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‘Find someone to confide in’

A survivor of abuse opened up about what women should do when facing gender-based violence. The Paarl resident, who can legally not be identified, moved to Khayelitsha from the Eastern Cape when she was seven years old. She remembers she was first sexually abused by her stepfather when she was only five years old.

“I don’t think my mother was aware that I was being abused, but we moved to my aunt in Khayelitsha when I was about six or seven,” she said. There, she lived in a family home where she again suffered sexual abuse at the hand of an uncle. She said she was conditioned to remain silent about what happened to her.

In 2012 she married and moved to Paarl with her new husband. “He was using drugs and also abused me, but he didn’t know he was abusing me,” she said. She explained her husband would beat her and rape her. She said her husband was ignorant that a husband can rape his wife if she does not consent to have sex.

“I sought help at Ahos in December 2016 and a pastor from our church councilled my husband,” she said. The woman said her situation changed completely after she and her husband sought help. Her husband now speaks publicly about what they overcame and why domestic and sexual abuse is wrong.

When asked what advice she would give women in a similar situation she said women must find someone trustworthy to confide in. “I kept what happened to me a secret for more than 20 years. When I first spoke about it, it felt like this load I was carrying for all these years was gone,” she said. “I used to be this fragile person who would cry all the time, but once I spoke about it and realised what had happend to me, I was able to work through it,” she said.

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