WOMEN have been urged to break free from abusive relationships in order to save themselves the emotional trauma as well as their lives.
The call was made by a survivor of gender-based violence, ‘Mathato Taeli during an event organised by Bam Media Group in collaboration with the American Embassy to mark 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence (GBV).
The 16 Days of Activism are meant to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The commemorations which started on 25 November will end on Human Rights Day on Saturday.
The 2016 campaign strongly emphasises the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Ms Taeli urged women not to condone abuse by sticking to outdated notions that ‘real African women do not run away from their matrimonial homes’ even in the face of abuse from their husbands.
Ms Taeli recounted how she had stayed on in an abusive marriage for 15 years, adding that perversely, she even felt “very important” in that abusive marriage.
“I am an angry woman. I know pain and abuse in and out. I don’t know what it will take for me to heal,” Ms Taeli said.
“Women are strong. We can get out of abusive relationships only if we stopped trying so hard to be like our mothers and grandmothers who were forced by societal norms to stay in abusive marriages.
“At the time I got married, my parents were 25 years into marriage and I vowed to stay longer than them and maybe this is why I endured the 15 years abusive marriage,” Ms Taeli said.
She said her late husband covered his abusive behaviour by calling her “First Lady” and declaring undying love for his wife to everyone who cared to listen.
“Tuesday to Thursday were happy days in our marriage and all hell would break loose from Friday to Monday. He would rape me to prove that he was not with a woman from Friday to Monday when he was not at home,” Ms Taeli said.
She said the abuse only ended in 2014 when her husband was mercilessly killed at his “lover’s house”, leaving her with a paralysed child who tried to commit suicide to escape his father’s abusive behavior.
“My husband was a soldier and got killed at the time there was a conflict between the army and the police, so the police refused to investigate his death and I live with the pain of seeing his suspected killers almost every day,” she said.
A youth representative, Phokoane Taoana said the country could curb GBV by dealing with manifestations of the scourge among children.
“In schools and society, children abuse each other and that is brushed off on the basis that the children are only playing,” Ms Taoana said, adding, as result abusive behaviour continued to flourish to a point where it was accepted as normal by victim and perpetrators.
“As individuals, what are we doing about these abusive relationships? Woman to woman, we also need to check ourselves as half the time we also abuse each other.
“It is up to us to change the way we behave. If you are abused, speak up and seek support from trusted persons around you. Abuse has to stop today,” she said.
Bam Media Group representative, Tšepang Tšita-Mosena said it was time women changed the institution of marriage by refusing to be abused.
“Most women find themselves trapped in abusive relationships because of the financial dependency syndrome. Get out of your shell and stop feeling helpless,” Ms Tšita-Mosena said, adding, women could avoid abuse and shape their own destinies if they went out of their way to make their own money.
She said abuse would continue as long as women did not aggressively asserted themselves against abusive partners.
“Our spouses know us and they can tell when we are scared of them. Be assertive and mean what you are saying,” Ms Tšita-Mosena said.