The fight back — Sophie’s story (Chapter 3)

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]Finally[/dropcap] I am free! No harassments, no unwanted visits, no abuse…

We still have to be in court for the interdict though. Every time I go to court, it has to be postponed, because he is not present. I have to request leave on three different occasions.

The third time I go to court, they ensure me they will make it their job to have him there the next time. They will organise for him to be transported there.

In the meanwhile, he is in a holding cell, awaiting trial. The first time he takes the stand he pleads “not guilty”. He has a good lawyer. I know this man very well. I saw him at work during previous cases made against my ex and he always wins the case. Sometimes because of small loopholes. I know what I am up against.

My family and I cannot afford a lawyer, so the state gives me one. I never meet the person who represents me in court. I still have to take the stand one of these days, to testify.

The detective assigned to my case, visits a few times. He informs me how dangerous the man is that I am up against. But I already know. I have witnessed many things he has done and out of fear, could never come forward. That is also the only reason I could never get away.

We broke up more than a year ago, when he decided to pursue a relationship with another woman. In my heart of hearts I was glad that she came between us, because now he would stay away from me. On the other hand, my daughter was only a baby. And now, he would have another one with this woman. Not once did he come visit his daughter, he just completely stayed away.

It wasn’t long before she probably got to know him for who he really is, when she dumped him. I do not know the extent of the differences they had, but she never came back to him. She left with her baby.

This is the reason why he started to pesky me again. He was sorry for ever leaving, he knows now what he had lost and he wants it back. I was fine the way I was without him. I had a new job, my family supported me with my kids. I was doing well, all by myself.

He got arrested for wounding his neighbour and this just aggravated the matter. He had nobody in his corner. And this is when he started phoning me more, wanting to talk. I felt sorry for the man. I always wanted to help him do better. I always hoped he would change. And I really thought this time he would do better. That is why when he got out of jail, I felt no harm will come to me when I go with him for my daughter’s birthday money. He got better. But just two days after he was out, he kidnapped and almost killed me.

Now he is inside those walls again and I put him there. He starts making calls from the public phone from the jail he is in. Later he uses a cell phone. He sends threatening messages to try make me withdraw the case.

He sends one that just says: “Friday will be your last day at work. I promise you.”

I don’t know what it means. Is he sending people to hurt me when I go to, or return from work? Is he doing something that would get me into trouble at my workplace? I can’t tell, but I know he means it.

I show my boss and he is working from home that Friday. He asks me to join him there. That way, whatever he plans, won’t be able to happen.

The whole day I am restless. I don’t know what to expect. Then my mommy phones.

“A detective came to our house looking for you. He wanted to arrest you, for stealing a TV.”

My mom is so worried. This detective and his partner, brought my ex’s niece with them. Apparently the niece was at home, her mom had just left. She didn’t know where to. Then ‘she saw me’ coming inside the house, taking the TV and just walked out. Because she knew me, she didn’t ask any questions and thought it was pre-arranged. Only when her mommy returned, they realised I stole the TV.

That is the story they told the police.

I can’t believe my ears! Are they referring to the TV standing in my room for more than a year now? The one my ex left his daughter? Or are they talking about another one? Whatever it is, the story is not true. Never have I ever taken anything out of their house, that didn’t belong to me. I never even went to my ex’s sister’s house. I knew in which area she resided, but never knew exactly where she stayed.

This detective was so rude with my parents. He was telling them how parents cover up for their children, but they do not know what they do in the dark. A case was made against me and he had to arrest me. We can fight it out in court. That is procedure.

I tell my boss about what happened and he laughs. They are really stooping to that level to get me to drop the case? It is ridiculous.

The detective left his office number and I have to get in contact with them. I have to come see them, first thing Monday morning.

I complain to my parents. WHY do I have to go when I did nothing wrong? How can I take another day’s leave? And this all before the trial for my case even started! They are adamant I have to go, even if it is just to prove my innocence.

Monday comes and my brother takes me to the police station. This is a police station we haven’t dealt with yet. The assault case was opened at the police station in his residing area. The fire at the house was opened at the police station in my residing area. I now understand why he used his sister. She stays in a whole different area. And her daughter is a minor. If I should decide to lay a charge against them, what will happen to her? They are cunning.

We arrive at the police station and I am on alert for anything that may happen. Who knows if they sent someone to attack me there? Or wait until we leave?

I pray … hard.

