Durban - Vanessa Govender, former award-winning Etv television news journalist and former SABC/Lotusfm radio news reporter, has recently released a book called Beaten But Not Broken, which talks about the abuse she suffered. The 41-year-old, full-time mother answers a few questions about her book and her decision to write the book
Q: What is Beaten But Not Broken About?
It is a memoir that takes readers into intimate and often graphic accounts of my experience as a victim of gender-based violence. I was a newsreader/reporter at Lotusfm when I endured repeated and violent physical assaults from my partner who also worked for SABC.
Beaten But Not Broken speaks to the trauma and shame that is often associated with domestic violence and how two educated people with very public profile jobs became the victim and perpetrator of this heinous crime.
It delves into the mental state of a victim and why its so difficult to break free and walk away.
I have laid my soul bare and shared my trauma on the pages on this book in the hopes of shifting and altering how we as a community and country deal with this problem. Women are dying every single day at the hands of their partners. I barely got out of that relationship with my own life and sanity intact.
It has taken me 13 years to open up and speak with brutal honesty that some may find uncomfortable. But this is an uncomfortable and ugly cancer that exists and it exists in not just impoverished homes and communities, this happened in the corridors and offices of one of the country’s biggest broadcasting companies. This book breaks all the stereotypes and misconceptions we have about this despicable thing called abuse. Ultimately it is a book about hope and healing.
A book about salvation and redemption. That it doesn’t matter if it takes you one month or thirteen years, it is imperative to speak out and take a stand that is the only way to heal and to help turn the tide on this rot that prevails in our homes, workplace and streets.
Q: What inspired you to write the book ?
It was not so much inspiration as it was the intense determination to own my truth and speak my truth.
I had cleverly masked all traces of what was happening to me, and in remaining silent, I was inadvertently protecting the coward who used me as a punching bag who fed off my tears and fears to fuel his ego and sense of power.
And I grew tired of protecting a monster and I grew tired of lying about what had really happened to me. Because for as long as I was silent I was lying and living a lie and denying the truth of my suffering and anguish.
It was never my responsibility to protect my abuser. I owe this story and my truth to the thousands of women who are killed by their partners and the thousands more who are looking for a way out of the hell I was once trapped in.
There is no shame in admitting to being a victim. I choose to call myself a survivor of abuse.
The only shame in this evil lies with the men who perpetrate this, the sorry excuses of men who derive their power and pleasure from the weeping of a battered and bloodied woman. And the only people who must live in fear are the cowards who do this, fear of being found out and fear of being exposed. You can break away from an abusive relationship but you are never really free of it until you speak out about it.
Q: Are the books on sale?
The book is on the shelves of all leading bookstores. It is also available online.
Q: Are you hoping that this book will inspire other young women to not accept abuse?
It is the sole aim of my book that it imbues other women and victims of gender-based violence to never accept, tolerate or excuse abuse.
Women need to realise the only person in power in an abusive relationship is her.
She has the power to speak out and draw attention to what’s happening, she has the power to expose her abuser for the trash and filth that he is. She has the power to seek justice.
Even when we are battered and bleeding we are powerful beyond our own comprehension.
I have had dozens of women reach out to me since the book hit the shelves talking about their own harrowing experiences, some publicly and some privately. This strengthens me, this gives me purpose and this is what drives me.
This book is but a small change or shift in the landscape in women coming out of the shadows, breaking the silence and taking back their power. History will remember this time as the time especially with the global #metoo movement when women started standing up and when powerful men start falling.
Q: What is your first book The Selfish Shongolo about ?
It’s a children's book written under my married name. It is about a selfish worm who learns a lesson in friendship and sharing. In short, it celebrates the beautiful South African concept of UBUNTU.
Q: They are two very different genres, are there plans for any more books in the future?
Writing Beaten but not Broken has been quite an emotionally draining journey for me but a crucial one;; nonetheless in my path towards healing. I am quite exhausted physically and mentally by this book. I am definitely going to look at writing more, but I think for the sake of my sanity and healing, I am going to focus on children’s books again. In fact, I already have a title in mind I just need to find my creativity and the magic inside my brain again to write it.
Q: Who is the publisher?
Jacana Media is the publisher. I submitted three chapters of the book to them last year, never really thinking they would go for it. But they did and almost immediately invited me to Joburg to be part of their very first pitch to publication initiative. It is essentially a brilliant concept that is based on the hit tv series dragons den, where potential authors are invited to present their book concept and idea to a panel of experts and if they can convince them that their book will sell – then a deal is signed. And I was one of a handful of hopefuls who were invited and one of a few who was selected by the publisher. That they chose to publish this story only which adds to the importance of it needing to be told.
Q: The book is based on real-life events. Has the perpetrator ever made contact or threatened legal action?
Beaten but Not Broken is an account of my personal experiences and written according to my memory of events. Names have been withheld to protect the identities of some individuals including that of my abuser. Having said that we had lawyers and experts advise during this process of bringing this book to the shelf.
I had to obtain various statements and testimonials from former colleagues some if not all of them prominent South Africans and personalities detailing their eyewitness accounts, what they saw and what they knew about the abuser and the abuse at the time.
Their testimonials are what provided the foundation of this book going to print. And now that the book is out I have had a few other former colleagues come forward admitting they had known and seen things that further corroborates my memoir.