Women urged to Break the Silence on abuse
Participating for the 5th year in the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children (25 November – 10 December), Women in Action and Godllywood’s Save a Tamar trauma counsellors encourage women to Break the Silence and begin the journey from victim to victor.
Speaking at an event held at the Universal Church in Johannesburg and broadcast to all 9 provinces as well as Lesotho, Marcia Pires said: “Let us make the 16 Days of Activism in 2015 a turning point for many women. If you seek help, you can avoid carrying emotional baggage into another year. Many who have been abused, or are currently in an abusive situation, feel too ashamed and humiliated to speak about it to anyone. They suffer in silence, but silence is never a solution. We encourage you to speak out and overcome the ghosts of abuse which have scarred your spirit and are holding you captive. These festering wounds affect your emotions and stop you from forming healthy relationships with others. They cause self-blame and result in women being unable to value themselves. We believe the abuse was our fault and there is nothing to be done to change our circumstances. Neither of these ideas is correct. With guidance, we can break the silence and begin the process of inner healing and self-acceptance and work towards developing a positive self-esteem.”
Marcia Pires continued: Abused people may succeed in presenting a positive personality to others and can even convince themselves that they have overcome previous trauma, but if it has not been confronted and dealt with, it has not been resolved. People think they have erased the pain from their past, but they do not experience peace. They suffer from painful flashbacks and often feel inadequate, insecure, humiliated and rejected. They have low self-esteem and lack confidence. Healing requires revisiting the abuse which is painful and requires courage, but just as cleaning a wound often hurts more than the injury itself, it is the only way to prevent infection and inflammation. As with emotional and internal damage, the only way to limit its negative influence on your future is to address it and seek help to find healing.
Speaking to women who are currently in abusive situations, Marcia Pires said: “With help you can look objectively at your circumstances and make a decision to change it. Tragically many people endure abuse for the sake of the children, but research into the syndrome of abusers, proves that a child who has grown up with abuse, is likely to model that behaviour and become an abuser themselves. If they see their father abusing their mother and if their mother accepts this abuse, a child sees this as a way to love and protect the family. They may lose respect for their parents but they replicate what they have lived through.” She asked: “Do you want your precious child to have an abusive person as a role model? This is the wrong reason to stay in a relationship. As mothers we have a responsibility to protect our children and not to expose them to abusive behaviour. We need to focus on standing up against abuse and healing ourselves so we can build functional families.”
Marcia Pires continued: We hear often about forgiving someone who has abused us, but one of the greatest challenges women face, is to learn how to forgive ourselves. We feel we may have allowed the abuse and because someone has taken advantage of us, we despise ourselves and may resort to self-destructive behaviour to alleviate the pain. We don’t recognise our talents and abilities, see ourselves as worthless and tragically believe we deserved this treatment. This incorrect attitude can be changed through one-on-one counselling which is offered throughout the year by Save a Tamar volunteers.
A courageous woman, Mrs Emma, who suffered various forms of verbal and physical abuse from the age of 14, shared her harrowing story of being raped repeatedly by strangers, surviving an attempted rape by her father, dropping out of school, seeking solace in alcohol and older men. She described feeling ashamed, humiliated, guilty and worthless and said she continued to accept abuse from her own husband who beat her, forced her to care for his illegitimate child and threatened to kill her if she rejected the baby. Throughout it all she kept silent. Because she loved her husband, she forgave him, but she could not forgive herself. She finally reached a point where she knew she had to make a decision and received one-on-one counselling from a Save a Tamar volunteer. This changed her life and empowered her to make the necessary changes to free herself from the past and embrace a transformed life.
Most of the Save a Tamar volunteers have overcome abuse in their own lives, so they speak from experience and have empathy for others whose lives have been damaged by abuse. Marcia Pires said: “We worked through the abuse and our lives have been transformed. Yours can too. The abuse, traumatic as it may have been, did not destroy your life, but it damaged it. If you can survive abuse, as you have done, you can survive anything. What was intended to destroy you has made you strong.”
Everyone was reminded how precious they are and referred to Isaiah 43:4 for encouragement. Women were given white ribbons, the symbol of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, to remind them of their responsibility to live in peace.
During the 16 Days of Activism, Save a Tamar counsellors are available for one-on-one counselling. To book an appointment or for information, contact 0861 330 320, BBM Channel: Save a Tamar, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.womeninaction.co.za
Throughout the year, Save a Tamar holds regular support group meetings and offers confidential counselling in Johannesburg, Soweto, Thokoza and Tembisa, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. In 2016 Save a Tamar will increase its presence by offering new groups in Bloemfontein and the Vaal Triangle. Anyone may attend these meetings and discuss their circumstances and experiences with trained trauma counsellors without judgement or criticism.