Sophie is a South African working mom who recently became a Christian. But her abusive, gangster ex-boyfriend continues to disrupt and endanger her life. She says her faith is helping her to fight back. But it is hard. This is her story. It’s a reality too many South African women face every day. Because Sophie shares her story at length, we are publishing it in three chapters. Names and places are changed for safety reasons.
[dropcap]The[/dropcap] detective took my statement and looked up his details on their system. “This is a very busy man”, he stated. He printed a few pages and counted. Six cases still open against him. Mine, the seventh…
“How did you get involved with such a guy in the first place?”
“I don’t know Sir. You know how we are. Young and make mistakes like these…”
He nods and tells us how his own daughter is involved in a similar situation. “Why don’t you kids listen to your parents? I’m sure you, Mom, have warned your daughter about him, before all this happened?”
My mom nods her head. She herself has had enough…
Once he came into our house and was upset about something. He picked up the broomstick and stabbed it hard into my stomach. My dad heard the commotion from his room and came to my rescue. He apologised and left.
I am sure in my mother’s quietness, all such memories come flooding back, just as it is with me.
“Take these document to the Day Hospital for them to complete and bring it immediately back to me. This must also go into your file.” He hands me the documents and as we leave, we are vigilantly careful of every car, every passer-by. My mom goes first to get the car running and me and my sister run towards it and jump in.
We go straight to the Day Hospital.
There are so many in need of medical care that we have to wait a while to be attended to. I get frustrated. I just want to go home. Feel safe for once! I go straight up to one of the nurses on duty and explain my situation. The detective is awaiting for the form that has to be completed urgently. As they saw it, it wasn’t vital enough…
I reconsider. Maybe I should never have made a case against him. I know this man and what he would do to me. He just got out of jail two days ago and he would never appreciate going back so soon. And by the hands of me, above all! Still, I stayed put.
They call my name after a long while of pacing up and down the hallway. I explain to the doctor what happened and what needs to be done.
“You know what? I am not going to complete this thing! You know how many forms like these I fill in and then the girl just withdraws the case afterwards? I am not going to waste my time!”
I could not believe the irrationality of this man! I am not ‘other girls’ and I need help! Where else should I go?
“Doctor, the detective is waiting for this form, it needs to be completed. Please. My life depends on it.”
He turns his back on me and carries on with whatever else is more important than what my needs are. I want to scream out of frustration. “I am not going to withdraw the case and I need you to examine me and complete the form. Look at this face, you will remember me. I promise you, you WILL remember me!”
I swallow the harsh words that were about to roll over my tongue and sat still, so he could examine me. He made a few scribbles on the page, lots of blank spaces open. “Put it in the box there. You cannot take the document in any case; the detective must come and fetch it himself. That is procedure.”
I leave without a word. It is out of my hands now.
We made a turn at the detective again to tell him what has happened. By the time he is already busy helping another lady. I look at her eyes — also filled with trauma, like mine. I excuse myself and interrupt them. He phones someone immediately to pick up the form at the hospital.
We thank him and turn to leave.
Then my sister asks: “What if he is driving up and down passed our house. Is it even safe to go back?”
Her phone is dead.
We interrupt the officer again. “Sir, can you please phone my brother-in-law just to keep a lookout? We are scared the guy may be waiting for us there.”
We say our pardon again to the lady and the detective leads us to his office. We call my brother-in-law and he goes outside to have a look. “Come home, there is nobody here. I will wait outside.”
Still fearful, we take the risk. We go home down different streets we would not normally take.
Approaching home, I duck on the backseat once again. We can never be too sure…
My dad and brother-in-law wait outside. They run to open the garage door and close it the moment we are inside.
I am home.
Monday, my mom phones my boss to inform him of what happened and also request a day’s leave. Filled with concern he states that we should sort everything out. Take our time. I had pitched up at work with blue eyes and dark glasses before. He knew exactly what it was all about.
Yet, the next day I return to work. It would help take my mind off things. Besides, I have lots to do. The response and the support I receive from my colleagues, is mind-blowing. They had made calls to individuals to assist in my case, in any way they could.
Days pass and all our routines change. The children are not allowed in front of the house. The front door and garage are always shut. We are even scared just to go to the shop across the road.
