As a survivor of abuse, mother of three, Pontsho Serumula from Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, speaks about the pain she endured for 10 years at the hands of her husband.

“He promised me undying love but over the years his jealousy turned into abuse, and one day he poured acid over my face and I sustained third degree and 55 per cent burns over my upper body,” she says. 

SIGNS OF ABUSE

Pontsho says she was the happiest woman alive when after two years of dating her then boyfriend, he asked for her hand in marriage. “Everything seemed to be falling into place. We bought our first house, car and a few months after getting married we discovered that I was pregnant,” she says.

Pontsho says the signs of abuse were always there but he always justified them as being protective and wanting the best for his family. “He didn’t allow me to work, insisting to be the sole provider for the family. After we got married, we agreed that I would further my studies towards a qualification in teaching. But whenever I brought up the subject, he would say I should wait until the baby was old enough,” she says.

 “I was not allowed to go shopping alone but to wait for him to take me when he was off work. He chose clothes and hairstyles for me.” Pontsho says she was slowly losing herself because of the constant emotional abuse.

TOUGH TIMES

Pontsho says in 2008, when the country was going through a recession and the company her husband was working for started going through financial constraints, things became tough for them. “They started cutting on the hours they were working and this meant less pay for my husband,” she says. “It got to a point where we were forced to sell our house in the suburbs and moved back to the township.” Her husband started drinking and partying with friends and the abuse turned for the worst. One day he beat her up after she confronted him about an alleged girlfriend while they were visiting his parents in Limpopo for the festive season.

“When I tried to get intervention from his parents, he bit my tongue. His parents said I should stop provoking him,” she says. “When we got back to Thokoza, he drove me to a police station where I opened a case of abuse against him. We were forced to undergo victim empowerment counselling but after three months he told me that we should stop going there.” 

SIGNS OF ABUSE

Pontsho says she was the happiest woman alive when after two years of dating her then boyfriend, he asked for her hand in marriage.

“Everything seemed to be falling into place. We bought our first house, car and a few months after getting married we discovered that I was pregnant,” she says. Pontsho says the signs of abuse were always there but he always justified them as being protective and wanting the best for his family. “He didn’t allow me to work, insisting to be the sole provider for the family. After we got married, we agreed that I would further my studies towards a qualification in teaching. But whenever I brought up the subject, he would say I should wait until the baby was old enough,” she says.

“I was not allowed to go shopping alone but to wait for him to take me when he was off work. He chose clothes and hairstyles for me.” Pontsho says she was slowly losing herself because of the constant emotional abuse.

TOUGH TIMES

Pontsho says in 2008, when the c ountry was going through a recession and the company her husband was working for started going through financial constraints, things became tough for them. “They started cutting on the hours they were working and this meant less pay for my husband,” she says. “It got to a point where we were forced to sell our house in the suburbs and moved back to the township.”

Her husband started drinking and partying with friends and the abuse turned for the worst. One day he beat her up after she confronted him about an alleged girlfriend while they were visiting his parents in Limpopo for the festive season. “When I tried to get intervention from his parents, he bit my tongue. His parents said I should stop provoking him,” she says. “When we got back to Thokoza, he drove me to a police station where I opened a case of abuse against him. We were forced to undergo victim empowerment counselling but after three months he told me that we should stop going there.” 

OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN

Pontsho says she decided to find something to keep herself busy to distract her attention from her worries at her home. “When I brought up the chance to go back to school, he told me that his parents advised him against it because a woman’s place is in the kitchen,” she says. “I got an opportunity to learn how to use a computer and get office administration skills through a community project sponsored by the government.”

 She says when her husband realised that she was empowering herself, he decided to start a small family business selling lunch box packages but it was short-lived because he was not happy that they had mostly male customers. Pontsho says things got even worse when they started fighting over everything and this gave him the opportunity to leave home for days which turned to weeks and later months. “I was able to find a job in the same company he was working for but in a different department because he had stopped taking care of us. He had moved in with his new girlfriend,” she says.

 “Whenever I tried to speak out against his behaviour, he would say he took care of me when I was unemployed and then he would beat me up to a pulp and later apologise.”

ACTING STRANGELY

 Pontsho says since her husband had become a visitor in their home, they would barely ever see each other. “We worked different shifts and this made it easy to avoid seeing him whenever he decided to come to the house. One morning in 2013, he stopped by the house when he was supposed to be at work. I was surprised by this,” she says.

“He was acting strangely as if he had a lot on his mind. I was unsettled by his behaviour that I decided to start preparing for my evening shift. He walked into the kitchen where I was ironing my work uniform and asked me why I was preparing for work that early.” But she decided to ignore him. “I calculated the distance between me and the door in case he tried to hit me. He was holding a container in his hand and before I knew it, he threw the contents over my face and body,” she says. “I felt a burning feeling and ran to my neighbour’s home calling for help. I was rushed to hospital and it was discovered that I was covered in acid.”

 LOVELESS RELATIONSHIP

She sustained third degree and 55 per cent burns and had to be hospitalised for two years. Pontsho says the signs of abuse were always there but as a victim of abuse, she chose to live in a bubble and overlooked them to meet societal expectations of being a good wife.

 “My husband told me that we will only separate through death and that he didn’t marry me to end-up divorcing me. But I always laughed it off even though I feared for my life. I thought of leaving but I always used my children as an excuse not to,” she says. “I didn’t want to be judged by society as a failure and decided to brave the loveless relationship, hoping things will be better. I wish I had the courage to leave when I still had the chance.”