Breaking the Silence: Journeys to Recovery

Breaking the Silence: Journeys to Recovery

by POWA Women's Writing Competition 2008

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Including poems, short stories, and personal essays, this collection—culled from a successful contest now in its fourth year—honors the perspective of South African girls and women who have been the victims of abuse. Based on the idea that creative writing aids the healing process, these selections describe the struggle to survive, the difficulty of reconciling past and present lives, and the enduring nature of the human spirit. Told from a survivor's perspective, the tales paint a textured emotional picture of the highs and lows as victims struggle to put themselves together again, battle to find their center, and reclaim their place in the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781920196745
Publisher: Jacana Media
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Series: Breaking the Silence
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 136
File size: 796 KB

About the Author

POWA Women's Writing Competition is sponsored by People Opposing Women Abuse, a nongovernmental organization that researches gender-based violence in Africa.

Read an Excerpt

Breaking the Silence

Journey to Recovery

By Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd

Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd

Copyright © 2009 POWA
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-920196-74-5


        1st prize


        by Elizabeth Magakoa

    Go rilwe ke a ratwa,
    Mme ka mimiela,
    Ka bitšwa ka Mmamoratwa,
    Bothata bja tšwa ka kgoro,
    Ke nna Mmamotšatši.

    Mmaloo .....!
    Le le lešweu ke le apere,
    Dipholo tša wa ka lefase,
    Melodi le mekgolokwane tša kedietšwa,
    Ka tšwešwa ntepa le thito.

    Aaa .....!
    Moya wa lethabo,
    Bohle ba be bathabile,
    Go thabile le mongmabu,
    Mabu a tlala ka monola wa megokgo.

    Matlaba a nkaparetse,
    Matlaba ke ge ke sa bone,
    Yeo ke nyetsego le yena.
    Bo?ego le mosegare,
    Go yena go no itshwanela.

        Motsotso ka motsotso o dula a kitima.

    Naa ke tla leka bjang?
    Maleka ga se makgona,
    Go kgona ke ge nka leka,
    Ke wa ke tsoga,
    Etse mosadi ke maano.

    O šetše a fetogile lefela,
    Ke no dula ke le lefela,
    Ke aparetšwe ke bohlologadi,
    Dikobo tša gona ke tše ditšhweu,
    Ke nna "uzilile"

    Diporogwana di tsena di e tšwa,
    Go botšiša ke a botšiša,
    Ke fetolwa ke legoswi,
    Bobete bo ikalele lepai,
    Naa ke bolai mang?

    Se sola ke ya sola,
    Empa diruiwa di šetše di ena le mogopo ka gaka,
    Naa waka monna o bitšwa ke eng?
    Motsotso ka motsotso o dula a kitima.
    Ruu ... ri! Nakana mosadi wa nkhakhara.

    Maropeng go a boelwa,
    Matswele a Mmathari ga ana hloya.
    Bofiega nkatoge,
    Lesedi ntlhahle ditsela,
    "Nkabe ke ngwana morago".

        Diporogwana di tsena
        di e t?wa

    2nd prize

    The Noose

        by Leah Gharbaharan

    Because he looked at me with love;
    Possession and adrenaline entwined.
    Because he said the pain was a trophy
    Like i was his.

    Because when he looked at me;
    His eyes were my addiction.
    The fix that gave me reason to live
    As i died in his gaze.

    i cherished the smear he placed
    On my life.
    On my skin.
    On my mind.

    Because i thought the death he gave me
    Was worth more than the life i owned
    The blinding halo he wore became
    My tightening noose.

        And she smiled.

        His eyes were my addiction.

    And i choked on my own fragility;
    The shattered crystal
    Refusing to see the resolute fragments
    Of who i am.

    Because one day she spoke to me;
    Told me to destroy my puppet life.
    And i did.
    I ran.

    And she smiled.
    Through the scarred remains of her face
    She smiled.
    Smiled even as I shattered the mirror.

    Because the hostage died that night
    And she lived again.
    Because she emerged from the ruins
    I live again.

3rd prize

Harass'n' my Ass

by Duduetsang Makuse

You holler at me as though I was some hoe
I can't stroll through this street
I can't cut past this corner
You insult me with your declarations of a vain affection
Wooing me with woe
You've never known treasure so you chase after a fraudulent figment
of pleasure
Slippin' a slimy "sweety" in my ear
Placin' a bad breathed "baby" on my butt
Ogling me with your fingers while you fondle me with your eyes ...
You grab me with your claws in an attempt to caress my skin
You desire my death, the death of my soul ...

