Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just thought I’d share a story

Every once in a while you come across a person’s life story that could break your heart. I really don’t think it is unique to this country or this continent. I guess, though, that living here just means the stories I’ve collected over my years from people I admire and “constantly pray for” (even if I am agnostic) all have the African theme to them.

Very recently I came across such a story. One that when I hear it I want to take it on and help to resolve it myself. My career choice though has taught me the lesson to stay as detached as possible, to do what I can and move on, to try not think about it outside of conversations with that person. It still makes me sad though, frustrated and hurt for her.

This woman’s story is not for me to tell. Not today at least. But I have to write a bit about it. Basically, a woman not from this country is here, working legally. She has children. And she has one bastard abusing husband.

He ensures that he is financially one step ahead of her, physically a few steps ahead of her, and mentally & emotionally he knows how to hold her back, to hold her down.

His threats to their children, to her, to himself must leave her feeling helpless. His physical actions must break her - of drunkenly terrorising or hitting her, of demanding the ownership of her car, of tearing up her passport so she is trapped in a country not her own, and from a country that holds her support systems of family, friends and legal rights.

She internalises the pain and the blame. She watches her children suffer, and as a mother she is caught in the guilt of not having the physical, financial or legal power to remove them from such a situation instantly.
Abuse does not smack you immediately. It sneaks up on you and creeps into your normal life, until your normal life is filled with small actions & thoughts that crush you, but feel so “standard”. One day you turn around and realise something is not right, but if it’s been so normal for so long, then what is that flashing light that’s not right!?!

To open up to me must mean she realises she needs to react. But it is not as simple as up and leaving. Where does she go with little money, with few legal rights, with no car or house, with children to provide for, with a job to keep, and a man she knows will track her down.

I have known this woman for awhile now. Never would I have dreamed she was caught in such a nightmare. When I offhandly told her she “can talk to me anytime”, never did I dream what she would tell me in our casual setting.

Now I am caught thinking “how do I help but not become involved”. There are systems in this country that exist for such stories – free legal aid (based at RAU apparently, so one of my lawyer friends let me know after I mailed him for help), POWA and….well, I am searching out the rest.

Just thought I’d share a story that made me hurt today.


Cookie Monster said...

He is not a man, he holds no honor and is just plainly a wimp... would he do this to a man on the street? No probbaly not, he is a weakling! Trash he is!

Anonymous said...

Jeez, that is terrible! I have no idea how you would go about helping this woman. Perhaps the first thing she should do is go to her embassy or consulate and apply for her new passport. After that I wouldn't have a clue, although I would suggest caution on becoming too involved but I understand the desire to help!

Anonymous said...

I was in an abusive relationship once. If one or two people had just stretched out their hand to me, made me feel safe, I might have stepped out of it sooner.
Help her. It's an awful thing to go through. Be there for her. Encourage her to communicate with her family and friends overseas so that THEY can help too. So often abused women are silent and say nothing to their families. It's so hard to move out of an abusive relationship because your self esteem becomes so low that you don't believe you have the power to move anymore. My heart truly truly goes out to her. Perhaps contacting POWA is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

(now I'm feeling a little weepy too)

Champagne Heathen said...

Cooks - I agree. But now she needs to realise that even though she once married him, it does not mean she deserves the way such a weak man now treats her. That she deserves and can find better.
(I am still a bit zoned from your posting today. It really was good & hard hitting!)

Dave - it's a tough balance, I guess. One way is to just find as much practical advice and systems to people who are properly equipped to help. And a cup of coffee or 3 with her while she just talks is never difficult.

Ah, Jam, don't be weepy. Not right now, and not this week.
I was amazed at how quickly she opened up, which I guess shows that she is desperate for help & support. I'll keep encouraging her to contact POWA cause they'll have better solutions than me, and I'll have to be there for her to talk to in the meanwhile.
I think that she has told her family & they are begging her to move home, but 1st she has to get a new passport. Argh!

Itsnopicknick said...

This is a tricky situation to be in. You have to encourage her and let her understand that nothing should be scarier than staying with him and that things like this go full circle. The longer her children think this is normal, the more likely they are to fall into similar patterns when they're older. You're doing the right thing, looking for avenues and advice. Certainly no clear cut answers but you can help her realise her worth!

Anonymous said...

Hi CH - hectic story. But I can't think of a better person to reach out and help her.

sorry haven't signed in, having a bastard day and was just having a squizz... wasn't going to comment.



Champagne Heathen said...

Spoon - tricky indeed. I'll buy a mirror and point it at her and make her realise!!

Koekie - Ah thanks! We'll see. Good luck with your crazy day!

Peas on Toast said...

Hey Champers

It must hurt when it is so lose you can almost touch it. You always think it happens to 'other people' when it doesn't. It's more common than all of us think. A sad story indeed. And it hurts when it's someone you know.

Champagne Heathen said...

Exactly Peas, when you can put faces to stories it makes it worse. (You should have seen how I sobbed in Tsotsi cause I kept thinking, "But those are my kids in Orange Farm"). And when you see and talk to that person daily it is difficult to grasp how you cannot help them, in even the smallest way.

Cookie Monster said...

Hey Champs, I know what you are saying< i saw plenty of it in my day... dont be zoned out, it was about time I spoke of Shadow, at least I had him to love and now I have the most wonderful memories.

Champagne Heathen said...

And as long as those memories just make you smile!!

I gave her a few numbers to call and printed lots of advice I found from websites like POWA for her to read. This morning she said it all really helped and struck her about her situation. Small steps forward!

TwoFlower said...

f*ck...what a horribel horribel story. it makes me want to cry, to shout and then to find this excuse for a man and show him how it feels to be so degraded and hurt. f*cker!!!!!

i too think she came to the right person to get help because as grey's anatomy has been saying: "you're a do-er and you go out and do!".

but please be careful not to get so involved that the husband then turns on you...

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks 2F! I think I have learnt in life how to be involved to a healthy extent & not put my whole self into a problem that is not mine, so I reckon I'll be ok on this. Now let's hope that she will!

zuzula said...

god, that's awful. does her hoome country have an embassy in SA that could advise her?

Champagne Heathen said...

Zuze, they do and she must actually go to visit them IF she reckons they are at all organised. Luckily her sisters are here this w.end & will take her passport home to be "fixed" and glued together again.