Victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) who decides to stand-up and fight back must realise they might win a battle, but the war never stops and you need to be mentally prepared for the challenge.
This is the words of Nicoleen Swart, MISA member and the Union’s face for GBV. Her estranged husband, Jaco Swart, was convicted and sentenced for the horrific attacks on her, after the captured CCTV-footage went viral.
“He has disappeared for more than a month now after the ruling in the Pretoria-North Magistrate Court. Although I was grateful that I could tell my story to the world and help other victims, his disappearing act led to new hurdles for me to overcome.
“He stopped paying maintenance for our two minor sons although I have a high court order that he is obliged to. I now need to start the process all over again. First to find him, and then to bring him to the dock for non-payment. In the interim, I have the financial burden of raising my sons alone.
“Jaco also refused to sign our divorce papers and is opposing the divorce. He did not pay his attorney before he disappeared so I cannot finalise my divorce and go on with my life. It is very difficult to start a new life while I am still legally married to him,” says Nicoleen.
She does not want her hurdles to discourage other GBV victims from coming forward, but rather to realise it is a bumpy ride that needs to be taken-on with patience and bravery.
“Today I am tired, it is not easy. Every day I need to wake-up with a deliberate decision to continue fighting and not just give-up. Every time I have to head back to court and the legal fees are expensive. I also wanted to save money to achieve my dreams, but that is not possible right now,” says Nicoleen.
She also feels the humiliation of the assaults every time she speaks about it. “I never thought I would one day face a horrific story like this one. Like any other girl I wanted the fairy-tale and right now it feels like the nightmare is never going to end,” she says.
Nicoleen agreed to tell her story to fellow MISA members for the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign this year.
She believes that many victims are not standing-up because it is an ongoing war.
“I want everyone to realise you are only human. It is normal to feel that this mountain is too big to climb. However, if I could turn back the clock I would do it all again. It took strength and courage. If I did not speak up and lay charges at the police, I might not have been here today to tell my story at all.
“That is the most important message for other victims. Don’t wait until it is too late. Speak up,” says Nicolene.
Two months ago, MISA took a stance against violence and harassment in the retail motor industry by establishing a web-based point of contact dedicated to the reporting and resolution of incidents.
Martlé Keyter, MISA’s Chief Executive Officer: Operations, says this was an extension on the work of the Industry Equality and Diversity Forum (IEDF), which has been established to combat the prevalence of gender-based violence and advance equality and diversity in the world of work.
Keyter says according to a recent report, one in four women in South Africa will experience sexual harassment in the workplace at some stage during their working lifespan. This is a conservative estimation.
“MISA witnesses a similar tendency in the retail motor industry where many instances of workplace violence and harassment is not reported and not addressed. MISA wants to change the trajectory by establishing a web-based point of contact,” says Keyter.
If you have any complaints or grievances of workplace violence and harassment in the industry, please send an email to endGBV@ms.org.za
Issued on behalf of MISA by Sonja Carstens, Media, Liaison and Communication Specialist.