From victim to adviser

GUGU Mofokeng, who has broken a cycle of abuse, says she was just a young girl when she first became a victim of abuse.

GUGU Mofokeng, who has broken a cycle of abuse, says she was just a young girl when she first became a victim of abuse.

"As a child I was emotionally abused by members of my family. They used to falsely accuse me of things and continuously put me down. Eventually they kicked me out of my home," said the woman from Katlehong in Gauteng.

With nowhere to go, Mofokeng, then 19 years old, said she decided to move in with her boyfriend, who was also abusive.

"He didn't allow me to go anywhere. Once, while he was at work, I went to visit a friend and returned before he got home," she said.

"What I didn't know was that he had asked neighbours to keep an eye on me. I was surprised when he beat me up when he got home, asking me where I had been. He even knew what I was wearing when I left the house. I ran away a few times, but he would find me and drag me back to his house to beat me some more."

Mofokeng said she couldn't go to the police because she was scared.

"I knew I was being watched all the time," she said.

Mofokeng said that was the beginning of her cycle of abuse.

"I stayed with several abusive partners for most of my life. My self-esteem was low and as a result I tolerated the abuse because I was dependent on these men for a place to live," Mofokeng said.

She described how she was once locked up in the house for three weeks.

"Once, when he got home from work, he pinned me down and slapped me so badly that I had to be hospitalised.

"It was always the same with all the perpetrators. Every time they beat me they told me that it was my fault because they loved me so much. They bought me gifts and promised to never do it again," Mofokeng said.

She said the final straw was when her most recent ex bit off half of her left ear and set the house alight while she was trapped inside.

"I survived and have now pulled myself out of this cycle of abuse," she said.

Mofokeng, now 40, said going for counselling helped her.

She now counsels victims of abuse and allows them to stay in her home.

"I'm hoping to open a shelter in Katlehong soon for victims of domestic violence.

"Often, women find themselves without a safe place to go to after obtaining protection orders against their partners. All I need now is funding to make my dream of helping abused women come true" Mofokeng said.