The long and windy road an abused spouse/ partner has to take to get help...
The average times a woman goes back to a man who is abusing her is 21 times. 21 serious beatings...21 crisis, 21 upheavals, 21 stays away from work, 21 times of terrible anger, unwarranted shame, 21 times of days and even months of pain in recuperation...
And some never leave.
But when a woman does want to take action and leave it is not an easy road. I went part of the way with someone last week.
She was beaten badly on Sunday evening. She slept at her brother’s house that night and is still there. She spent the next day in her blood spattered clothes.
On Monday morning she went to the local clinic. She was sent to the hospital to see a doctor at the polyclinic, then told to go to the police.
Next morning we went to the police who said she had two options: 1) lay a charge and the person would be arrested but if the charge was retracted by her then they would not help her should she lay a charge again (against the law – and remember the 21 times it takes for an abused person to leave – this is part of the toxicity of abuse) or go to the court to get a protection order and a court date. She opted for the court date.
We went to the court. It was too late so she was given a form to fill in.
But next day (Wednesday) abusive husband was removing furniture to take ‘home’. So she decided to lay a charge as way of both punishing him and taking him from circulation so that he would not take all their things away and leave her with nothing as well as allowing her to go back to her home and to feel safe again. I called for the police as I thought she was in danger. I waited on a dirt road for one and a half hours for the police to direct them to her home which does not have an address being in an informal settlement. (The phone number we had been given was not working – it kept telling me it was ‘full’. So I first went to the police station and then phoned 10111 and then one of the police numbers given for ‘complaints’.)
Eventually we decided to go to the police station as the abusive husband had left saying he would hand himself over to the police. (The police phoned me saying they had arrived about 2 hours after that). So back to the queue at the police station. Then the long deposition at the police counter – all three of us standing all through that time. Then a form to be filled in by the doctor.
So back to the hospital. Later a case number was phoned through. Then told would get the form from the doctor the next Thursday.
So all in all 7 or more taxi’s would have had to be taken as well as quite a lot of walking. We were able to drive her most places and helped her a little financially. But most women in this situation have to cope with the cost of the taxi fares (probably over a R150 in all not an inconsiderable amount for a person earning just R1200 a month and looking after 2 children) as well as money for the hospital care. They also have to cope with pain and standing in lines and at counters and with everyone looking and often even hearing what is going on.
Not a happy state of affairs. The nurses, doctors and police were not unkind but at the same time they could not offer the kind of care I am sure they would prefer to offer someone in this situation. The kind of care that restores the humanity of everyone involved instead of dehumanising everyone...
I wish there was a special place for all victims of violence to go where they would get medical, safety and legal help all in one. And a place for them to sit to wait on comfortable chairs with a toy box for children they can’t leave and magazines and easy to get to clean toilets (after all the may have open wounds and need very hygienic environments).
And a place where they are not stared at in curiosity when already they feel so vulnerable. Imagine how much more compassionate and empathetic people helping would be – humans react best when they can help in good ways – and become less helpful when helping is hard and frustrating...I wish we could make hospitals, police stations and courts more like that – all of them.
I know it would make a difference not just to the individual person but to how everyone sees violence – domestic or otherwise...