26 November 2022
Nicoleen Swart never thought she and her high school sweetheart, Jaco Swart, would one day become South Africa’s faces of gender-based violence (GBV) for all the wrong reasons.
South Africa learned about Nicoleen’s horrific ordeal after graphic visuals and video’s went viral, showing how her husband assaulted her at his dealership in Sinoville, Pretoria.
He managed to avoid the video’s admitted as evidence against him in the Pretoria-North Magistrates Court by pleading guilty. He was released with a fine and a suspended sentence in court.
The South African public at large was not so lenient. Jaco has been in hiding since the videos went viral.
But Nicoleen’s ordeal is far from over. He stopped paying maintenance for their two sons and she needs to appoint tracing agents to find him. He disappeared without signing their divorce papers. Her life continues to hang in limbo thanks to him.
She never thought this was how her fairy-tale would work out. Nicoleen started living with Jaco when she was in Grade 11. She had known him for years and he was always charming and friendly.
In the beginning, everything went well. He assaulted her for the first time when she was pregnant with their first child. She cannot recall how many incidents there has been over the years, but she stayed.
“After every time he cried, played the victim and promised never to do it again. I loved him. He was the father of my children and the only love I had known. He cheated on me, even moved out to live with another woman for a year, but I took him back. He managed to convince me to do drugs with him.”
Nicoleen was ashamed to admit what was happening to her, although those who surrounded her saw how badly bruised her body frequently was.
The final straw was captured on one of the videos. Nicoleen was already wearing sunglasses after being badly beaten up, two days prior to Jaco going into another rage.
“I just knew this time I won’t be so lucky to get out alive. I just jumped into my car and drove to the Sinoville Police Station while my phone kept ringing. He left me several treats. But that day I just knew I had to break the circle to save my life and those of my children. I reported the assault and never looked back.”
Nicoleen says reflecting now; she cannot believe how she tolerated the assaults. “When you are in the relationship, you feel you are partly to blame. The reality is, that irrespective of what you did, no one has the right to assault another person,” she says.
Today Nicoleen is a dedicated activist against GBV and will commit her life to encouraging other victims to speak up.
#MISACARES #MISAONTHEMOVE #MISAFAMILY #GBV #SpeakUp #NicoleenSwart