JJane misses the days when hers was once a happy home. She and her boyfriend Peter met five years ago. She had two children aged 11 and 12 from her previous marriage, they lived with her aunt in KZN. Jane’s parents died when she was incredibly young. Peter said he did not mind and that he would love the children as if they were his own. After a few months of dating the two moved into a two roomed rental apartment together in Duduza township. They began talking about marriage. Later Peter insisted that her children come to move in with them and they moved into a four roomed RDP house. The first two years were wonderful. Every Friday when Peter got paid at the recycling firm he worked for in Nigel, he would buy lots of food and presents for the children. They would braai meat and play music dancing weekends away.
Jane was envied by other women in the township. But the days of horror were still coming. For some time, the couple were trying to have a baby, without success. Eventually reality struck that they may never have any children. Peter had never had any children in his previous relationships. He became distant and started coming home late drunk. Verbal fights became violent. Peter started beating Jane in front of the children. Sometimes he threatened to beat the children too saying openly that they were not his. All the talks about marriage seized. Violence took over.
“He would say such hurtful things. He accused me of using contraceptive pills so that I may not conceive, but that was not true. One day he beat me and turned the house upside down looking for contraceptive pills but found nothing,”
Says Jane. A few days after Peter calmed down a little but it did not take long before he started again.
The once admired woman has become the talk of town. Other women gossip about her, they laugh at her.
“At one-point Peter was chasing me around the township holding a knife. He threatened to kill me. Luckily, some neighbours intervened and counselled us.”
As usual Jane’s man only calmed down for a few days and started hitting her again. She cannot bring herself to report the matter to the police as she is afraid of what he would do.
The last three months of lockdown have been horrific. When the recycling firm Peter works for closed things became worse as he had no money. He accused the children of finishing food in the house. sometimes they went to bed hungry.
“Now he hates my children. lt’s as if they remind him of the fact that l has not given him children. The funny thing is that when l asks to take them back to my aunt’s he refuses saying l will gossip about him,” says Jane.
The last time she spoke of taking the children to her aunt she was silenced by a slap on the chick. She has not dared to mention it again. Her children have become unhappy but to her keeping the man is the priority.
“I grew up with no parents and life was not easy. Maybe if my children were back home with my aunt things would be different.”
Jane is now attending counselling after some women in her community encouraged her to do so. But the violence at her home has become more intense. But she has dared not to leave Peter.
“I will not leave my home. It is painful that he beats me up, but if l leave him l honestly don’t know what l will do.”
At the time of the interview, Jane was badly bruised on the face.
NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM