Domestic violence can involve a cycle of abuse that moves from generation to generation, with child victims finding themselves in abusive relationships later in life.
This is what happened to Wendy Pekeur who shared her story when the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies hosted a programme to launch the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign at the Bonteheuwel community centre on Monday November 26.
Now a motivational speaker, Ms Pekeur recalled the abuse she endured both as a child and an adult.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign started on Sunday November 25 and will run until Monday December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.
Ms Pekeur grew up on the Elsenburg farm in Stellenbosch with her grandparents.
However, when she was 7 years old, her parents came to take her and her six siblings to stay with them in Scottsdene where they were exposed to domestic violence and substance abuse.
Ms Pekeur, the second eldest child, decided to run away when she was 18 years old. She vowed never to return to an abusive situation again but that was not her fate.
Ms Pekeur met her ex-fiancé a year later and got engaged at the age of 21. Two years later the couple had their first child and Ms Pekeur described their relationship as pure bliss.
“I was secure, had a beautiful relationship with no pressure to do anything until later. I didn’t realise that I had been in an abusive relationship, he became a different person. He choked me and called me names, often called me a slut and my kids heard him calling me that. I stayed because he was a good father to my kids and he provided for us,”
At the age of 27, Ms Pekeur had her second daughter and soon realised that an abusive household was not what she wanted for herself and her family as she previously had vowed never to go back to the abuse she had endured as a child.
“I proposed that we go for counselling but he was a very private person and he refused. I thought perhaps my hopes in a man was too high but I stayed because I needed that security from a man, I had a lot of self doubt and I often heard from a loved one that I wasn’t good enough which led me to doubt myself back then already. Her words scarred me, I was insecure and it was a constant battle I had to fight with myself,” she said.
When her second child was a few months old she finally started building up the courage to leave and by that time she was 28.
The final straw was when Ms Pekeur could no longer handle the verbal abuse and she decided to throw him out. Seven years later the couple retried their relationship but it didn’t work out because there was no longer an emotional attachment, according to Ms Pekeur who now lives on the Elsenburg farm in the home of her grandparents who have both died.
“I decided to work with other women who have been through the same thing. I realised that women stay in abusive relationships because they are financially dependant as their wages are often low. Women stay because of the security and for their children’s sake,” she said.
Three weeks ago her ex-fiancé pitched up at her house and smashed her car windows and threatened to burn it. She called the police and told them not to arrest him because her children were present, instead she asked them to take him off her property and she laid a charge.
Ms Pekeur said that women need to be pillars of strength for each other as they are the backbones of their communities.
“We need to be here for one another and pray for the men in our country. Women are being killed by the people who are suppose to love them. It is our responsibility to talk to them, there is no excuse for abuse. We need to teach young men that abuse is not okay, even if they had endured that in their households as children,” she said.
Staff of the Trauma Centre in Woodstock were also at the event last week to conduct health checks and provide counselling for victims of trauma.
Breath, Water, and Sound programme teacher, Francois Beer, from the International Association for Human Values and the Art of Living Foundation, was also present to teach coping mechanisms.
Mr Beer is a service provider for the Western Cape Education Department and teaches at schools in poor areas, helping to create a peaceful society and environment for pupils and educators.
He showed the audience different methods of breathing to help overcome stress, post traumatic stress disorder and depression.