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New Year’s Day 2018 dawned with traditional hope. “Within hours it turned into a day of horror, fear and excruciating pain caused by the abuse my husband inflicted on me. It also marked the end of my four-year marriage.” So said Anette* (40), relating how she came to be at Beth Shan, a Salvation Army home for abused women.
The drinking and abuse started two years after their wedding. The more he drank, the more vicious he became. On that New Year’s day he objected to Anette having offered to help a friend move.
“While hitting and punching me, he threatened to kick me out of the house – which he then did. Battered and scared l had no idea what to do, where to go.”
A few days later Anette returned to ask for a divorce. He beat her again. She subsequently got a Court Protection Order which he broke several times. Ultimately through Legal Aid she got a divorce. Now, feeling alone and unsafe, she was also deeply depressed. “I had to leave Pietermaritzburg, start somewhere fresh and safe. But where?” I heard about Beth Shan, a safe shelter in Pretoria.
With tear-streaked cheeks, Anette stressed how grateful she was to be here. How friendly, kind and caring the Administrator Major Moya Hay is. How welcoming her gift parcel was that included her own Bible and a Teddy Bear to hug for comfort!
“Here the pressure’s off, there’s time to heal, to think of my future. I have a passion for stitch work and knitting. The skills I have can earn me a living. Beth Shan is a place of healing. In the short time I’ve been here, I already have an extraordinary sense of peace.”
Hope*. Shelters would not take her in with a child. Sleeping on the streets and in parks was not safe.
One morning, sitting on a street corner, crying, a lady approached and suggested she go to a police station for possible help. After making a few calls, the police officer told Joyce he’d found a place for her to stay – Beth Shan.
Mom and baby arrived, exhausted, hungry, dirty and with just the clothes on their backs. She also recalls how warm and welcoming Major Hay was. She was overwhelmed to receive a gift of a towel, toiletries and fresh clothes.
“I learnt so much at Beth Shan,” commented Joyce. “How to do decoupage, bead work, and mosaic. I was even their first student to attain a certificate for computer skills. I learnt to pray and read my Bible, believe in miracles. To have discipline and order. Today I get through tough situations. I trust again. And forgive. I was part of a family and experienced kindness, caring, love and trust.”
Six years ago, Joyce*, a young Zimbabwean, arrived in South Africa to look for work. Sadly, Joyce, then 24, got into an abusive relationship that ended, after two years of hell, with her homeless and an eight-month-old baby. After seven months Joyce felt ready to leave Beth Shan. She got a good job at a boutique hotel and affordable accommodation. “I am so grateful for my stay at Beth Shan and keep in touch to encourage the ladies to have faith.”
Now we come to an affectionate loving mother who was destroyed when her partner brought home a new young pregnant girlfriend. Margie* had been constantly beaten by this man from the time of their babys birth and he had now turned them out. She needed to find a home for her and her precious little treasure. Penniless and without hope she was guided to Beth Shan.
Immediately she found herself and her baby accepted and loved in this home for abused and trafficked women. She knew that her bruises on her skin would heal but what about the internal damage, the emotional hurt would it ever truly go away? Here women and children are promised anonymity and protection, care and understanding.
“We are not about accommodation, we’re about restoration,” said Major Moya. “We’re all about empowerment – they’re ready to leave when they are feeling that they have the strength of God within them.” It is here that they come to find temporary shelter: women and child victims of domestic violence and cruelty, rape survivors, women who’ve been evicted from their homes or who live in fear in parks, and some who’ve escaped from a situation of human trafficking.
These are just some of the hundreds of abused and trafficked women who have been rescued at Beth Shan from the abuse for which males in South Africa are notorious. These women today fly the flag of The Salvation Army for the Christian love and understanding they have been blessed to welcome into their hearts.
* Please note: all the names in these stories have been changed to protect identities.