Good Life

A TV presenter, activist and former journalist share their scars of abuse

Gender-based violence is a scourge that affects black, white, rich and poor

Tracy Going.
Tracy Going.
Image: Supplied/Solidarity Fund

If there was ever a roll call for those that have suffered gender-based violence (GBV), one would be sure to find people of all races, ages and statuses.

As someone living in SA, a country reported to have one of the highest rates of gender-based violence and femicide in the world, it’s likely you have your own GBV story. 

Finding a way to function normally after being a victim of GBV is not easy, to say the least. Even making a concerted effort to move on can be undone by a third-party incident that sets off a trigger.

And given that there are many harrowing GBV stories reported daily in the mainstream and social media, there are so many triggers everywhere for those who are still trying to deal with this trauma.  

Being raped paralysed me emotionally and mentally. It took me into a dark space for many years. I was raging and angry inside and in turn, giving off the same energy. To this day, I struggle with intimacy as I no longer trust the space of love. Rape is spiritually devastating,” says Ntsiki Mazwai of her trauma. The poet and activist publicly opened up about having been raped more than 10 years ago — by a man now serving a jail sentence for another rape involving a minor. 

Broadcast legend and former Morning Live presenter Tracy Going chronicled her intimate partner abuse in her biography, Brutal Legacy: A Memoir

“I don’t think one ever truly recovers from the trauma and personal violation brought on by GBV. Women are traumatised in SA; we are always at risk. I have mostly healed over the years, but I will always be on high alert. That is what happens when you have been abused — you are fundamentally changed and never the same. You carry the scars for life,” says Going.

Cassandra Gudlhuza.
Cassandra Gudlhuza.
Image: Supplied

Former journalist-turned-communications specialist Cassandra Gudlhuza, who also carries the scars of abuse, says: “I had a rough childhood, raised in a household with a brutal man — my father. He used to physically, emotionally and financially abuse us.

“When I left home, I thought the trauma would eventually completely heal, but when I had my own children, only then did it truly land on me that what happened to me growing up was utterly unacceptable. I look at my children and know deep in my heart that I would not allow myself or any other adult, to put them through any of what I survived. The pain is deep, unavoidable and often requires professional help to deal with, even decades after the abuse.”    

The Stats SA 2019/2020 report states that at least 18,237 rapes took place at a private residence, including the home of the perpetrator, victim, family, friends or neighbour. This excludes other forms of GBV such as domestic violence, femicide, physical abuse, indecent assault, verbal abuse/intimidation, and abandoned children, among other definitions.

The Stats SA 2019/2020 report states that at least 18,237 rapes took place at a private residence, including the home of the perpetrator, victim, family, friends or neighbour.

According to the Solidarity Fund and the community-based organisations it supports, GBV is an area that needs urgent attention and intervention, which is what prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to introduce three new bills to parliament, and drove the fund to run grant programmes to the value of R95m — that support and enable organisations that work in the GBV advocacy ecosystem, to continue making a difference and turning victims into survivors.

While the new bills are aimed at bringing justice to victims of GBV as well as broadening the description of GBV itself, much more needs to be done, and there is an even heavier burden on victims as they are the ones left to shoulder the shame and blame of the violence meted out on them.

For Mazwai, the healing continues, while for Going, the high levels of GBV incidents in the country 20 years since the conclusion of her court case, leave much to be desired.

The National GBV Command Centre operates 24/7. Call 080-042-8428 if you or anyone you know needs help. If you are unable to speak, you can send a “Please Call Me” by dialling *120*7867# or SMS “help to 31531.***

This article was paid for by the Solidarity Fund.