We live in a world that has set definitions for everything. However, the problem comes when the definitions overlap and overlapping definitions are problematic because confusion arises as to which description best fits you.
That is the problem I have with the definition of rape and abuse. How am I so sure I was raped or abused? This question was a big deal but never really an important question to consider; until others started asking me the question.
It started in 2016 when I was dating my first boyfriend ever. He was seven years older than I. He was a very traditional black man and I was a more liberal young woman. I did not know anything about dating but had my views about what kind of relationship would make me happy. I got something that came close but it was not exactly what I was looking for. I decided to settle and try harder to find the love I was looking for – even if it would kill me.
I always felt that there was nothing I could do right in the relationship. There were times he would not touch my face because of my hectic acne; he would insult my dark skin and remind me that at least he can actually love me. I was told to go to the gym and I was not allowed to eat equal portions of food as him. I starved myself. I bleached my skin. I wore pounds of makeup to cover my acne just to be told that he would not walk around in public with me; and true to his word, we never did walk together. It was only when I changed my ways to his approval was he happy to go on dates with the money I was supposed to use for toiletries. I have been told many times that I did not have to spend all my money on him or had to do things I did not want to do. But I wanted to because I had prepared myself to make him love me. And he somehow knew this and used it to his advantage.
He would always compliment how good I was in bed. The only way I could feel beautiful around him was if I entertained him sexually. I felt used because he flirted with other girls. They were the opposite of what I was: small, yellow-boned, and what we describe as ‘slay queens’. I had reconciled that the only I would get attention is by always submitting to his sexual desires whenever he wanted me to.
At first it was alright because I got the high the compliments gave me. But then it started getting out of hand. He started getting angry whenever I wanted to wear a condom. And then there were times when I genuinely did not want to have sex but I would either guilty or threatened to have sex and I would give in. After two years, having painful, dry sex became normal. I would just feel his hands groping me at night, and that threatening voice of what would happen if I didn’t agree to have sex, especially after all he had done for me. So I would give it to him any way he wanted it.
There came a time in June 2016 when he had failed his academic year and would have to go home. In his depressed state, he said I was the only one who could help him relax. That was his code for me to go over and give him sex; but only if I was not on my period. If I was, he was not that depressed, and I had to drop all I was doing, skip that class or forfeit that nap. At the end of June I went home for the winter holidays and I started feeling sick. My body felt tired and painful. I cried too often for no reason. And I had red spotting for two days. My period then did not show up. I reached out to him but he was convinced I was either lying or being dramatic; especially considering he was a final year medical student.
At the start of the second semester, I chose to take a pregnancy test and it was positive. He was there, and he did not seem concerned at all. In fact, he did not believe it was true. We bought 12 pregnancy tests and I tested the entire week to convince him, and all of them were positive. We then had to decide what to do and there was no choice, really. He suggested abortion and I agreed. Whatever made him happy and could save the relationship.
I could not tell anyone. So I relied on him for financial and emotional support. I was tasked to find a place to terminate. I first thought of Marie Stopes. That idea was quickly dismissed and I was told to find a “quicker, more affordable” alternative than the R1 500 to terminate at eight weeks. And I went online and found a women’s clinic. Internet searching for backdoor clinics was no different than taking down the numbers from the abortion posters on sidewalk bins.
I managed to find a place in Carleton Centre downtown. On Saturday, 9 July 2016, we made our way to the ‘clinic’. There I met a man named Frank and he was the facilitator. We had a brief argument as to how far along I was. I was mainly concerned as to how they would determine the correct stage so I could get a proper termination. I had calculated to be 10 weeks and five days along. He claimed I was eight weeks. He then said to take a digital indicator test and the boyfriend gladly agreed because he did not want to pay R650 for a scan and preferred to pay R100 for the urine test. Of course the test came back positive and indicated 3+ weeks pregnant which was not helpful.
The fewer abortion pills meant less money would be spent. The boyfriend then doubted my calculations and agreed to pay for the pills for eight weeks that cost R750. We left and I was nervous. When we got to his place he said we should have sex first because he was horny and he knew that after I took the six pills and inserted the four in my vagina things would get messy. So I agreed.
After I took the pills, I lay on his bed. Dying of pain. Sweating. Vomiting. Having hectic cramps. Having to make trips to the bathroom because I had diarrhoea. I was thirsty. I felt weak.
And he was chuckling in the next room watching Nigerian movies on Africa Magic.
No blood came and I went to bed in pain and woke up to an empty pad.
I had little time to recover because I was shamed for having an abortion. I was dragged to church – Shepard Bushiri’s ECG in Pretoria. Still no blood came. I waited for the week and nothing happened. He ended up leaving on 14 July to go home. I stayed with the pregnancy symptoms and I could feel that things were not right. I fell gravely ill and I was forced to tell my sister. She then had to find a gynaecologist on short notice who did perform abortions.
At the appointment, the scan showed a little something. I was heartbroken. I just broke down in tears. I could not speak to anyone until 20 July when I would perform the procedure. It was painful. To save money I did not go under anaesthetic. It took 30 minutes and it felt like three hours. My drive home was sad. I felt sick and I could not stop crying.
The days that followed were emotionally difficult that I cannot express them here. I sought support from him and he ignored my messages. When he did respond he wanted me to send ‘pics of myself’. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I suddenly lost all the symptoms all at once. I missed the feeling. I know it sounds weird and maybe a little twisted, but I really did miss the feeling that I had something inside me I could love in a way that someone could not love me. My parents found out and they too were saddened that I aborted. I miss it very much.
I again did not receive any support from him. I had to help him apply for an appeal for academic exclusion. He did not have access to the internet so I had his email information and would communicate on his behalf. It was with this information I saw his monthly emails from FNB that showed how much money he had in savings account. He was sitting on R60 000. I felt like I meant nothing on this planet that my health could be compromised for no valid reason.
To this day, we have not spoken about it. I turned to self harm and cut my body almost every day. When he would ask for ‘pics’ I used to cut myself first and send him the pictures of my scars.
I don’t speak to him. But that doesn’t mean that his voice doesn’t whisper scary past stories and I can still feel conflicted as to whether I am allowed to feel sad that I aborted instead of miscarried, and whether I should have felt something for a thing that was a product of a toxic relationship.
Today, I have scars all over my body save for my back. And I look at them and regret them. I still drink. i still don’t think of myself as worthy of being loved other than for my sex. I wish I had never met him until I had known my worth. But then again, its because I met him that I too met my self-worth.