The deranged, darkening soul's peerin' at me through your eye holes
Tellin' me that I should be afraid ...
That I should fear this power-hungry shell that is emptiness
Emptiness that is you,

Ogling me with your
fingers while you fondle
me with your eyes ...

You wish to turn your hollers into my horror.
What is this holocaust of harassment?
Demeaning the bloody sweat of those who laboured for this freedom
The same freedom you tried to rob me of when you tried to
invade my body
You want to imprison me in a dungeon of violation
Of Violence born of Lust:
This is a perverse pus that festers in the pants of many a
so-called "Man"

My ass!
My face, My waist, My thighs – Mine
My smile, My heart, My mind – Mine
My joy, My affection, My strength – Mine
Mine, mine, all mine.
This self that is only be shared at my discretion
How DARE you harass my ass!

    Best Youth Enty

    Promised Land

        by Nolonwabo Moyakhe

    My weathered soul and calloused feet give
    testimony of my long journey.
    I have walked the barren terrain of my heart
    and i have stumbled and fell.

    Oblivious to the rough and sharp earth
    I continued my unknown path.
    Every laboured step delivered me further from his
    wet tongue and probing fingers.

    Even as the desert vultures mocked my
    feeble attempt at self-discovery,
    I vowed never to look back.
    My layers were beginning to shed
    and i vowed never to look back.

          After silent cries and internal struggles,

    After silent cries and internal struggles,
    I, the solitary traveller, forgave myself.
    The hope that comes with every dawning
    day nourished me,
    As rain fell upon my drought-stricken roots.
    My path became clearer.
    I found direction.

    I'm no longer running away from his
    spineless shadow.
    I'm taking back all that is rightfully mine.
    I'm taking long strides until i reach my
    final destination.
    My promised land.

            I, the solitary traveller, forgave myself.

    Letting Go

            by Keamogetswe Mooketsi

    I'm finally letting go
    Letting go of situations that do not benefit me
    Letting go of circumstances that do not befit a Christian woman
    I'm learning to embrace the free spirited creative woman I am
    Letting go of all the hurt, pain and resentment
    The anger, frustrations and a sense of loss
    I embrace that I have risen above the dilemmas that have paralysed me
    in the past
    I'm letting go of wanting to make others see I'm worthy and wanting
    to show how much I care
    Wanting to explain myself or justifying my actions

    Rather, I sing, I laugh and dance
    I listen to my inner thoughts and respect my own opinion
    I'm letting go of those who don't deserve or appreciate me
    Yearning to be loved so much, that it's on terms that don't satisfy
    my being

       I'm learning to embrace the free spirited creative woman I am

    Thirsting for attention so much, that I quench it with bitter words and
    twisted lies
    I'm learning to embrace my body, finely crafted and polished like a
    wooden statue
    I'm learning to hold on to the hope and to never lose faith that gold,
    just like royalty, should be treated differently
    I'm letting go of suffocating in tiny, cluttered living spaces
    and hearts with no room to explore the free aero spaces of love
    instead, I look at the windows of my heart with delight
    I'm letting go of allowing my wild imagination be shattered into tiny
    particles, because of the sad realities of my experiences
    I'm learning to speak with tact and say more than thoughts, but what
    I feel
    To show compassion to this masterpiece that carries my vitality
    I'm learning to grow, but mostly I'm growing more into me

    Behind the Walls

          by Lebogang Moutlane

          (For Tracy Chapman)

    Re basotho everyday our parents say ditaba tsa lapa di tshwanet?e go
    sala ga lapeng
    Never interfere with other family affairs
    Tlogela, tlogela, tlogela, ngwanaka
    Turn a blind eye, they said.

    She's his punching bag with new colour-changing bruises
    Her pain rapidly oozes to my soul
    Her strides are disturbingly inaccurate; you'd say she was a drunk
    The most I can do is imagine her acrimonious aches
    I comfort myself as I whisper to her in my dreams that I'm a
    conservative person
    I am indoctrinated to turn a blind eye
    Because not so long ago we had no rights
    Let alone were we taught to spell the simple yet complex word
    Tlogela, tlogela, tlogela, ngwanaka
    Turn a blind eye, they said.

          Ilogela, tlogela,
          tlogela, ngwanaka
        Turn a blind eye, they said.