I am anxious when I leave the house and when I leave from work. I have to travel by public transport and you never know where he or his men may be. Every afternoon I ask to be dropped at a different location and my father picks me up there.
The interdict is given to me, a case is opened against him, but paperwork would not be able to protect me against the hands of him.
Days pass and the weekend comes. I do not want to leave the house to attend any church activities anymore. He knows my routines.
Sunday comes and his car stops in front of our house. I dread it’s him! It is his cousin. Bringing his mom.
My sister goes out to greet them. She does not want me to have any connection with any of them at all. There is a court case and we do not want anything implicating us. I eavesdrop. The mother just wants to talk to me. Maybe she is sorry about what happened? I come out and let my sister know that it’s fine. I will be fine. I go outside and keep her outside the house while we have a chat on the front porch. She asks about my health. Maybe she is concerned. We have a long chat about my daughter. I inform her that I cancelled the party. The third one I am cancelling. Every year, her son was the reason for that. Then she asks me: “Will you please just talk to him? He is sorry about what he did. He took out a gun and wanted to shoot himself. He is suicidal. You are the only one that can talk to him.”
I really thought she came with good intentions. But it was only for her son. She persuades me and she dials his number on her phone. “Here.”
Maybe it was too much anger that I harboured for too long. I never spoke to him after what he did and I used this chance I was given. “You need help! You are crazy! Go for counselling or something, but I never want to see you again!” I carry on saying hurtful things to him. Things that were true, but I never said out loud. His mother’s eyes widened. “Don’t talk to him like that!” I pull my face at her and shake my head. Doesn’t she know what he really did to me, or is she so much in denial? “I don’t ever want you near me, or my child!” I give the phone back to her. I am done. I excuse myself and go inside. If he should kill himself, it’s on him. He knows where he is heading, should he follow through.
Week Three. He is still not arrested.
That week at work, I am walking with a colleague and just as we are about to exit our building, I notice some of his family members waiting for me. I inform my friend and we trace back, all the while my eyes are fixed on them. Inside I pray that they don’t see me. How did they know where I work? Why would they come there? Has he finally been arrested?
We are just about to make a clean getaway when the little niece sees me. “Gran, there she is!” All of them turn around and I am caught. Dead in my tracks. Fear overcomes me.
They call me and my friend begs me not to go. I know there is security all around so I gather my courage. They won’t be able to lift a hand, if they want to. The mother goes first. “How are you doing?”
How do you think ma’am? I wanted to blurt out. She continues on no answer from me. “He says he needs the money back.” I could not believe it! They came for money? Her own granddaughter’s birthday money?
She knows her son. Even though she is saved, her children and their needs always come first. No matter if they are in the wrong.
“I don’t have the money here. Is he here?” His brother looks at me. The last time he saw me was in a whole different set-up. “When can he get it?” The mother continues.
I respected this woman as a child of God. As a grown-up. But today I see her in a different light. She knows what he did and yet she is focused on money? And that probably for underhanded deals in the ‘underworld’, as they call it.
“I will pay it into his bank account.” That way I know I do not have to see any of them ever again. She wants to say something further, but her son stops her. “It’s fine Mommy, let’s go.”
They turn to leave and I go back to my friend, still standing there and watching our every move. “What did they say? Did the police find him?”
“It doesn’t seem like it. I didn’t want to ask, because I didn’t know if they knew I opened a case against him. He is probably still outside, somewhere.”
I know all his hiding places. He has run away from the law a few times. I could phone them anytime and reveal all of it to them. But even through this, I could not get myself to do it.
We didn’t go outside as planned.
Now they know where I work. The Lord only knows how they found out.
I had to be extra careful…
He came around the house a few times this week. Every time — thankfully — I am not yet home. My dad, brother and brother-in-law would talk to him and ask him to rather stay away, but he would come again to look for me.
Friday comes. “He is here!” Somebody shouts. We all run from where we are, to have a look for ourselves. This time he knew I would be at home. We should be getting ready to go to youth by now.
