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Victims of unspeakable crimes find new life in Beth Shan

There is no worse crime than gender-based violence and human trafficking. The Salvation Army is shouldering responsibility of rebuilding lives at our facility at Beth Shan in Pretoria. The stories are so horrific it even takes guts to read them. The victims, especially of domestic abuse, come to us broken, dehumanised and their fight back to any sense of normality is long and a massive struggle.

We’re bringing you the histories of two women whose stories go beyond belief. For obvious reasons their names have been changed.

The first is Tandi* who living a normal happy life, was studying for a degree and lovingly nurturing a four-month old baby. She had communicated via Facebook with someone for some months before agreeing to meet. Unfortunately, through some flimsy reasoning, he got her to agree to meet in a park. She was drugged, locked in a shack and used for sex by him and his friends. She was beaten mercilessly. She screamed in vain for help.

When he let her out to buy basic food he watched her like a jailer. One day, after 18 months, she had a larger list than usual and grabbed the opportunity to flee. She was desperate to see her baby whom she had been torn away from, but her family rejected her, and she arrived at Beth Shan. At Beth Shan we started a reconciliation programme to reunite with her family. Breaking down the barriers between her and her baby thrilled her to the core. We were also able to facilitate her academic aspirations so she could finish her degree.

But for the grace of God…

It is a minor miracle that 50 year old Lesley Eel* survived unspeakable horrors of violence. She is our second victim who is speaking out against this ultimate crime against humanity.

Lesley’s life was vicious from a very early age, having had a dysfunctional family and suffered abuse which is what presumably led her to a drug dependency. She recognised the problem and admitted herself to a clinic where she stayed for 24 days, the clinic workers realised the vast problem, stating that they had opened a can of worms which they could not close. She left the clinic and struggled on for about three years. Her father’s death in 2013 shook her as she felt totally abandoned. A year later she met a man whom, understandably, she gravitated towards as a new source of stability.

Unfortunately, he was a conman who misled her and stripped her of everything she owned, even her dignity, and he instilled mortal fear into her so she was incapable of defending herself in any way. Having three children was a blessing, yet conversely added to the tragedy of her life. This man moved them around from one place to another – homes, towns, provinces.

Somehow the children managed to escape, but she was mentally strangled so she couldn’t get away. He had previously threatened to kill her and the children if anyone tried to break free.

Eventually she escaped (from Zambia), and unbelievably her sister accepted R40 000 from the abuser to send her back to him. As fate would have it, they returned to South Africa and he was arrested for not paying the hotel bill.

This removed him from her life, but with nowhere to go, with friendships destroyed, and her relationship with her sister intolerable she decided to end her life. She walked into the ocean and as God would have it, a young Indian man, who happened to be a Christian, sensed her dark thoughts and persuaded her to come out and go home. On her own, she had the revelation that she only had God to turn to. Lesley called The Way church for help and made her way to Beth Shan.

Major Moya Hay greeted her with a warmth that made her feel safe and protected. A medical check-up arranged by Beth Shan revealed a fractured skull caused by the numerous beatings. There were also numerous other injuries. While those physical manifestations of the trauma she underwent will heal, she doubts that the emotional damage ever will.

A big thank you

Lesley has this to say about her experience at Beth Shan.

“I cannot express how much I have been given at Beth Shan and The Salvation Army Pretoria Corps. Major Moya Hay has been particularly instrumental in my new life, she has shown me love, compassion and support and just how valuable humility can be. Her constant faith and belief in the better way has been so uplifting. This has become a real home where I feel safe and loved and cared for, and had structure put back in my life.

“There are so many of us who have had similar life-shaking experiences, but we don’t always talk about them. We have an instinctive understanding of what each of us has been through.

“I must mention Anita who runs the art section as she has helped rekindle my passion for artwork and helped me to trust again.”

Great plans ahead

The centre currently can take up to 17 women – either single or mothers and children up to 12 years. Major Moya is establishing a weekend Help Desk at the Pretoria Corps (church). We teach basic skills such as typing and crafts that can enable them to sell items they make themselves and so help towards their self-sufficiency.

As they say “if you give a man a fish, you have fed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish, you have fed him for a lifetime.”