The day Peggy Simpson, a former relief teacher at Aus, decided to leave her abusive husband, she says he dragged her behind a warehouse at her workplace, pushed her into a toilet, locked the door and cut her on the arms with razor blades.
Simpson, now 52, was one of the many who heeded President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s call for praying against gender-based violence. She attended the prayer session on 6 March at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek where The Namibian caught up with her.
She remembers the day very well – 23 May 2001 – in Lüderitz. Simpson says she met her ex-husband when she was 20 in 1982, and he was 19 – young and so much in love, she never thought the relationship would degenerate into one of abuse.
But it did, and after years of abuse and being parents to two children, she decided she had had enough.
She told him then that she wanted out of the marriage one morning before leaving for work at a school where she was a relief teacher.
“I saw his eyes so dark and full of hate and disgrace. At the time, he was sober and had not taken any drugs or alcohol,” she narrates.
Her husband followed her carrying a bag full of weapons and dragged her into the toilet.
Once inside the toilet, she says, he started maiming her with razor blades.
“I asked him what he was doing. He did not answer. I tried to calm him down as I feared for my life and pleaded with him to stop,” she says.
According to Simpson, she pleaded with him, but he did not listen or stop cutting her. When he moved onto her throat, trying to slit it, she fought and pushed him onto the floor.
“I quickly opened the door, but he grabbed my leg and I screamed for help. While my colleagues were rushing to help, he was busy trying to cut my ribcage,” she further narrates.
Simpson says they rushed her to the hospital, but refused to be admitted although doctors begged her to stay because of the depth of the cuts.
She did not want to stay in hospital because she feared he would come in the night and finish her off. Indeed, she says, he came after her at the hospital but fortunately she was not there.
He was determined to harm her further.
She opened a case against him but he could not be arrested because he fled to Cape Town.
Looking back, Simpson says the abuse started just a week into the relationship, but she chose to ignore it.
“He was a jealous man,” Simpson says, drying tears and adding that they had dated for four years before marrying against her parents’ wishes in 1986.
At one time, she says he pushed her out of a moving train after he had accused her of looking at other men. She also says she feared for her life so much that at one time she prayed for him to die.
“I was scared to get killed if I left him. I prayed that God should take him away,” she confesses, adding that her family also put pressure on her to leave him, especially when he attacked her even in front of puplis.
She also remembers that apart from the physical abuse, she endured financial deprivation.
“He depended on me because he was not employed. During apartheid, women were not allowed to have property, so the deed of the house was in his name although I was the one paying for it.”
When she left on duty or holiday, Simpson says, she would return to find that he had sold some of her belongings. “When I left him, I left with nothing. No house, no cars.”
The saddest part of it was that each time she reported to the police, Simpson alleges, nothing was done.
“I asked for police protection throughout our relationship. I would go to the police every week to make a case but they would withdraw the cases.”
She also says at one time, her husband’s mother begged her to withdraw a case against him.
Her sister Julia Jimmy took her in when she walked out of the relationship.
Yesterday, Jimmy cried when she narrated the agony and torture her young sister endured.
When their mother passed away, Jimmy was only 14 years old, but knew that she had to take care of her siblings and be there for them all the time.
She says the family did not know what was going on because he was good to them, but this changed when they found out.
“When I found out what he was doing to her, we even fought and argued a lot,” Jimmy says with tears welling in her eyes. She says what the man did, ruined her sister and set her back in life.
“When I told her about the abuse and how bad it is, she did not want to listen to me. The problem is, when young people start going through abuse they do not talk to their elders. My sister did not talk to me. Young people just hide things until it is too late,” Jimmy says, adding that she stood by her sister because it is her sister.”
We did not even know she was getting married. She just got married and told us afterwards because she knew we would disapprove, because of the abuse,” she expresses.
Jimmy says the man sold everything Simpson had worked for.
“My sister had three houses and a mini bus, which he sold. We wouldcome home and find the dishes on the floor because he would have taken some to sell. It hurts me to see that my sister now has to rent a backflat in my yard yet she had everything.”
Her hope is that young people will learn from her sister’s story and avoid falling into the same trap.
Jimmy also advises young people to focus on their future and stop chasing riches.
“Leave the sugar daddies alone, and stop taking men to pay for your school and then you cheat on them. This man will feel that he invested a lot of money in you,” she further advises.
Simpson says her biggest regret is not walking out earlier and not listening to her sister and grandmother’s advice.
“It’s difficult to leave, but people are different. First, you think of your own life and the life of your children. Now I am coming out to advise other women and my first daughter to not stay in abusive relationships.
“Speak out, prevention is better than cure. Don’t think it’s going to end. I was lucky to get out alive. Stop lying to family about abuse as it can kill. Don’t wait for tomorrow if he shows possessiveness,” she says. Simpson said she has forgiven him and has moved on with her life.
“I am a Christian and God is good. I am praying for him. Many times God has helped me or I would have died.
“I am sitting at home because the man I met understands me.
“He has never beaten me. I have never seen a man treat a woman the way my new partner treats me now. I didn’t even know that a man can work while a woman was at home.”
In regard to the prayer day, Simpson says it was a very good thing.
“It was the first time I saw a leader being involved. Women must be coached to understand.
“I taught my daughter when she turned 16 because I don’t want her to go through what I went through. I told her that if he is beating you, then walk away no matter what. Talk to someone because I hid my things and I almost lost my life. It is not about people, it’s about you. Don’t stay with it. I told my son-in-law that if there is no respect it will not work,” Simpson explains.
Her son Sean Simpson, who was 10 at the time recalls a lot of strange things happening in the house, but he could not make much sense of it.
Sean says he only understood the situation when his mother told him after she had walked out. At the time, he was much older to understand.
“Although I was upset that my parents were divorcing, I was glad that my mother decided to leave because I do not wish for any mother to go through that,” Sean says, adding that he felt hatred towards his father when the truth first came out, but time heals all wounds and he has forgiven him over time. Sean also said he is much aware of abuse now and would give advise to his friends who might be going through the same ordeal.