A large number of South African women are subjected to some form of abuse at the hands of their intimate partner. This type of abuse is dire as it also impacts negatively on the lives of their children. Children who witness abuse between parents are also at a greater risk of being violent in their future relationships.
Amanda Lusaseni (32) from Katlehong in Ekurhuleni found herself homeless after her partner of nine years, and father of her two children, kicked her and their kids out of their home. This came after years of physical, emotional and financial abuse. This incident depicts the continuous challenges women face in their homes and at the hands of their loved ones.
Amanda currently resides at Ikhaya Lethemba a, one stop centre for victims of gender based violence. The shelter accommodates 120 women and children for a period of 6 months. “I wish to commend Ikhaya Lethemba which continues to be a sanctuary to victims of abuse. Their committed staff members walked the path with me by providing psycho-social services, medico-legal services, skills development and preparation during the court process,” said Lusaseni.
As a child growing up Amanda experienced hardships at the hands of her stepfather. “I was raised by a single mother and had suffered verbal abuse at the hands of my stepfather and some family members. Growing up, I never knew who my biological father was and recently I realised that it prompted me to seek a male figure who’d fill in the void left by him,” she said.
Although her mother worked as an Administrator at a government school she never bought a house that Amanda, and her two young siblings, could call a home. They moved into her stepfather’s house who eventually kicked them out at a later stage. They had to move back to her grandmother’s house, who is now deceased, and share a space with other family members. “It was not easy, we had to occupy a small backroom. This is where I had to endure verbal abuse from my aunt who occupied the main house. I knew I had to get out of that space soon,” said Amanda.
She was only 19 years old when she met the father of her two kids. She admits she did not take time to get to know him before moving in with him. “He had inherited his parents’ house after they passed on and that was more than enough to convince me to move in with him. I needed a home, something I had never had before,” emphasised Amanda.
Throughout her nine-year relationship with her partner, she was the sole breadwinner and had to work hard to make ends meet for him and their two children. “I got a job as an Adult Based Education Teacher (ABET) and I was passionate about contributing towards the education of the community and shaping the minds of our people. I made a decent salary until my contract ended in 2018 and that is when all our problems started. We now had to depend on my insufficient social grant. I was actively looking for a job while he was doing nothing and expected me to support our family”.
Their relationship turned sour when she could no longer financially sustain their needs. She recalls having arguments and a few violent altercations. “I told him he had to also look for a job as I felt I was the only one feeling the pressure of ensuring our kids were well fed and that is when he started emotionally and verbally abusing me, “she said.
Although most people can easily identify physical and sexual abuse, verbal, emotional and financial abuse are seldom spoken about in spite of the many people affected by it. Feeling insulted and wounded, she knew she had nowhere else to go. She persevered thinking things would eventually get better. “He had this rage and he had me walking on egg shells. He then kicked me and our kids out of his house. When the social worker intervened for the kids’ sake he told the social worker that our children must be taken to an orphanage. This clearly demonstrates that he has no regard for my children’s wellbeing,” said Amanda.
Amanda and her kids were taken to Ikhaya Lethemba, a shelter and provincial flagship project of the Department of Community Safety based in Braamfontein. The staff at the centre inspired them to do some introspection and try to find their purpose in life.
“The amount of support I receive from Ikhaya Lethemba is overwhelming. We received counselling and got an opportunity to interact with other women who have similar backgrounds to mine. I started writing poetry to motivate women and developed a programme called #PhumaUphila under my Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) called Ikusasa Lethu. The NPO is about women getting out alive, not only from abusive relationships, but from all kinds of difficult situations and freeing their minds,” she said.
This came after she was hospitalised from depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). “I used to have suicidal thoughts and would snap at everyone including my children. I am now on medication and managing it well. I took advantage of the assistance I am receiving at the centre to keep my mind and body occupied. I also utilize the gym and have joined a netball team just to manage my stress levels,” continued Amanda.
While at the centre, Amanda worked tirelessly applying for a job and eventually got a one-year-internship in April 2019 at the African National Congress (ANC). She also completed a one year certificate course in Adult Based Education at the University of South Africa and is qualified as an ABET Teacher.
Amanda took advantage of the skills development programme offered at Ikhaya Lethemba and also successfully completed an Entrepreneurship training programme.
She is now working on her novel to tell her life story and to motivate other women. “I want to publish my novel but I have not yet found a publisher. I appeal to publishing companies in South Africa to assist me with getting my book published,” said Amanda. Amanda has also received a bursary from her work and is pursuing her Education studies with the University of South Africa.
Amanda called upon women to empower themselves. “My advice to women is that they should take time to empower themselves, get an education and never depend on a man. Jumping into a relationship is never a good idea. Allow yourself time to get to know the person instead of rushing things”.
Although she endured abuse in her previous relationship, she insists that she still believes in love but is not in a rush for a relationship yet. “I am still healing and focusing on myself and my children. I will wait for the perfect opportunity before I commit once again,” she said.
Amanda believes that she is a beacon of hope to many people and a living testimony that anyone can turn their dreams into reality, irrespective of one’s underprivileged background.