Helping women to heal

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One aim of Women’s Month is to reflect on the experiences of women, particularly those who are abused and find it difficult to decide when is it time to say, “enough is enough”.

However, despite their hardships, some women do rise above their traumatic situation.

Through sharing their stories they become pillars of strength for other abused women and men.

This is exactly what Cecilia Rose, 47, of Grassy Park is doing.

She will be launching a non-profit company called Agape Kingdom Vision, to help those who are in abusive relationships, on Saturday August 18, at the Uit Liefde Hulp Genootskap hall, in 5th Avenue, Grassy Park.

Ms Rose stood tall after a 10-year abusive marriage.

She said she gives “God the glory” for helping her overcome her abusive marriage.

Abused women are often asked why they stayed with the abuser and common answers are: “I was afraid”, “I don’t know why” or “I love him”.

These were some of the responses Ms Rose gave when Southern Mail asked her, and she said she would like to open up the eyes of other abused women, to tell them that “there is hope” and also refer them to rehabilitation centres.

Ms Rose said being left a single mother at the age of 18 years old came as a shock as the father denied his child.

A few years later she met the father of her two youngest children, but when he “literally went to the shop and didn’t come back” she said she was devastated once again.

However, when her youngest daughter was two years old she prayed to God for a husband as she worried about the label given to single parents. She was struggling financially. “I had to pay my rent and get the children in school as well,” she said.

So she prayed. “I wasn’t specific in what type of husband I wanted. And then I met him.”

She and her future husband dated for three years before he proposed to her. That’s when everything changed.

Ms Rose said: “The day I got married, was the day I started being abused.”

The couple went to live with his mother and her children stayed at her mother’s house as it was during the honeymoon stages of the marriage.

The first night of abuse left her battered and bruised. “My ex husband and I were preparing to go out but unfortunately the geyser was not working. We had to boil pots of water on the stove to fill up the bath. He insisted I fill up his bath with the water. When I said I wanted to get dressed first, I was slapped on the side of my face, (and fell) against the wall.

“An abuser always targets the head to disfigure the victim,” she said.

She was appalled when his mother said: “Hit her, she is your wife and she must listen to you.”

Ms Rose said she was beaten, her whole face was swollen, and she was crying. “He told me to stop crying, get up and throw in his bath water. I did it because I was scared. We went out that evening with my bruised face.”

A friend of Ms Rose saw her and asked what happened but her ex husband made up a story of how she fell and hit her face.

He was manipulative and people believed him. “Ever since that day, I was beaten, if I looked the other way, he would accuse me of looking at other men, he was possessive.”

Ms Rose said she couldn’t speak to her family about the abuse because of the shame. “I felt like a failure. I wanted the same joy of others who were married. I couldn’t tell my mother because I thought that she would be disappointed in me.”

However, most of the time Ms Rose said she was afraid of displeasing her husband. “I blamed myself for not doing something he had asked and then I would make it up to him by serving him meals.

“I enjoyed his spontaneous personality. He was very gifted in the way he spoke to people. He could sell anything.”

Ms Rose said she would always hide things from her children as well but they started noticing how her husband treated her. Her eldest daughter eventually went to live with Ms Rose’s mother.

Ms Rose said when her husband started drinking the abuse became worse.

She said he would play loud music and if she tried to approach him to put the music softer he would hit her. However, after every episode of abuse, he would say his famous words, “I’m sorry”.

Ms Rose observed: “Abusers would hurt you tremendously and then they sweeten you up. Then I would be convinced that he was sorry for his deeds.”

Ms Rose said she was always saving his jobs and making excuses for his behaviour. “The drinking made him stay out of work but I was the one who would speak to his bosses to give him a second chance. I would lie for him.”

She said because he was a smooth talker and good at his job, his bosses would take him back.

After moving away from his mother’s house the couple were happy but her husband would still not treat her well.

“There was no decency in the way he spoke to me. He would demand his food and if I did not have it ready he would be miserable with me.”

Ms Rose said after living a roller -coaster ride she was getting fed-up and one day she raised her voice to him. His reply was vicious. “He took a cup and hit me so hard that I needed stitches in my ear.”

Ms Rose said her family stepped in but she still she didn’t tell them about the abuse. “I wanted them to like him and I wanted them to see only the good in him.”

Ms Rose now wants to make an impact on other women who are going through abuse by sharing her experience. “I want women to know there is a way out.”

Ms Rose went through many more incidents and every time she went back to the abuse.

After running away, her husband would find her and convince her to return.

She said there was a time when everything went well in their lives as they started their own business and worked together, but the abuse didn’t end.

Then came the turning point.

“I decided one day to tell my mother that I was abused,” said Ms Rose.

She started seeing psychologists and started to heal.

But her husband was on her case and he would accuse her of taking his office equipment.

It turned into a divorce and he took everything, the business and properties and left her with “almost nothing”.

A while after the divorce Ms Rose met her new husband and they were married for seven years until he died three years ago. “He was a good man,” she said.

She then decided to dedicate her time to other women.

“So far I have spoken to so many women and they told me about all forms of abuse including drug abuse. I have also referred them to the rehabilitation in their area.”

Dawn Fish, manager of the Mosaic Court Support Programme, said it is not easy starting an organisation as it takes hard work and determination.

Ms Fish said they wished Ms Rose everything of the best.

“We hope she has a good support system in place. Challenges will come but she should keep on and believe in her vision and not give up hope. It takes a big heart to start an initiative like this to help others.”

Ms Rose said she will offer one-on-one supportive spiritual counselling and refer women to the appropriate facilities including rehabilitation centres, safe houses and shelters.

* The launch of Agape Kingdom Vision will be on Saturday August 18, at the Uit Liefde Hulp Genootskap hall, in 5th Avenue, Grassy Park, at 3pm Entry costs R100 per person, which includes snacks. For more information, call Ms Rose on 083 998 2920.