‘Danger’ lurks in the bottle neck

“Many days I thought I would die. It became so bad that I can barely remember what happened the day before, because I would be unconscious. My black eye is the only constant reminder. Alcohol is going to kill me, but I am too afraid to leave.”

The mother from Lentegeur has opened several cases at her local police station, only to withdraw them come Monday, she admits­.

For fear of sparking a more serious attack, she has spoken to People’s Post on condition of anonymity.

“I look after our children and I am at home all day. I don’t have a job and if I leave, where will I go? No one knows about this, except the people I have spoken to. I am embarrassed because sometimes it is my fault.”

This woman, like many others, has suffered in silence at the hands of a drunk husband, claims Strandfontein Community Policing Forum chairperson Sandy Schuter.

Schuter has worked with domestic violence cases in the area for the past few years.

“Domestic Violence in Strandfontein is a big problem,” says Schuter.

“It is not only happening in the informal settlement. People think alcoholism and domestic violence only happen there. In the entire community of Strandfontein and Bayview, we find partners abusing alcohol. With that the verbal abuse starts which provokes the physical abuse.”

While they have cases reported at the station throughout the week, Schuter says there is a considerable spike in the number of cases reported over the weekends.

This was confirmed by local police.

“We monitor the pay weekends closely. These are the weekend of the 15th and the weekend at the end of the month,” Schuter says.

“While we can’t give specific statistics, there can be as many as 30 cases reported in one weekend.”

She continues that these cases are specifically linked to alcohol abuse as many a time the complainant is also drunk.

She referred to a recent rape incident in the area where the abuser was found under the influence.

“We have cases of domestic violence not linked to alcohol, but alcohol related domestic violence is a huge problem in the area. We cannot blame it on the number of liquor stores in Strandfontein. The person buying it is at fault,” she says.

“We have cases where women are beaten to the point where emergency services need to be called. We sometimes find drunk women, who drink with their husbands, running to the station. We cannot take a statement from a drunk person.

“Women are abusers as well. We have a very well supported group of men who have spoken out about abuse. Often women turn the story around but we find women are not the only victims,” says Schuter.

“We find men coming in who’s wives abuse alcohol. Our awareness from now on will be about domestic violence against men.”

Her reason for initiating this is in the hope that the stigma against male victims be broken, encouraging them to speak out against domestic violence.

Joanie Fredericks, a Tafelsig community worker and founder of the Mitchell’s Plain Impact Association confirms many men are speaking out but agrees the stigma holds many back from coming forward.

She adds that overall, alcoholism is a major contributing factor to the hopelessness some men and women experience in the greater community of Mitchell’s Plain.

While pay day is one contributing factor to the increase in alcohol consumption, other stressers include unemployment, lack of housing and the constant state of trauma, says Fredericks.

Fredericks grew up on the farms in Grabouw and was a victim of rape and domestic violence linked to alcohol misuse as a child. She adds that working in the community today, she sees very similar patterns in social behaviour.

“As a child I would see my father be a mild and meek man in the week and turn into a monster at the weekend. I needed to understand why and I realised they were abused by their bosses. It was a pride thing. I see that today as well. People are hopeless and oppressed. That leads them to alcohol,” she says. “When they are drunk, they manifest their masculinity through domestic violence.”

She adds that while there is strong evidence indicating the link between the increase in aggression and the consumption of alcohol, it cannot be blamed entirely.

“The same man who is drunk and willing to help someone on the street can come in and beat his wife to a pulp. The saying is true that says a drunk man speaks a sober mind,” she says.

Schuter encourages both men and women to make cases and stick to them.

“An interdict is for your protection and it doesn’t need to be an end to your marriage. You can work through it and still live a happy life,” she says.

Recognising the need for intervention, the Strandfontein Police Station has ensured services to each and every person reporting domestic violence is handled in a dignified and sensitive manner, says Schuter.

Help is at hand for victims and addicts.

If you, or someone you love is suffering from Alcoholism visit www.aasouthafrica.org.za.
If you are a victim of domestic violence visit or call your nearest police station.
Also visit www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/social-development.