I get out of the vehicle and take my Bible with me. In the last few weeks, I have been in touch with God more than ever before.

My brother goes inside with me. We get to the detective that visited our home and he thanks me for coming in. That is the only nice thing he does. After that, he interrogates me. How could I just take somebody else’s possessions? Every time I attempt to say something, he talks over me. He doesn’t give me a chance to explain. My brother tries to come to my rescue several times, but this man has only one thing in mind — an arrest has to be made! I start crying. I pray to God in my mind. He KNOWS I am innocent!

I ask the detective if I can make a phone call and he allows it. I contact one of the people that had come to give a talk at work. He is part of the Community Safety and Security Department. He is just finished with a visit in the area and he says he will come straight to where I am. He knows my whole story from the start.

In the meanwhile, I attempt to tell the detective about everything that is really going on. They are doing this to get me to drop a case against the brother. He cannot understand and just keeps saying, don’t mix two cases. This is another case that is made against you and has nothing to do with another case!

My sister phones my brother. He too is close to breaking point. He has to sit there and watch them wanting to arrest his sister for something she didn’t do. Something our whole household never had to witness. She is freaking out on the other side. We saw the visit to the police station as a formality. We never prepared for me being detained!

When the man enters the police station, it feels like he is Heaven-sent. He introduces himself to the detective and explains the story from the start.

“Sir, this is a very dangerous man. It is all because a case was made against him, that his family is retaliating.”

The detective doesn’t want to listen to him either.

“You may be someone with a title Sir, but you know I also have work to do. There is a case made and that covers me. You know I am doing the right thing.”

He looks at me and while the tears are still falling down my cheeks, I know he feels helpless. It doesn’t matter what he says, the detective seemingly, has made up his mind.

I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what specific thing made him change his mind, but then he suddenly changed his tune. He is talking about how my mother said about my ex’s mom fuming about the TV that is in the house, two weeks prior. He couldn’t understand how my ex’s mother could talk about the TV so long ago, but the case about the theft was opened after that, as if it just happened. He looks at me and my work tag hanging on my neck.

“It’s fine. Go to work. I will go back to them and question them on what is really going on.”

I can shout for pure joy. Something triggered some sense in his mind and I can only thank God for that!

We get up and leave, basically speed away, before he changes his mind. My sister phones again, worried. We laugh at the whole incidence, I was almost an inmate. For something I didn’t do.

Just the thought of what they could do to me in those cells or my baby going without her nursing mom… I really don’t know how they could do such a thing.

But their plan did not work.

I can only assume the TV-case against me was dropped when their detective came to fetch the TV and gave it back to his family. I do not know if they confessed the truth, but I have not heard from their detective again.

One day after 11 in the evening, I wake to the alarming voices from inside the house. I get up and find everybody else awake and running around. I check the kitchen and the living room. No fire. I can’t figure out what is going on. I go into the living room and find my sister crying on her arm, against the wall.

“What happened!?”

“He burned my car!”

I know who she is referring to. I run outside and witness this huge fire in front of the garage, where their car is parked. The flames are higher than the covering of the garage. I can’t believe my eyes. My brother-in-law is attempting to hose down the fire. Neighbours once again pitch in. They quench the flames, but the car is totally done. The whole front part is pitch black and burnt to the ground. This time he has gone too far. It was a new car, they haven’t even had it for two years yet.

I stand on the porch, helpless. I feel to blame for everything that is happening to my family. I brought this crazy man into all of their lives.

We go through the same process again: forensics, bomb squad, statements…

All the other times we had no evidence of who it was, of who was responsible. This time is a bit different. One of the guys had dropped their cell phone, near the car. We go through it ourselves, before we hand it over to the officers. We want to make sure no evidence is tampered with or disappears. My dad takes a photo of the cell phone and writes down all the numbers and names of the contacts on the phone. One of the numbers on the contact list, belongs to my ex. Finally, we have evidence that links him to the fires!

It is time for me to appear in court again for the interdict. This time I know he will be present and this makes me very anxious. I will have to take a seat right next to him, while we will both be questioned. My sister has taken a day’s leave this time and accompanies me until we have to take the stand.

He is nowhere in sight. While in our row outside, we meet this girl who has come with her baby. Her son immediately caught our attention as he is very friendly. We start talking with his young mother, who is also in line to sit down with her ex-boyfriend, also for an interdict. She shares her story.

