With the Oscar Pistorius trial taking up so much media time this week domestic violence and abuse against women (and children) has been highlighted although not as much as it should be in my opinion. Having watched some of the news coverage and read some of the articles online and in the papers I personally believe it was more than just a case of mistaken identity.
For me there is a lot revealed in his body language. In Court he refused to meet the gaze of her mother, not even a gesture of apology. He constantly clutches his head, whispers to Counsel, cries and appears to be praying. A bit late for that? Lets not forget that in the 12 months since the shooting he has started dating again and has been seen out and about 'enjoying' life. Not the actions of somebody who now appears devastated in the face of the public.
And then there is that smirk. Anybody else notice it firmly in place when he comes in and out of court? The hard glazed fixed stare. The clenched jaw. The thin lips. Who is he angry with? The public for taking an interest? Himself? The injustice of life and that it dare challenge him?
Some of you reading this may claim 'innocent until proven guilty'. Fair enough, however, he did shoot and kill her and regardless of whether it was a case of mistaken identity or a lovers tiff the point is he pumped 4 (not 1 or a warning shot) but 4 bullets into her body. Therefore no matter what there is guilt and an innocent woman lost her life.
None of us will ever know the real story - even if she had survived - and that is the saddest part of this tragic event. Chances are she may have covered up for him, either from threats of further harm or just from feelings of embarrassment. It is HARD to admit you are the victim of domestic violence/abuse. We can all admit to being victims of other crimes but society has conditioned us to feel shame to admitting that someone we have an intimate bond with could possibly have inflicted the same trauma on us.
This is just yet another tale of abuse in a country and world wracked with it every day. The only reason it is receiving so much airtime is because of its famous players. According to WHO domestic violence affects on average 2000 women and children every day in South Africa. EVERY DAY. Some stats put domestic violence at 80% in rural communities. It is a vicious never ending trend. And those victims stories are never told and justice is never delivered in their cases.
My children and I are part of that statistic even though I am divorced from the man who inflicted the abuse. Speaking out about it has taken me nearly 12 years since my divorce. People are quick to judge. Why didn't you leave? Why did you tolerate it - you a strong independant woman? Why did you expose your children to it? There is no easy answer. Abuse comes in all forms, physical, mental and emotional.
He was always careful about the physical abuse. Apart from one night where he nearly strangled me he always managed to inflict the blows with the minimal amount of bruises. It was the smack on the back of the head. Hitting my head into the car window if I happened to be looking out as a man walked out. Demanding sex as compensation for my perceived misdemeanours - that being the house wasn't tidy enough, dinner wasn't cooked to his satisfaction, I wasn't polite enough to his friends. Pushing and shoving so I bumped into tables and counter corners - ending up with bruises but never really able to point the finger at him.
He cut me off from friends and family. I had no car, no phone, no contact with the outside world for days at a time. He would leave for work at 6am and if I was lucky would be home around 9pm. Sometimes only the early hours of the morning. It wasn't uncommon for him to leave for work on a Friday morning and only appear again Monday night. I wasn't allowed to question. Who did I think I was daring to ask where he had been. My place was in the home and in his bed no questions asked - ever. He provided me with everything, right down to my tampons, so who was I to question him or dare cast him in a bad light in front of anyone else. He convinced me I would never survive without him. I was young but I can't even claim that was an excuse.
Besides that was the emotional and mental abuse. I was never pretty enough - yet if I wore makeup and a pretty dress I was accused of looking like a whore and of having affairs. The sex was never good enough and I didn't satisfy him like a woman should. No other man would ever want me - I was too fat and ugly and I nagged. My food was disgusting. I was stupid (this despite the fact that I matriculated in the top 5 in my school and he doesn't even have a Standard 7!). The house was always dirty. The kids were never well behaved enough. The kids took up too much of my time.
There was always something until eventually I grew to believe that I deserved every blow and insult that came my way. I must be doing something wrong. He's right I will never amount to anything. I'm lucky he wants to be with me. I should be grateful, he's taking care of me. I convinced myself he loved me. That he was moulding me to be his perfect wife. That he was doing it out of love. No matter how badly he behaved I forgave him each time. He would beg and plead. Promise it would be different. And it would be ... sometimes for a day or 2, maybe a week or a month... but never really long enough before the cycle started again.
And I am not a stupid woman. I never grew up with any form of abuse. I went to an all girls school where we openly discussed these issues. My History teacher was an activist against abuse and drilled us never to accept it. Yet I ended up in that exact relationship and was too deep in by the time I realised the extent of what I was dealing with. And I was too ashamed to admit I had made a mistake. I believed I had made my bed and had to lie in it, for better or for worse. I didn't deserve to be rescued from my mistake.
