All I want for Christmas is less beating
All I want for Christmas is less beating!
As we celebrate World Aids Day tomorrow, we continue our series on sexual abuse and highlight a victim who has contracted AIDS as a result of the abuse she suffered.
Abandoned at birth, raped too many times to recall, 23-year-old Stasha is a modern-day slave.
The mother of two, infected with HIV/AIDS, currently lives with a man twice her age, after spending several years in state care and foster homes.
Today, the 43-year-old man she lives with batters her every chance he gets. She has become so accustomed to being beaten, all
she wants for Christmas is "less beatings".
One of a number of young women enrolled in the Eve for Life programme, by age 15, Stasha had changed families four times. Her nightmare, she said, started when she went to live with her second foster-mother at age 10.
"I was treated like a slave by the family. I was physically, verbally and emotionally abused by my foster family and other relatives. I was hardly given the privilege to attend school. My main role was to take care of the housework and whatever else that needed to be done. I endured and tried to cope because I did not want to go back to state care," she said, adding that her foster-mother was very brutal.
By age 15, she was a victim of rape. She was sexually abused by a taxi driver on her way from school. Her rapist left her in an abandoned building.
"I suspect that is how I contracted HIV. When I got home, it was very late and my foster mother beat the hell out of me. I was too scared to talk to her about my experience; she would not believe me anyway."
Stasha said she ran away because she was tired of the abuse.
"I shared my ordeal with a friend, who encouraged me to leave and come to live with her," she said, however, while living with her friend, the situation became very uncomfortable "because her boyfriend moved in, and this was a one-room house".
Like a ball, she was passed on from one person to the next. Within a year of running away, she became a pawn for sexual favours and was sold freely to men who needed sex by a friend's mother.
Desperate and in need of stability, she took up an offer for shelter from her children's father, who was 37 at the time. Within days, she was raped by the man she trusted, and within a month, impregnated with her first child.
The life of being beaten started all over again.
If Stasha takes her children out and does not return home soon after, she is beaten by her children's father. If she goes to the store and does not return on time, she gets a beating and is accused of having an affair.
If she goes to the clinic and returns home 'late' - in his estimation - she is also beaten. In order to attend Eve for Life meetings, where she learns how to deal with her HIV status, she is subjected to a tongue-lashing and even more accusations of cheating.
"Most of the beatings I get, I receive in my head," she told Outlook.
When her children's father wants to be unkind, he has sex with her without a condom with the hope she will become reinfected. AIDS patients are susceptible to all sorts of diseases and are particularly vulnerable when they participate in sexual intercourse without protection.
Her children's father is very insecure, she says, and has gone as far as asking an Eve for Life counsellor if she would take her place in his bed while she was in attendance at one of their counselling sessions.
"The first time I called to get permission for her to attend a workshop, he told me some curse words that I had never heard in my life. He said I was to come replace her if I were taking her to the workshop," said the counsellor.
During the workshop, Stasha's babyfather called every 15 minutes, and if she didn't answer fast enough, his response would be, "You not answering the phone because you in a man's room".
According to the Eve for Life counsellor, Stasha is in need of some serious help.
"She doesn't have the financial help to move on with her children," the counsellor said.
In the past, Stasha has tried to find a job, but each time she starts working, her children's father calls the employer and threatens them.
"He is extremely violent and has served time in prison for cutting off the hands of another man," said Stasha, obviously scared of the man she has found herself locked into a relationship with.
According to Eve for Life, there is no crisis centre for women with children, and that is one of the reasons Stasha has not been moved from her current environment.
In the meantime, the 23-year-old said she doesn't want her six-year-old daughter to relive the vicious cycle she had for a life.
"Already, her father is calling her a whore, so she, too, is [getting] accustomed to being abused."
To say this is a woman who feels unloved and unwanted would be an understatement. She is, however, hopeful that life will get better.
*** Out of respect for to Stasha's privacy, we have not named the community where she was born or where she has lived. We have also not named the counsellor.