was lighting, hit so hard I went spinning across my living room and hit the window and the window broke and I had a small cut across my forehead. Blood was running down my face like tears as I sat down in shock trying to understand what had happened. I played the scene back in my head and realized he had punched me in the face! I looked up at him in shock and betrayal and confusion, he must have seen this on my face because he immediately changed, the cold, red-eyes softened and the loving brown eyes that had drawn me to him returned as he rushed to get something to wipe my face.
I had never been hit by a man! I was so confused. I didn’t see him again for a few days and on a Saturday I went to see my best friend who had now finished college in Durban and was working and living in the city. I was so happy to see her and to see she was independent and happy and a master of her own life, even though she didn’t have a man in her life. All of a sudden I felt constricted, unfree and unhappy. I told her my whole story around this man. She was visibly disappointed in me, visibly angry at my mother and visibly disgusted with the old man. I don’t know what it was about the heart to heart and vulnerability that Saturday, I told her all my “secrets”, the molestation by my Aunt’s boyfriend and brother and just feeling unloved from a young age. She was visibly heartbroken at that time because she knew them all, we had grown up together. What struck me and matters to me to this day is that she believed me without a doubt.
My friend encouraged me to have an abortion and to leave that man. I knew she was right but I didn’t see how, I loved him, I craved him, he gave me something I had been seeking all of my life, even though with that beating he had shown me a rejection more painful than when my dad rejected me. I spent the Saturday night at my friend’s place. I went to my home Sunday evening. I found my old man waiting for me. He greeted me with a smile, and asked about my weekend. I told him I was at my friend’s house because I was confused by him. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me into the sofa and punched me ten times in the stomach, I don’t know how he missed my ribs because had any of his blows landed there they would surely have broken.
I couldn’t cry, it was so painful, I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die. I thought surely our unborn baby was going to die. That’s when the thought crossed my mind, that he was trying to kill my baby! I still couldn’t breathe and couldn’t speak but I found the strength to turn over so I am rolled up in a ball and his fists aren’t able to land on my stomach or abdomen. He pounded my back and sides for a while and then eventually stopped, I think he stopped because he was tired. He collapsed next to me and started crying. He was crying and mumbling about how we girls make him like this, and asking me why I am making him like this.
I stayed still and regained my breath, but still coiled up trying to make sense of everything, nothing made sense. But what became clearer was that in the first place my instinct had been not to be with this man in this way, I had thought it was because I didn’t want to lose a “father” but perhaps it was to protect me from this? Because in all of it, even when we made love I never felt pleasure like I had before, I enjoyed the proximity of having someone love me, not the sex with him, never with him.
The sun was down and the house had grown dark and we were both on the couch. I fearful, scared and confused. He spoke first and told me he loved me so much it drove him crazy with jealousy. When he got to our house last night and then that morning and I wasn’t here he got jealous, jealousy is what made him beat me. I melted because he said “our” house, but then I remembered that in the year I had been living there, he had never once slept over. I asked him and he said it is because he is following some traditions or else our marriage would be doomed, or something like that. My gut didn’t believe him but I accepted.
About two weeks passed and things were good with the old man, I was seeing him every evening and we laughed and talked for hours as we had before. We talked about everything but our getting married and the baby I was carrying. One day I asked him about the marriage and whether his wife was agreeing to me being his second wife. He asked me why I wasn’t happy with the way things were?
I knew I should leave things be, but I was pregnant and emotional and I pressed him for what he meant? I lived here like this because he said I would be his second wife. I had sex with him because of that, sex I found awful because it was like having sex with may father, because I thought we would get married.
He threw himself over me, straddling me with his legs and choked me. His hands were so thick and strong around my neck I was sure I was going to die. I could not breathe or even whisper, he was throttling me so hard. When my body went limp he threw me on the floor and proceeded to kick me in between getting dressed. I can’t remember what he was saying, but he was offended I didn’t enjoy sex with him. My body was still limp on the floor as he kicked me and he eventually left me bleeding from the mouth. I would later find my two top front teeth under the bed. My face was swollen for days. I didn’t go to work all week and didn’t see anyone. I stayed in the house in silence, not even once switching on the light. Luckily he never came.
The next week I went to work only to be told I have been fired. They told me some flimsy excuse, but I knew it was the old man. The next day as I was sitting in the house looking at job openings I knew I had to get independent like my best friend. A week passed before the old man showed up with all kinds of gifts and a wad of cash. He told me I could have my job back if I wanted. I nodded but said nothing. I went to see my mother, and she told me to take the job and do all I can to appease the man especially now that I was pregnant.
I went back to work, it was embarrassing, everybody knew I was sleeping with one of the owners and a lovers tiff had caused me to be fired and rehired. I was so unhappy but felt stuck, nowhere to go, no job or money if I leave this man and pregnant. We continued as normal for about a month and then my pregnancy started showing. He saw me naked and saw the baby protruding and he was immediately disgusted, but he said nothing. I asked him if he wanted me to get rid of it? I knew I was passed the legal abortion period but wanted to hear what he would say. He looked at me in that cold, ugly way I had seen the first time he hit me. But he said nothing.
Another month passed and I was almost 6 months pregnant when one Saturday a woman knocked at my door. She introduced herself as the old man’s wife. She said she had heard about me and that I was pregnant and wanted to see me for herself. I could see only hurt in her eyes and kindness, none of the ugliness and spitefulness the man had told me about. She didn’t want to come in, she said she has always avoided this house because it’s where the man housed all his mistresses. I was gutted. I wasn’t a mistress, I was to be his second wife. The wife said she knew nothing about it. She wished me and the baby luck but warned me not to even try take his children’s inheritance. She felt sorry for me, I could see in her eyes. Suddenly I felt sorry for myself, I had been duped in a big way, there was never going to be a marriage between him and I. I also felt relief. And I also came to understand when my friend had said perpetually. I have never asked my friend why she wasn’t clear what she meant and warned me properly.
The man came on Sunday and from the moment he got into the house I knew he would hit me. He accused me of going to his wife and telling her I was pregnant, I broke all protocol. I was shocked he was continuing to lie. I responded between fists that he never asked his wife to take a second wife, he is the liar. He tried to kick me and fell, which angered him more. I ran and locked myself in the room and dialed my friend with car and she came with her male cousins and they escorted than man out. He was embarrassed, a crowd had gathered outside.
He came to fetch me from work a week later and apologized but I wasn’t having it. He took me home and as I was saying goodnight he pushed me back started hitting me again. I fell and he kicked me on the belly. In no time I felt a rush of warmth between my legs and I knew it was the baby. When he saw the pool of blood I saw a look of relief on his face. He didn’t take me to hospital for another hour talking to me not to tell the doctors what happened, he got really nasty and threatened me if I reported his violence. By the time I got to the hospital I had lost the baby and I knew I had lost this man too, I never wanted to see him again.
My best friend came to fetch me when I was discharged. I went to collect my things and texted the man to get his key before vandals come in. I left and stayed a few months with my friend as I got back on my feet. I kept going to work at his company, I knew they wouldn’t fire me and he hardly ever came there. I never did see him as I continued working there for another 24 months as I studied through Unisa. I never heard from my mother even though I had texted her what happened and updated her of my every move. She never texted back or called me.