She also, comes out of an abusive relationship. She came for an interdict and she has a case opened against him for rape. He would lock her up in his Wendy house for days and she had to wait for him there, naked, until he came home from work. He would rape her and leave. His mother would walk around with the key to the Wendy house and just unlock it to give them (her and her baby) food, whenever she feels the need. She will then lock it again from the outside, until her son would return home and do the same thing. She also, had to literally escape from her situation. The day she fled she ran to her uncle’s house, which was close by. Before she could reach it, her ex got to her and beat her up in front of the uncle’s house. She screamed like crazy until her family came to her rescue.

Her ex was also arrested only a few weeks after the occurrence and I tell her that if he doesn’t show today, her first interdict hearing will also be postponed. We are still talking, when a lady comes and tells me that my ex has arrived. I have to switch places with my new-found friend. I have to go first.

When I see him come around the corner, my heart nearly stops. He looks a bit different. Hands cuffed in front of him, his eyes wanders over the crowd. He sees me and looks away. The officer takes him around the back and the crowd start buzzing. Some of them look at me with concern, when they realise he has arrived for my case.

They call me in when they are ready and I take the seat next to him. We look at each other and both of us burst out laughing. Who would have ever thought we would come to this?

He is asked if he wants a lawyer present. He says yes and I get so upset. His lawyer isn’t near there and if he insists on having him there, the case may once again have to be postponed.

The magistrate explains to him that this is not the hearing for the case itself, but only for the interdict. On asking him again if he needs his lawyer, he decides against it. Thankfully, we can proceed.

The magistrate asks him: “Do you have anything to say to her?”

He says yes and starts to say how sorry he is for hitting me that day. He shouldn’t have done it. He asks for my forgiveness. Then the magistrate turns to me and asks me if I would forgive him and I say that I forgave him a long time ago already.

On this, the magistrate starts scribbling on paper and leaves us to talk. I ask him why he is doing all these things to me. He knows that he is the one in the wrong, but he still threatens us, burns my sister’s car? He still denies everything then I tell him we have evidence and when he looks at me I have to change the story and say there are cameras on the house across the street and I can see who it was. I can’t tell him about the cell phone, just in case he has a contact that can make that evidence disappear.

The magistrate reads out the requirements of the interdict against him, out loud.

“The interdict was actually valid since the day it was written out. You are not allowed to do any of these things against her or her family.”

His attention is caught on the part where it states that he may not burn our property or belongings and I explain what it means. I tell the magistrate about the car. He asks my ex about it and he just states: “I don’t know anything about it, I was in jail Sir.”

I elbow him in his side. “Talk the truth for once!”

“Well, if anything of what she said is true, you will be held liable, because this document is made out before the petrol bomb on the car.”

He just shrugs it off. According to him, he has an alibi.

When we are done, they take him to the back again and they send me with a file to drop at the same place he is waiting. I know it will be safe, because there are officers all around, but I don’t understand their processes.

How can they make you face your offender all the time? The very person you are having an interdict against.

I come outside and go to the back room to drop my file. He is sitting there, completing something. He starts crying. Then another lady officer asks him: “Do you love her?” He says yes and continues. I start crying myself.

When she leaves with me, she asks me why I would have an interdict against this man who clearly loves me. I just answer: “…Because, he almost killed me.”

It’s been months that he has been in jail.

I still have to one day soon, stand trial as witness. My documentary proof, pictures are all gathered and filed, awaiting for the day when I have to present my case.

He is still continuing with threats from jail. Either via the public phone or different cell phone numbers. I do not know how that is possible. The system really has a lot of loopholes.

He has gone for bail hearings twice and has been denied. The third time is coming up soon.

His cousin phones me to tell me to go to a police station and write an affidavit that he is no longer a threat to me and that I am not scared of him. A total lie. I am supposed to make a copy of my ID to accompany it and send it with his cousin, so he can present it when he applies for bail again. The cousin immediately wants to come fetch me to take me to a police station myself, but I decline, saying that I will sort it out myself. As I speak, they are waiting for those documents.

If I send it, there is a good chance he will get bail and be outside to do who knows what to me and my family.

If I don’t, he can just send his men to do it for him or still has a chance for coming out on bail and do it himself.

I haven’t been sleeping well these last few days, I am tossing and turning every night out of worry.

Only God can help me making the right decision.

The fight, it seems will maybe never end…

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