There’s nothing like becoming yourself again, says abuse survivor

The Mitchell’s Plain SAPS domestic violence office held an event in honour of women, at Littlewood Primary School on Thursday August 26.

Constable Aviwe Batyashe and Sergeant Candice Williams, from Mitchell’s Plain SAPS domestic violence office, hosted the event and were assisted by Mitchell’s Plain CPF project co-ordinator Joseph Williams.

The domestic violence office team with the victim support volunteers from left are Constable Aviwe Batyashe, Jamiela Absalom, Yvonne Wilson, Miriam Rana, Elaine Harker, Sergeant Candice Williams and Mitchell’s Plain CPF project co-ordinator, Joseph Williams.

“You must have a heart for this kind of work, as you need to listen to the difficult stories,” said Sergeant Williams.

“We need to help them, be there for them in their time of need and give them the necessary support.”

Mitchell’s Plain SAPS spokesman Captain Ian Williams, told the women: “You are not alone. If you are afraid, you must seek help. Sometimes you might not find it but keep knocking on those doors to open. Hold us accountable to help you in your time of need.”

Guest speaker and journalist Saafia February shared her story of domestic violence.

From left are Constable Shane Sameuls, Captain Ian Williams, guest speaker and journalist Saafia February, Sergeant Candice Williams, and Sergeant Spencer Fillis.

“I try to make a difference in women’s lives. Do not put yourselves in situations, walk away, you’ll die. And there I was behind my white picket fence living the same life I was trying to save everybody else from but I couldn’t save myself,” said Ms February.

About three years ago, she reached her limit. She knew there was nothing left within her emotionally – “when you feel like you’ve lost your sense of worth, you cannot do your job, you cannot attend to your kids, jy kan nie jou hare was nie, you don’t know what day it is”.

She added: “When you’ve reached that point, you just want to lie down in a dark room for weeks.

“There’s a person telling you you’re worthless, they’re supposed to be your partner. At that point you’ll die.

“Women, sisters, mothers, parents, the hardest thing for me to do when I was afraid to talk about it, was feeling ashamed in reporting this to the police. Everyone knew who I was,” she said.

She also had to walk away from her children after being threatened by her former partner. And then she found the strength to go to the police to lay charges against her partner.

Since then, she said, it’s been “a three-year journey of hell”.

“I had to hide the pain before. Talking about what happened to me now makes me realise my worth. We’re not worthless as women; we have power, we have strength, we have resilience,” she said.

Among the difficult decisions she made was to leave her job to pursue an Honours degree in Women and Gender Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

“It’s not easy but there is nothing like becoming yourself again. I am still on my journey of discovering me. I cry most days now, because it’s such a beautiful experience,” she said.

“I spoke my truth, and I let go of what I thought was my anchor. There is nothing greater than God. My friends and family have supported me. I found strength, I found me,” she said.

And she advised women to “find you, find what makes you tick despite what’s happening and where you’ve been. You are strong.”

Suraya Petersen from the Beacon Valley sub-forum and neighbourhood watch said they needed more of these events. “One experiences this in your own life. We realise we are doing this work to help the community.

“As leaders we too need help as we need to be strong for others. We need more support for safety structures and committees. Listening to Saafia’s story made me realise we are not alone,” she said.