    "Dumelang," I wave at her and trying so desperately hard I carry an
    ear-to-ear smile to ease her pain
    Swiftly she returns my greetings as she rushes to the house
    She's embarrassed
    She knows that I know but they said
    Tlogela, tlogela, tlogela ngwanaka

    A man is the head of his family no matter what
    Never knowing that no matter what was a very long sentence maybe
    even an essay
    But tlogela, tlogela, tlogela ngwanaka

    I see the burden on the children's faces as they enter the house
    The mother's agony knows no hesitation as it races from her heart to
    her face
    We can all see and read it
    Even the blind and illiterate
    She too rushes to the house
    It is 4 o'clock

      My heart begs my hand to stretch but my culture pleads otherwise

    According to "law's nature" she should be barefoot and in the kitchen
    My heart begs my hand to stretch but my culture pleads otherwise
    It really hurts to be trapped in a free country
    The children sprint out the house crying for help but they said
    Tlogela, tlogela, tlogela ngwanaka
    Tseo ke ditaba tsa batho!

    Koko makes it her priority to summon me to the house
    She too wants to help but she won't; she can't
    We're conservative people and no one taught us how to spell the word
    Tlogela, tlogela, tlogela ngwanaka.

Unfathomed Love

by Nerine Schilder

I cannot fathom why it is that you would hurt me so
I cannot fathom why it is you never came to know
The woman who I really am from deep within my soul
With visions, dreams and withheld goals
And sacrificial love.

I cannot fathom why it is you treat me like you do
I cannot fathom how you think or lie without a blink
While all I gave was love, love, love
In every way I could.

I cannot fathom underneath our soft unblotted sheets
Entwining bodies, making love
While playing with our feet.

I cannot fathom why it is your past you can't let go
So you could have a changing chance
For me to better know
But most of all I cannot fathom
Your love you couldn't show.


1st prize

My Healer in Thee

by Boitumelo Lekalakala

Never did I think that the one person that I had dedicated my life to, for happy days and sad ones, would ever lay his hands on me. Only, I thought, he would do so to caress me and keep me safe, warm and loved. But no, his intentions were to bruise me, hurt and devalue my being and for long he did succeed. I got beaten up almost every day of my life for small, stupid and selfish reasons. Reasons that even a ten year old would not dare to believe. But because he was the provider and so, I thought, I would never succeed without Thabo, I stayed there for years. I remember that one day when he came back from work he beat me up so badly with the suitcase he was carrying that my entire body felt numb. For what? Because he had to knock twice instead of once before I could open the door.

Immediately after that he told me that he was coming back and that I should prepare a meal for him. I was so badly hurt, I was wondering why I let a five-lettered-named man overpower me. I mean, I am Cynthia, I have seven letters to my name, which is two more than him. "The things I said to empower myself". Anyway, that made me tick because I knew that seven is a very powerful number and of great importance. On the seventh day God rested after creating his masterpieces, and so forth. These things are things that I used to tell myself. One might think they are stupid but they are the ones that slowly but surely boosted the little bit of confidence I had.

The moment I took out the pots a silly thought came to my mind, but it made me aware that I also had my own sort of power. So I decided to follow it. I went to the bathroom, opened the toilet seat and drew water from the toilet. It went straight into the pots. Then I started cooking with joy in my heart plus a feeling of power. My intentions were never to harm Thabo's health or anything; I just felt that I also had power. I was not feeling any numbness anymore, but power, just power. I cooked like I'd never cooked before. I made a salad that just popped in my mind. I fried the chicken and spiced it like I had never spiced it before. The vegetables, mmm, were such a pleasure to the eye. I'm sure the neighbours could hear and smell what I was cooking and probably thought that Thabo and I had fixed things. Then he came back, with such pride. I took out a loaf of bread, sliced and buttered it and made a cup of tea. I dished up for him and I ate the bread while he ate the delicious meal cooked by his wife. Observing that I was having bread instead, he said, "That is how real women live, with bread and tea and their husbands with meat, I guess you are not so dumb after all". I smiled, knowing exactly how that meal was prepared and the power that I had in my hands.

