They apologise and promise it won’t happen again. You even wonder if you could possibly be imagining the verbal or physical abuse. Is there a way of knowing that your lover might hurt you?
Mara Glennie joins episode 19 of Sisters Without Shame in aid of a friend in crisis from Jacobsdal, who asks what the signs of an abuser are.
“There is no vaccine for abuse,” says Glennie, who is a gender-based violence (GBV) survivor and the founder of TEARS. Glennie started the foundation in 2012. They provide access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse in Mzansi.
She says that it is not easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time.
“If a person is insanely jealous, very possessive, always asks you where you are going, checks your emails, checks your phone, discourages seeing your family and friends – those are all warning signs.”
Glennie shares her account of her own abusive relationship. She was married for 20 years. “I spent of the years making excuses for him. I told myself that it was his career, his past life, all the lies,” she says. “I stayed too long and he waterboarded me. Which means he put me underwater until I nearly drowned and then pulled me out, and then hit me around. It is very difficult when you experience that kind of torture and then try to get help.”
Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy, but survivors deserve to live free of fear.“You don’t want to be divorced but you don’t want love to cost you your life,” she says.
Often attempting to leave an abusive relationship, could end in death. “Abuse and rape are about power. Once they see they are losing that power, they turn into a monster. Last year we saw a pregnant woman hung from a tree, and another hacked into pieces because her boyfriend was jealous.”
How to support a survivor
If you know or suspect that someone is a victim of domestic violence, you might feel clueless about the best way to help.
Waiting for the perfect words could keep you from seizing the opportunity to change a life.
“Sympathy just kills you; it does not help you. We are big on advice, but we are short on action. It is not about having a high budget, it can happen at any level,” warns Glennie. “Sometimes people can’t get to the shelter because they do not have the taxi fare. It is very simplistic areas where you can help by offering people support.”
A little empathy also goes a long way. “When someone comes forward, you say, ‘I believe you, I want to help you, you are not alone, what do you need me to do?’,” Glennie advises.
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