Gender Links (Johannesburg)

30 November 2012

South Africa: Defending My Mother From an Abusive Man

Well, I do not know when it all started but I think it all started when I was a young child. I recall my parents always having arguments and physical fights when they were drunk.

There was one incident when my dad hit my mom very badly she came home with her panties torn and was bruised all over face. He had hit my mom so badly that he even broke her dentures and she even tore her upper lip. I felt so helpless, I was angry and very upset with my dad.

That was the first of many more fights and cases that were going to happen. The thing is when my parents were not drinking, they were very loving and kind towards each other. Sometimes both of them would be drinking and they would not fight but I knew that was often very short lived before the fighting started again.

I vowed to myself that I would never have a marriage that would be destructive like my parents'. There were many incidents where I thought about running away from home and just being away from the fights and the alcohol drinking sessions that my parents used to have.

I have never been abused in any way I have never lacked for anything. The only issue was that when my parents drank alcohol, I would feel all that pain coming my way again. I would have to intervene and stop my dad from hitting my mom.

We lived at home as an extended family with my grandparents when they were still alive. Having them helped a lot at times, as my granny always knew how to ease the pain I experienced.

The one incident that I recall very well was another fighting session between my parents. I was 12 years old. My parents had an argument before the hitting and beating of my mom started. My mom fought back.

Earlier that day, my aunt and uncle had been called in for a family meeting to address the constant fighting between my parents.

I heard my aunt telling my dad to be careful as one of these days he would get a taste of his own medicine from his own children. That same evening, my parents went out to a party and when they came back home the shouting started. My grandparents tried to calm them down but that day, my dad was raging. He was really determined to hit my mom and prove that he was really brutal.

I do not know where I got the strength from or the courage. As my dad was hitting my Mom and my grandparents were trying to stop him, I butted him into his stomach, pushed him against the fridge in the kitchen and grabbed a tin opener and put it to his neck.

I was about to stab my own father in the neck and I was not even thinking. I had him pinned down. My father is not a thin man he is a well-built man who is often referred to as "my Barry White" after the late Neo-Soul African American singer who had a large body frame and a bug voice.

I was going to stab him in the neck, but my little sister who was 10 years old at the time stopped me. Had my little sister not stopped me, I think I would not be here right now writing this story. I would have become a juvenile delinquent who would have gone to jail at an early age for murdering her own father.

As I was beating him up that day, I told him never to touch my mother again or I would kill him. From that day on, he never laid his hands on my mom again.

My Mother eventually decided to stop drinking alcohol, and that is when my parents stopped fighting physically and they still have arguments like normal couples. My dad and I had damaged our relationship. I am still very angry with my dad for the pain he caused my mom and the children. I am trying to forgive him and also move on with my life. I never want to go through that experience ever again in my life and I pray that I will eventually learn to forgive my dad for all the pain he caused me as a little girl.

* Not her real name.

Thandi Mehlo lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. This story is part of the "I" Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.

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