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Walk away from these abusive relationships



Last Sunday May 23, 2021 saw women in Maseru marching against gender-based violence. This was after one of our own was allegedly brutally murdered by her boyfriend. I personally did not attend the march. I was too angry to be constructive. Angry at the justice system for allowing a man who has been accused of a similar crime to walk around which led to him being able to repeat a similar offence. Angry at a society which continues to have men that feel it is their right to abuse and kill women and angry at victims of gender-based violence. It is not an easy thing to admit that one is angry at someone to whom a terrible thing has occurred. After all who am I to be angry? Also, in admitting such anger the line edges closer to victim-blaming which is something one must never do. So even the admission of such anger is a political correctness minefield. The truth however remains that being in proximity to someone who is being abused by their intimate partner can be a draining, angering and thankless experience. It is a truth however that admission of paints one out to be a monster. It is also an admission that risks more victims not getting the help that they need because people are tired. The thing that we never want to admit as a society is that abuse does not happen in a vacuum. Yes, it is primarily a burden borne by the one being abused but its consequences are more far-reaching than that. There are friends who love the woman that is being abused. There are family members who must watch her become a shadow of her former self. There are sometimes young children who are now exposed to their mother being beaten or worse are left motherless when she dies at the hands of her partner. All these people suffer the consequences of her steadfast refusal to leave a relationship that is abusive and is hurting her. When it ultimately ends in her death all these people go through a lot of emotions but the one that remains most prevalent is guilt. Did we do enough? How could we have made her see that she has to leave this relationship for her own sake? Did we raise her to have enough self-worth to not stay in toxic situations? If not, then where did we go wrong? Was the way we loved her not enough. Did we drive her into the arms of a man who would ultimately kill her? I have asked myself these questions when first a friend died because I was too wrapped up in my own little world to see she was actually being abused. I have also asked myself these questions when another friend died despite my best efforts to get her to leave the situation. It appears my best efforts were not good enough. If I, a friend who met her well into her adulthood can struggle with these feelings of anger and guilt then what more about the victim’s family? What more about the mother and father who raised them and hoped they were laying such a strong foundation of love that she did not have to seek it into toxic spaces? What failure must they feel? And what of the children who will have to grow up knowing that they do not have a mother because their mother chose to repeatedly go back to a situation that ultimately left them as orphans? Of course, it would be naïve to assume that victims of abuse do not also go through psychological and emotional abuse that renders it very hard to leave their abusers. Abuse begins first by mentally manipulating the victim such that she loses the good sense to see that this is not how love should be. It is insidious at first, one can scarcely realise when it first begins that what is happening is not love but the beginning of a foundation that will later lead to their demise. We should maybe not be handling marches when someone has died but perhaps, we should be focusing on teaching women to recognise the first signs before it gets to a point where leaving will ultimately also get you killed. The one thing that we cannot continue is plead, beg and pray for someone who is being abused to leave because it rarely happens and sometimes by the time, they finally gather up the courage to leave the abuser feels like he has such a strong hold over them that he would rather see them dead than let them go. We also cannot continue to pretend that loving someone who is in an abusive situation does not hurt. It does and it is angering. If you are currently in an abuse situation, I just wish you could recognise the pain you are also causing those around you. If you cannot leave for yourself, can you at least leave for your children, your parents? It would be helpful to give guidance on what to do but the one inalienable fact is that as someone who is being abused you are ultimately responsible for own life. Social advocacy groups, activists, the law, the community can do what they can. Ideally, they should be doing what they can to offer support but the decision to choose you, your life is up to you. Unless the victim is ready to leave then no amount of the rest of the world marching and writing long articles will help. Thakane Rethabile Shale

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