My dad goes out to talk to him this time. “I just want to see her. I just want to talk to her.” I peep through the window. This is how he portrays. Meek. One would never believe he would hurt a fly when he is like this. I have come to know all sides of him. “Please Sir, just tell her I want to see her, then I will go.” My father informs him that I don’t want to see him. He has to give me time to deal with what has happened. He gets frustrated and starts to raise his voice. My father comes back in the house and he hammers on the door. We don’t know what to expect. We don’t know if he has any weapons on him or what his intentions are so they tell me not to have any confrontation with him. He paces the porch then gets in the car. Next moment his friend, who has been waiting in the car gets out. This time he knocks. Non-stop. He goes in front of our house and peeps through the living room windows. He calls my name. My sister and I watch his every move. Maybe they will get tired and leave. The friend goes back to him to ask what my dad’s name is. He himself doesn’t know. Just goes to show hey.
“Sir!” He bangs on the door. My dad goes again to try and calm them down. He talks through the window next to the front door. “He needs the money.”
Some of the money he gave towards the party was already paid as deposits. I did not possess the full amount he gave towards it, any longer. “Just give something, so they can leave”, my father begs. We count out R1 600 and my dad goes outside to hand it over and explain why it is so little. The R1 000 I had left, I keep aside. On the cancellation, I lost a lot of money too. Besides, when last did he pay any maintenance for his child?
My dad counts the money out in front of him while recording it on the phone, without him knowing. He could turn around and say I owe him the whole amount at any time. This way we had evidence we did give something. They leave.
I could breathe. I don’t have to see him for a while.
Wasn’t long until he returned. He wants more money. He did not explain why he was so desperate, but something most definitely drove him. He knew how dangerous it might be coming there, yet it did not bother him. The money he gave for his daughter, he wants back.
“Give him everything you have!” My father is fed-up. I agree. All of this torture is not worth it. My dad hands over the rest. “Let her come out, I want to talk to her! She can just stand by the window.”
I would do it, if it means he would leave, but then my sister says: “What if he plans on shooting you right there? You can’t trust a man in such a state.” They don’t know him like I do. My heart pounds, but I go to him. We talk through the window. He hands me a cell phone. “Keep this, I will phone you on this cell.”
I look at this old damaged phone. “Where is MY phone?! You want your stuff, where is mine?! I don’t want this thing!” I refuse to take it. My kids’ photos and video clips are on my phone. And I don’t have any copies of it. He laughs at my stubbornness. “You are wrong, what you did is wrong. I just want my stuff back, please. You have everything you wanted.” He looks at me and I know what he is thinking. Everything besides me. He knows everything has changed. “Just go, please.” I turn and walk away. We both know, for good.
Still not satisfied, he knocks on the door again. My father goes this time. I stand behind him and ask him not to stand to close. We don’t know what they are really up to. Why aren’t they leaving?
The children are already upset about all this commotion. My sister goes with them to her room to calm them down. They don’t budge.
We decide on calling the police. That feels like the only way.
They come immediately and we explain to the officer that I have an interdict against this man. He goes outside to warn him and he states that he never received a copy of the interdict. I fetch a copy and the officer reads it out to him. The interdict states that he should not come near me or my family, our house, or burn any of our possessions. The latter I had to add, because of an incident on January 2.
With a new year full of hope approaching, we celebrated New Year’s Eve as a household in a seaside town. New Year’s we were at home, because we knew everywhere would be full. We decided on a barbeque in the comfort of our home. We went to sleep late. Something to 2, the morning of January 2 2017, we woke up to a crash and bang in the front of the house. It sounded as if a car had driven right inside the house. All of us jumped up and ran, to find the front of our house burning. The dark smoke clouds filled the whole kitchen, into the hallway. My brother ran through the living room to outside, to see if he could find the person responsible for it. Somebody had thrown a petrol bomb into our kitchen! We started pouring water over the kitchen cupboards, but it didn’t really help as it was the petrol that was burning. We struggled a while. Neighbours were rushing in to assist. Some took the kids to their place, to keep them out of the smoke. The fire was extinguished, before the police arrived. Because we reacted immediately, we saved our house. Our lives. We sat outside, while my dad gave the statement to the police. At the time we did not know who it might be, or why they did it.
Forensics came. The bomb squad came. Everyone speculated.
We sat on the pavement outside, to stay out of the house, still reeking of petrol and smoke.
In my heart I knew who was responsible, but didn’t tell my family. While we were away in the seaside town I saw him phone numerous times from the number he phones from in jail. A cell phone number. I was out with my family and for once, didn’t want to be disturbed. This may have been the consequence.