I continued cooking for him every day in the very same manner, going to the bathroom, opening the toilet seat and drawing water from there to cook. I actually started enjoying cooking and, for the mere fact that I was preparing delicious meals around that time, I got fewer beatings. But the point is that they were still there. That Sunday, I felt like going to church and it was no surprise that Thabo wanted to walk me to the gate, "So that I would not look at other men". At the gate seeing the priest, Father Mthethwa, passing by, Thabo greeted him, "Yes, small boy". And the priest just greeted him back appropriately and continued walking. I sang like I had never sang before on that Sunday. It was probably because of the little power I felt around that time. For some reason, that very same day they wanted volunteers to cook for the next Friday's meeting, and so forth. I laughed to myself, thinking of how I prepared meals back at my house and how someone enjoys them dearly. I decided to join, "since I had become a good cook these days" and was enjoying it. I actually went home fulfilled that day.

The week commenced like it usually did, with me getting my punishment every now and then.

After church, I went straight home because I did not want Father Mthethwa to ask me anything about the way Thabo had greeted him. Arriving home I knew what I had to do. Cook. Amazingly, it felt so wrong for me to draw water from the toilet. The thought felt disturbing. I cooked but with clean water and although that meant that I was letting go of my power over Thabo I still felt good about cooking. So this time I dished up for both of us as the food was clean. But I got a beating for I forgot that my meal was bread and tea. The week commenced like it usually did, with me getting my punishment every now and then. We cooked on Friday, when Father Mthethwa gave us a proposal. He was given a catering tender and was looking to hire individuals who were not working to be in charge. I joined, which meant that I was now employed. Arriving home I told Thabo and got a beating for that.

The next morning I had to ask for money from my husband so that I could take a taxi to our catering venue. He kicked, slapped and punched me badly. I was crying and the more I cried the more he kicked. He told me that I should go and sleep with Father Mthethwa since he was making me ask for money from my husband in order to see him. He punched me like I was a punching bag, swore at me and left for work. I lay there crying and told myself that I did not need him, I could take myself there. I took my apron and walked, walked and walked. Luckily, one of the members of the church passed me on the way and helped me there. Everything went well but when I got home I found my bags waiting for me at the gate. I picked them up and went slowly with my heart in my hands to the house. When I opened the door I just heard "Foetsek! Go back to that Father of yours". I turned immediately, fearing for my life, took my bags and walked and walked and walked. I had no idea where I was going but kept on taking a break to relax a little. While I was relaxing I starting thinking about my life and started crying my heart out. I felt lost and hopeless. A young man passed by, recognised me from church and asked me what was wrong. He took me in his car to Father Mthethwa's home. I was not ready to talk but they gave me a back room to sleep in.

In the morning, Father asked me if I still wanted to join them in the catering project and I insisted "Yes". We arrived there and I behaved normally and enjoyed preparing the meals. Every day went by like this but every night I cried myself to sleep. I would wake up the next day and go and cook with the other women, and immediately when I got my hands on the pots I felt a sense of relief. Unaware, I was slowly opening up to the women I was working with, especially when I was chopping and peeling. At the end of the month, I had revealed all I had kept inside and was ready to succeed as the best cook ever. I was missing Thabo, but I took it one step at a time. But I thank him, because it was through him that I discovered that the pot is my best friend.

Unaware, I was slowly opening up to the women I was working with.


2nd prize

To Crush Without Breaking the Surface

by Becky Apteker

Just before the last suitcase was loaded into the car and the house was closed up and locked for the drive to the airport, my sister came outside to find me on the curb, where I waited outside our house. She sat down next to me in the shade of the jacaranda.

"This reminds me ..." she said.

I didn't answer her or look up. But I felt her old familiar presence. For a moment she was, once again, just my big sister. I remembered the game we played, sitting out here, on the grassy verge, outside our garden wall. We called it our Getaway Game. Sometimes when the house was unbearable, so full of the sound of our mother nagging and complaining at our dad, we'd come out here, just to get away.


Excerpted from Breaking the Silence by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd. Copyright © 2009 POWA. Excerpted by permission of Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Copyright Page,
Title Page,
The Noose,
Harass 'n' my Ass,
Promised Land,
Letting Go,
Behind the Walls,
Unfathomed Love,
Short Stories,
My Healer in Thee,
To Crush Without Breaking the Surface,
Pickled Cucumbers,
Patience No More,
Reflections of Self,
Yellow Elephants,
Pen as Proof,
Personal Essays,
Here, I am,
Going Out to Come Home,
A Long Road Back,
Why I Hate Yellow,
It's a Blessing to be a Woman,
The Journey to Recovery is Paved with Invaluable Lessons,
The Hall of Second Chances,
Other titles in this series,

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