Brothers ‘assault’ sister as cop father ‘watches’
CHARLENE SOMDUTH email@example.com
A 21-YEAR-OLD woman has alleged that when her family found out she had a boyfriend, she was threatened with a taser before being brutally beaten by her brothers, because she “needed to be disciplined”. Her policeman father, who was supposed to “serve and protect”, just watched.
The woman has opened a charge of kidnapping and assault against her brothers and is being kept at a safe house as she fears for her life.
She said her parents were separated and she lived in oThongathi (Tongaat) with her mother, while her father and two elder brothers lived in Verulam.
Her alleged abuse began on August 30.
“I’d been in a relationship for just over two years. I didn’t tell my family because I was scared how they’d react. They’ve always been controlling,” she said.
“My mother saw a message pop up on my cellphone and asked me if I had a boyfriend. My first reaction was to say no, as she threatened to tell my father.”
The woman, who was working as a salesperson at the time, said she subsequently sent a message to her father and brothers informing them about the relationship.
“I told them I wanted to be honest and admitted I had a boyfriend. My father just said ‘hi’ and didn’t respond further. My brothers began asking questions about where my boyfriend was from and what he did for a living. My younger brother even went onto Facebook to find his profile.”
She claimed her brothers told her that by having a boyfriend, she was giving their father a lot of stress.
“I was also told I was too young to date and I could only date at the age of 30.”
Later that day, her brothers arrived at her oThongathi home to take her to Verulam.
“They were forcibly pushing me into their car. They hit me on the chest, pulled my hair and started shoving me in. I tried to keep my legs out of the car and started screaming for my uncle, who lived on the property, to help me.”
She said he arrived with her aunt and told the brothers to stop hitting her.
“My brothers told them not to get involved. My younger brother then punched me in the left eye and pushed me into the car.”
She said when she got to her father's home in Verulam, her younger brother confiscated her cellphones.
“Whatever money I had in my bank account was withdrawn. My younger brother kept shoving me around and using vulgar words on me. This went on at different times during the month of September. My father knew what was happening but did not do anything.”
The woman said she could not take the abuse and sought help from her neighbours.
“One day when I was alone, I went to two neighbours for help. One did not want to help and the other decided to talk to my father about the abuse.”
She said when her younger brother found out she had asked for help, he became angry.
“He told me I was disgracing the family name and I was a bad person.”
She claimed that in October, the same brother threatened to shock her with a taser when her mother told him she had previously gone to the gym with her boyfriend.
“He told me if I made one more mistake he would hurt me very badly. He said his hand was itching to hit me.”
The woman said in November she asked her father if she could stay with her mother and he told her to ask her brothers for permission.
“My brothers wanted to know why I wanted to leave and I told them I was big enough to make my own decisions. My older brother punched me in the face. My father didn’t do anything. He told me I needed to be disciplined.”
She said at some point they changed their minds and she was allowed to go to her mother.
“I knew I had to get help. On November 25, I was at home with my uncle. I told him I needed to do my eyebrows, so he allowed me to leave. I took a taxi to Tongaat and with the help of a security company, I reported the matter to the police. I was then taken to a safe house.”
She claimed that throughout her life she was not allowed to have friends, she could not cut her hair or get her nails done without seeking permission from her brothers.
“What hurts the most is that my father is a police officer. He took an oath to protect people but he allowed me to suffer. I am living in fear and scared, but I want my story to be one of hope to other girls in this situation.”
Cookie Edwards, director of the KZN Network on Violence Against Women, said the woman was an adult and could make her own decisions.
“Her family are treating her like she is underage. If they have a problem, they should sit down and talk to her.”
Edwards said it seemed she was being treated like a criminal.
“Her father being a police officer should know better. He is supposed to be her protector but he became her oppressor.”
Pamela Padayachee, social activist and founder of WomanPACT, an advocacy group for women’s rights and child protection, said while shocking, it was not unusual to hear of such cases.
“If you look at the stats throughout the country, these kinds of cases are a demonstration of what is happening at a very basic grass-roots level.
“I think her suppression and oppression are also very demonstrative of the sort of roles we still assign to males and females and that is something we need to discuss. That at the age of 21, you can still be perceived to be bringing shame to your family and therefore need to be ‘disciplined’ for something as simple as having a boyfriend.
“These are deeper conversations we must have as a people, and look at how we interact with our world.
“Secondly, we fail to come together as a community to rally support when it’s needed. When this young woman asked for help, instead of doing what was responsible in that situation and opening up a door for her to get her to a police station or a place of safety, the neighbours still felt it necessary to go to her father, knowing full well what the ramifications would be.
“So even as a community in 2023, we are not open enough to have the necessary conversations, and beyond that, offer the necessary support to survivors and victims of GBV,” said Padayachee.
“But at the same time we must commend the work of the police and their swift action in this matter. There was some sort of help that this young woman was able to get. She was able to verbalise her story, get it out there and draw awareness, and this is possible because of the action of the police in this matter.
“Many times when police are not as efficient, we complain, but I think when they are doing things correctly, they must be commended.”
Colonel Robert Netshiunda, a provincial police spokesperson, said police were investigating a case of kidnapping and assault.
African News Agency