FOR 25 years, helping women in crisis has been the bedrock of Yokhuselo Haven and one of the hundreds it has helped over the years says the time she spent at the haven was "the turning point” in her life. Fatima Collins walked into the shelter for battered women in Port Elizabeth after leaving her verbally and physically abusive husband and received advice on how to protect herself and her child – advice that would prove vital to her survival over the next few years.
"There was a point when I looked at my life and realised that everything that I do not stand for had happened to me and I asked God to help me,” she said in an interview with La Femme.
"The first time I left my husband, I wasn’t prepared for what I was facing. The second time I was much more prepared because of what I had learnt as someone in an abusive relationship.
"I always had a bag packed somewhere and some money somewhere so that if the abuse started again, I would be able to move forward.
"I am so grateful for organisations like Yokhuselo because the advice that they gave me saved me from the cycle of abuse and because I was sure he was going to kill me.”
When the abuse started Collins was married with a son and said the abuse started as verbal and soon progressed to other forms of abuse.
"It was a few months after we got married that small things started to happen. He would keep things from me and he didn’t want me to work and he slowly started or wanted to take control of my life.
"When the physical abuse started for the first time, I felt exposed because I was brought up in a normal Afrikaans home and I just wanted the perfect life, and that didn’t happen for me,” she said.
Despite this, Collins, who now works as the public relations officer for Vistarus Mission Station, sought help and found it in the form of Mother of Hope Crisis Centre, which referred her to Yokhuselo Haven.
During her stay at the haven, her husband received counselling for abuse and asked her to come back.
He convinced her to go to Cape Town with him.
"When I left the haven, I filed for a restraining order against him and I could see that it had stirred something in him and he knew that he was now in a tight corner.
"When we got to Cape Town, however, he again wanted to control everything that I did,” Collins said.
She said the point of no return for her was when her then husband laid his hands on her son for the first time.
"One day we had a disagreement about something and he grabbed my son, who was nine years old at the time, by the neck and lifted him up and threw him on the ground.
"I realised at that time that for me, as an adult, I could take it.
"But it would be on my conscience if he should do something to my son. I needed to get out of there.”
Collins escaped and managed to make her way from Cape Town back to Port Elizabeth.
"When I went back to Mother of Hope and Yokhuselo, I had a few days with Lindsay [Ziehl] which helped me a lot.
"While you are in the haven, it’s like everything that has happened is not a reality, but when the time comes for you to leave, you get to claim back your future.”