I made up my mind that I was leaving. After 17 years, I was going to do what I was always afraid of doing.
I had made up my mind in May last year after seeing a very familiar look, a look of fear, a look that said “I don’t want people to know”.
I saw this look on Bongekile “Babes Wodumo” Simelane’s face last year as she sat in the SABC studios being interviewed by host Masechaba Ndlovu.
She was confronted for the first time about her abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Mandla “Mampintsha” Maphumulo.
I had been living with the father of my two children for four years and we had been dating for 17 years.
I’d been hit with a beer bottle on my head. I’d had him kneeling on the bed with me between his thighs as he wrapped his hands around my neck, choking me.
I don’t have words to describe the feeling that flowed from the top of my head to the tip of my toes as I felt my eyes roll to the back of my head.
No words can describe how and what I felt when I opened my eyes from blinking to see the asbestos roof above me, above us.
For a fraction of a second I looked past the towering figure kneeling over me as I lay captive between his thighs.
I remember that day, I had come back after spending the night drinking at a friend’s place. I had been drinking after we had a fight.
There have been so many incidents where I ended up being slapped, pushed or pulled, I can’t recall why we had argued that specific time.
But I had been sleeping when he arrived home. He too had been drinking and was totally drunk.
My son, our second-born, was still a toddler, just beginning to walk.
His sister, our first-born, was about 8 years old.
My drinking while I was in the relationship was toxic and so was his. I would always make sure to be asleep when he returned home drunk.
I would be under the covers in the children’s bedroom, but my heart would beat so loudly I could always hear it in my eardrums.
I felt a kind of fear one should not feel for someone you claim to love with your whole being.
It was the same fear that I recognised on Babes Wodumo’s face last May when she was confronted about her abusive relationship.
I imagined myself as my daughter, who was 11 last May, witnessing this fear in her mother’s eyes. I did not want my daughter, who I am raising to be a woman, to see me that way.
That single moment when I watched Babes changed so much for me; it gave me the courage I thought I did not have.
I thought it ironic that I was chasing this explosive story about a celebrity much younger than I was experiencing abuse, yet I too was a victim, and a silent one at that.
I felt like a hypocrite; more than anything I felt like I had failed my children.
There are a number of reasons I stayed in the relationship, bearing in mind that my first taste of abuse came in 2008. Little did I know that I would enable the situation to play itself out for 11 years.
We had been through three major break-ups in the past where other people in my life had honestly thought my relationship was over.
But somehow he always managed to talk to me, talk me into staying with him, make me feel like our children deserved to have both their parents living together. I myself wanted that more than anything in the world, especially having been raised by my grandmother and with my parents never being married.
I recall a good friend once talking me into realising that I was worth much more, after witnessing my partner’s behaviour.
She said: “Ane, he is a talker. He will talk in your ear to make you see things his way.”
I do not know the intricate details of Babes’s and Mampintsha’s relationship, but last May I saw a Babes Wodumo that looked like she was being abused.
I know for a fact that until Babes herself decides that she wants out of the relationship, there is little that any of us or her loved ones can do for her.
The plight of abused women who suffer in silence is real, and Babes’ experience threw me a lifeline.
I left my partner on May 25 last year.
I have some physical scars that will remain as a reminder of what I went through, but I also have two beautiful children to remind me what love truly is.