“When I was young, I’d always dream of being in my own fairy tale – marrying a prince and living happily ever after. When I thought I’d met the man of my dreams he just swept me off my feet. I don’t really remember when he began to change. Looking back now I could see there were tell-tale signs, and after time I came to think of love as being about possession. That was all I knew. And that was how my fairy tale began.” – Maria, survivor of domestic violence
According to the World Health Organisation more than 60,000 women and children are victims of domestic violence in South Africa every month. Too often, the abuse not only goes unreported but the abused is blinded by rationalising the actions of the perpetrator until it may be too late. It is imperative for awareness to be raised so that women can learn to spot the warning signs and protect themselves.
What are the warning signs?
- Do you find yourself becoming isolated from family and friends due to your partner prohibiting you from spending time with others? Such possessive jealousy and control over your freedom may leave you with feelings of loneliness, depression and hopelessness.
- Does your partner frequently engage in name-calling and other emotionally hurtful remarks such as “You’re worthless! No one else cares about you!”?
- Does your partner force you to do things that you are not comfortable with (such as sexual acts or drug use)?
- Are you frequently confronted with threats, accusations or humiliation?
- Does your partner oscillate between caring and affectionate to violent and hurtful? Does he apologise, only to repeat the cycle?
While you may find that you are already in an abusive relationship, it is not too late.
What you need to do
- Open up to someone you trust or call an organisation, such as LifeLine (Tel: 0800 150 150)
- Write out a safety plan. This can include information such as an emergency phone number, safety exits from the house and where you can keep your valuables in case you need to escape.
- Exit the relationship immediately. Do not take chances or wait for the situation to escalate.
- Get a friend or loved one to help you leave your abusive partner. Get a protection order if necessary.
- Seek support, such as counselling. This can help you cope emotionally with the transition and help you learn how to avoid becoming trapped in an abusive relationship in the future.
“It was the first time I got professional help. It was so important for me to understand that it was not my fault and I was not responsible for his anger. It was hard but I slowly found myself again. So I changed my idea about love. I know now that when you’re writing a fairy tale story, and something bad happens, you have to stop and come back to reality. Love is not about taking whatever comes your way, or totally losing yourself in someone else. That was the hardest lesson I learned.”
Who is Antonia Roos?
Antonia Gueorguieva Roos, originally from Bulgaria, is a Clinical Psychologist in Garsfontein, Pretoria. From the age of five she trained to become a classical musician and excelled in music performance and composition. Along the way she recognised her compelling interest in the human mind and decided to pursue a higher education in psychology. She completed her degrees at the University of Pretoria (BSocSci; BSocSci Hons) and University of Johannesburg (MA Clin Psych) with distinction. Antonia strives to facilitate healing by continually learning and developing as a person, sharing her knowledge and experience, and treating matters of the heart with the highest level of respect and support.