Jackie*, 34, grew up with her mother, and five siblings in Bonteheuwel. She went to Bergsig Primary School and Arcadia High School, but she left school when she was 14 to support her family because her mother was unemployed.
Jackie’s first job was at a Sea Point deli. She was there for three years and left to work at a printing firm in Paarden Eiland.
That was also the year she had her first child. She was 17.
She married at 24 and moved in with her husband’s family in Bonteheuwel. A year later, she had her second child. When she was seven months pregnant, her husband kicked her in the stomach and stabbed her in the head with a knife. It took eight stitches to close the wound.
“The first year was quite nice, until he started drinking,” says Jackie.
“He started drinking a lot and always wanted to impress his friends. He started coming home late and wouldn’t allow me to leave the house or go to my mother’s house or to work. When I went to work, he would phone me to come home, saying that one of the kids was sick.”
The abuse – physical, emotional and verbal – continued. On a night in 2009, he knocked her two front teeth out.
“I was at home, and he was with his friends. He phoned me to fetch him because he was drunk. When I fetched him, he was drunk, and started fighting with me. He had a pool ball in his hand and hit my two front teeth out of my mouth. That night I left him.”
But she went back a few weeks later, hoping he had calmed down. But the abuse continued. He swore at her and called her names.
“His mother knew what he was doing to me, but they just covered up for him. His mother was also sick at the time, and that’s why I didn’t leave him; she was bedridden, and I felt sorry for her.”
His mother died in 2011, and Jackie built up the courage to leave him. She filed for divorce that year. When she took him the papers he tore them up and threatened to kill her.
On November 18 2013, she appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court without him, and the divorce was finalised.
“I was shaking and nervous, but I was very happy at the same time. I went home and told him that the divorce had gone through, but he thought I was joking. I threw him out of the house towards the end of November.
“He came home drunk one day and wanted to talk about the divorce, and I said it’s fine if he doesn’t believe me. He smacked me, and I then showed him the divorce papers and the warrant of arrest (attached to a previous interdict he’d violated). I phoned the police and then he phoned one of his friends to pick him up.”
He was never arrested or charged
Jackie started working as a trauma counsellor at the Bonteheuwel police station in 2007, while she was still enduring abuse from her husband at home.
“I didn’t want other women to go through the same thing as I did,” she says.
These days, she is part of the Bonteheuwel Community Police Forum. As part of its community outreach programmes last year, the forum held a sports programme at the EA Janari Primary School in Bonteheuwel and spent Mandela Day with pupils at Bramble Way Primary School and at Bluegum Creche, where it held a drug-awareness campaign.
“I love the expression on the children’s faces. Most of them come from abusive homes, and some of them have never been out of Bonteheuwel. I always tell them that there are other things to do other than roam the streets. This is my passion.”
In 2014, she received her first award from Bonteheuwel police station as a victim empowerment volunteer, followed by an award for outstanding service in 2015.
“I feel so relieved to be out of that situation. It has been an eye opener not to fall back into the same mistake again. To other women, I say, ‘Say no to abuse.’ There is help and always someone out there who will listen. Never give up, it’s not the end of the world.
“There are trauma counsellors and various facilities you can be referred to. I am willing to listen to anyone who needs to get things off their chest.”
* Names have been changed.