Health-e (Cape Town)

26 August 2013

South Africa: I've Stopped Hitting the Woman I Love

Vuyolwethu Samuel Shongwe is a 29 year old father of two girls and a husband. He and his family are from Gauteng but have been living around Nelspruit for two years. He tells about his history of violence against women:

"The first time I started hitting girls I was nine years old. I recall physically abusing my younger sister and her friends while we were playing. I knew I was never going to be punished and I didn't stop because no one ever told me it was wrong.

"I continued hitting girls growing up. It was never an issue because I saw my father abuse my mother physically. I was never allowed to cry because it was a sign of weakness. My father said: 'Only women cry because they are weak, but we don't because we are strong and women must obey us.'

My wife and I started dating when we were 17. Three months into the relationship I became jealous and started hitting her. Boys were not allowed to even socialise with her because I thought she was dating them."

His wife, Lungile Tsela Shongwe recalls the abuse: "The first time the abuse occurred, he saw me chatting with a boy in my class.

"I became pregnant when I was 26. We were both happy about the pregnancy and he promised to stop abusing me, but immediately after I gave birth the abuse started again."

Voyulwethu continues: "Every time after hitting her I would say it was because I loved her, but how can you hurt the one you love? It doesn't make any sense.

"It wasn't easy to recognized myself as an abuser because I didn't want to become the man my father was. I used to believe that if a man really loved a woman he had to show her by hitting her, but I was wrong because I nearly lost the only woman I truly love."

According to Vuyo a really man doesn't show his true emotion by abusing a woman in any manner.

"As a man and father to girls I pledge never ever to hit a women or let another man abuse a woman, whether it's his sister, wife or daughter. By protecting and saving one woman, you protect the nation.

"My biggest regret in life is abusing my wife, mother of my children and my love, mostly my one and only best friend."

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