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March 29, 2016

Just Read || The Unspoken Journey of Life by Lerato Nthati Dorah Tsamai

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'The Unspoken Journey of Life' is the heartbreaking autobiography of one woman's struggle with an abusive husband and an unsupportive community.

Ms Tsamai courageously documents the terrible situation she found herself in after falling in love, failing to acknowledge the signs, and remaining in a relationship fraught with danger. Her unflinching faith and trust in God is what she says aided her in her trial.

Her novel can serve as a legacy for women like herself who believe in the power of love, acceptance, and change but remain stuck on the undeserving end of abuse, unable to leave because of devotion or fear or both.

It is also a must-read for those who blame the women for staying with abusive men - Ms Tsamai uncovers her thought processes as she finds herself on conflicting ends of the scale: stay and face the torrent of abuse and believe in change or leave and face the ridicule of her family, his family, and the community.

It is also a diatribe against those who support abusive partners in relationships: her husband's family and most of her friends and community members did nothing to end her pain and showed no support for her as she struggled against the forces of abuse and love.

'The Unspoken Journey of Life' is a reminder that so many partners suffer in abusive relationships with the feeling that they have no one to turn to and the misdirected shame that comes with a failed marriage.

It is disheartening to experience Tsamai's life with her and realise that much has not changed for women in South Africa. Her story begins at around 1957 when she meets her husband - that's around 50 years ago. Domestic abuse is thought to be one of the most prolific crimes in the country. According to a Mail & Guardian article:
A study conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2013 found that 50% of the South African women surveyed reported that they had suffered emotional and verbal abuse. Fifty percent. Let that number sink in. That means one in two women suffer a form of abuse in this country – and it continues to be swept under the rug
That's a massive number of victims. The scariest is that it's unlikely that many women will report their abuse because of the stigma associated with it, as well as the fear that their harrasser will escalate the violence. GenderLinks reported:
A 2010 review conducted by Gender Links and the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) titled The War at Home provides a detailed analysis of how GBV can be measured. In this paper, GBV includes physical, sexual, psychological and economic intimate partner violence; rape and sexual assault by a partner, acquaintance or family member; and sexual harassment at school or work. The research further notes that in the period 2008-2009, 15 307 cases of domestic violence were opened in Gauteng and 12 093 cases involved a female victim. 
The same study involved a province-wide household survey. It revealed that 18.1% of women had been abused at least once in the 12 months preceding the survey, while 29% of men had abused their partner in a similar time period. This shows that routine data collected at local police station level is just the tip of the iceberg. Although 25.4% of women experienced rape at least once in their lifetime, only 3.9% had reported it to the police. Just 2.1% of women raped by an intimate partner reported the incident to police. Women that experienced sexual or physical abuse in their relationship were more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, test positive for HIV, suffer from depression or consider suicide.
It cannot be denied that many women and men suffer at the hands of an abuser - but why can nothing be done to stop it? Is it the unending effects of patriarchy? Is it our increasingly lonely and left alone children? Is it the culture of violence from the West? What do you think?

Further Reading:
How to Legally Protect Yourself Against Domestic Abuse
A Guide to Family Law: Domestic Violence and Abuse
South Africa's 2014/2015 Assault and Sexual Crime Statistics
Gender Violence Must be Included in Crime Stats