One in six South African women is abused regularly by her partner, whether verbally, physically, or emotionally. Many cases go unreported, and the effects are long-lasting. Firdaus Khan spoke to SIBONGILE DUMA about how she escaped her abusive relationship.
We started dating when I was still studying. I was 20. He was a great guy. Well, that’s how he seemed. Then he proposed, he went home, he paid lobola, and the following year we moved in together. That’s when he started changing.
He started having girlfriends and he never came home. When I confronted him, he started beating me. I was pregnant and he beat me with a golf stick. I lost my baby.
The only people who knew about the abuse were his family. His mother and his brothers told me that there was nothing they could do. They didn’t help in any way. They just said “Ya, he’s like that. Get used to it.”
I didn’t tell my family. At that time, my mom was still married to my stepfather, who was also abusive. She was going through things of her own, so I didn’t know how she could help me.
Every time he beat me, he tried to make it seem like I did something wrong. I’d end up blaming myself for questioning him.
I didn’t report it to the police. The government doesn’t do much to help women in abusive relationships.
The last time my mother went to the police station to report my stepfather, they told her that she couldn’t put a restraining order against him because they live together, and they have to sort it out. The following day, he beat her.
One day, I was at home and my fiancé’s girlfriend called me for his number. He gave me some lame excuse about it.
I went to the security guard at our complex and I asked him to show me the video feed from the cameras. I saw my fiancé letting the girl in. When I confronted him, he took out a gun and pointed it at me. That was a wake up call. That was the day I left him. I told him I was leaving and he could carry on with whatever he was doing with his girlfriends.
I never got professional help. Talking about it helps. It makes you see things differently. But it can be difficult.
For women who are in situations like this, I would just say, seek help. I didn’t, but I managed to escape somehow. Other people are not that lucky.
Sometimes the husband is buying food and doing things for you, and if you leave, then you have nothing. That’s always the reason why people stay. I wasn’t that dependent on him, that’s why I felt like I could leave. I just went back to my mother’s house.
Fortunately, he didn’t fight about me wanting to leave. If he had, maybe I wouldn’t be alive today. He tried to make contact afterwards. He came to our house, but my mother didn’t allow him to come in, and that was the end of it. I was scared for my safety in the beginning. He kept saying he wanted to talk and wanted to fix things. I don’t think it would’ve be different if it wasn’t for the abuse, because he was cheating. I would’ve gotten HIV or something; I mean, I already lost my baby.
The relationship I’m in right now is so much different to what I experienced. I’m happy. I can say whatever I feel like saying without having that fear.