He of course later confessed to it. He had sent two of his guys to do it. To teach me a lesson. If he phones, I should answer!
The officer reads all these requests as stipulated on the interdict and asks him to leave. The officer gets in his car, they get into theirs. All of them leave. Now we know we can have some peace and quiet.
Not even five minutes later, he returns. He just waited for the officer to disappear and came back.
This time my dad is stern with him. “Go home! We will call the police again if you do not listen.” I prohibited my father and everyone else to say anything about the case opened against him. It’s fine if he knows about the interdict, but if he knew we have a case as well… “Go home to your mother and talk to her!” Maybe Dad felt that she could persuade him or talk some sense into his head, that he suggested that.
He gets into his car and leaves. It worked!
By this time my sister and brother-in-law had excused themselves from youth. It was the first service for this year and as its leaders, they should be there but they could not trust leaving the house.
Later we all get together and start cracking jokes. This seems to be the way our family deals with strain. Laughter really is the best medicine… My mom comes home from work and we inform her about the day’s happenings.
However, the night isn’t over.
He comes back … with his mom.
My dad’s suggestion gave him a good idea. Maybe she could talk some sense into me.
This time both my parents go outside. The whole ordeal just brought so much attention to our house. A house of God-fearing Christians, attracting so much negative attention. The neighbours are probably thinking what in the world is going on there!
My sister and I eavesdrop again. We hear every word. His mother does not believe that he did all those things to me. According to her I made it all up. He just wants to see his child and I am using this to keep him away from her.
Every time it’s something different.
The more they explain I don’t want to see him, the more the mother gets aggravated. She too now, wants to see her grandchild and why are we keeping her away from them?
My mother comes inside to talk to us. She is out of wits, about this woman’s mentality. My dad continues to talk to them, while my brother-in-law supports. “Lady, I am sorry, but your son has to stay away from my daughter. He knows what he did. Finished.” He knows there is no getting through to her and he is done talking. “I asked your son to give her some time, but he doesn’t want to. Come back some other time. Thank you.”
He turns and walks away. As I know him, he would never do something like that, but he is getting old. Such nonsense, he does not have to stand. They close the door behind them. “Call the police.” He states.
We follow his instruction. All the while, they are still lurking outside.
The same policeman of earlier attends to the call out. “Why is this man here, what does he want?” We explain about the money. We inform him that we struggled to get them away from here. I explained what he did to me. “Little girl, why didn’t you open a case against this man?” “I did Sir. I don’t know if he knows.”
I fetch the paper with the case number and the officer makes a call and goes outside. He asks for back up. It isn’t long before two more police vans arrive. Blue lights light up our street…
When his mother sees more cops, she asks him to rather leave. “We can come back some other time.” She knows what is about to happen. By this time he is so fuelled up that he throws harsh words at everyone. Even his mother can’t calm him down. He does not listen to her.
They arrest him right there in front of our house. In front of his mother and niece. Neighbours watching…
This is the last straw. His mother had just gotten her son back. She is not about to let him go out like that. “He never did anything to her! He never took her to that place they say! She is lying!!!”
The police carry on with what they have to do. They pay no attention to her outbursts. “What about the TV she still has of him? Go fetch it there!”
Inside, we gasp at the behaviour of this woman. She carries on like a street whore. Screaming with gesturing arms. And she lies!
The TV she is referring to, is one he gave to his daughter. More than a year ago. “To watch her cartoons on”. It wasn’t his, but his daughter’s.
She shouts many more inaccurate and hurtful things. “She lived with him as if she was his wife, now she does this? She has something against him.” She besmirches my name, because she knows she has an audience. I didn’t come out once. We all stay inside and don’t say a word.
The police vans leave and the neighbours return home. His mother and niece are now stuck, without a driver.
Under any other circumstance we would assist, but not in this matter. We hear the niece make a call to her dad. “They took him”, she cries. “There is nobody to drive the bakkie home.”
I am upset that she would expose a child to such events. Why would she bring her along in the first place? All the other things she maybe could not avoid, but she could at least make the phone call herself? This made me think about my daughter. Would she forever be dragged into things like this, if she would grow up there?
My sister and I sit in the living room and talk, until her son and his friend come.
Until they all leave…