Don't judge it and don't judge why a woman stays until YOU yourself have lived it. I didn't believe I had an escape route and nor did I believe I deserved one.
I eventually managed to get out. Only because he had found a replacement for me. Although devastated when he demanded a divorce, over the phone just after our 5th wedding anniversary and having recently bought our first home, I realised it was my only chance as he would never allow me to leave myself. It would always have to be on his terms, never mine. So I took my children and left and within 3 months my divorce was final. I figured that my boys only being 3 and 5 would be spared the worst of his anger and wouldn't witness and truly understand that Daddy was beating Mommy.
But how wrong was I. All he did was notch up the mental and emotional abuse. It has been 12 long years. 12 soul destroying, anxiety ridden, mind breaking years. It is always something else. Payment of maintenance, ignoring his children, attacking my parenting. Attacking his children emotionally. Threatening them physical harm when they don't comply. He will find something, no matter how trivial it may be.
And the latest, deciding to challenge the paternity of our youngest son. I thought I'd seen the worse he could get. How wrong was I. My therapist explained it well to me on Thursday... imagine a triangle divided into 3... normal behaviour is in the top third. I EXPECT his behaviour to be in the middle third, worse than that of normal people. The paternity test has driven his behaviour into the bottom third. Unexpected, horrifying, soul destroying and emotionally and physically crippling. I cannot begin to explain the emotions going through me. A large part of me is simply numb. I can't comprehend it. Intelligent I may be but this stumps even me. I am silently screaming in my head while I continue to function on a day to day level. It isn't anger I feel. Anger would never cover this level of emotion. Disbelief, immense pain for myself and my child, shock and horror. I could not understand my shock until Peta explained that by dipping into the bottom third he went below what even I expected to be the norm for him.
Sadder still he will continue to now dip into that bottom third. After all these years the game is up. In order to maintain his charming persona he has to destroy those who know the truth about him. The older he gets the more of us there are that are able to compare notes and realise that he isn't the charming, friendly, friend in need, helpful person he portrays. And I think he has started to realise this. So he has to start a campaign to discredit those who can call him out. What better way than by saying the mother of his child cheated on him and that Kyle isn't his son. Don't worry that he knows there isn't one grain of truth in his accusation and that of all his 4 children Kyle resembles him the most in personality and attitude - he looks into a mirror when he looks at Kyle. I still can't fathom what he will say once the blood tests prove paternity? The point is he doesn't actually care. His only aim is to inflict pain and destroy. And of course I can't even guarantee he won't find a way to rig the test in his favour either. He is after all 'connected' as he has warned me before and capable of anything as his behaviour shows.
He doesn't care that Kyle will always always wonder why Dad questioned if he was his. Despite all the trauma of my marriage I truly loved the man and my children were conceived in love, at least on my side, and he has managed to now destroy that as well. It doesn't matter what other people do think at the end of the day but I will also always feel violated and victimised by this. It is what he wants after all. He wants me to question my self worth. He wants to destroy my sanity.
And why did he do this. Because how dare Kyle and I be coping. How dare Kyle win awards at school and I cope with having him back. No that destroys the perception that he stepped in and saved Kyle from a life of medication from his 'crazy mother'. So to destroy me he elects to destroy his child as well. Is that the behaviour of a normal loving father? No definitely not.
And why is he doing this? Because I dared shut the door on the abuse. Because I started to put boundaries in place and stopped accepting the abuse. So to bring me back into line he has to hit out even harder. I have to be controlled. It won't do to have people know that I am challenging him. That I am no longer sympathetic to his tales of woe. That if he doesn't pay what the Court ordered I won't hesitate to take it further. That if I need to I will seek a Protection Order. I know it is only a piece of paper and not much "protection" but to him it is an insult. In his mind I am an object to be controlled. I will never be an individual, a human being, a woman, mother of his children. I am expendable.
Right now I'm struggling. Yes this is just another in a long line of antics he has gotten up to over the years. But this is so much more personal. And this hurts an innocent vulnerable child. Kyle certainly doesn't deserve this but his father will stop at nothing to be Top Dog. Even if it means destroying his children.
So for a while I will continue to silently scream inside my head while I try and fathom this latest stunt. In time the screams will be silenced, firmer boundaries will be put in place, the pain will ease and I will begin to function again. Right now I just need to ride it out. Focus on getting through each day, minute by minute if that is what it takes.
To those women out there who are or have been victims of abuse I understand your pain. I understand how hard it is to escape.
To those of you who know these women and feel helpless just try and be there. Don't demand she leaves .... it adds another dimension of abuse to her life, which while that isn't your intention is the affect.
We will never stamp it out but we can give support and love where we can. And hope that there is a better future waiting.