Strangled By My Boyfriend: Locked rooms and the politics of love

By Mathabo Priscilla Sekhonyana (@MathaboPris)

After being strangled by her then boyfriend while in public, Priscilla Sekhonyana shares with us about the internal scars that that experience left her with and how she has never felt at home in her skin since. She also shares on the confusion she feels about not pressing charges, maintaining a semblance of a relationship with her then boyfriend and the political nature of what it means to be abused for women.

I always wondered why people did not press charges. Or leave. Or fight back. For me, it felt like a black and white movie with the sound off and no subtitles. I could see what was happening but I could not understand it.

It was an ex-boyfriend. It happened once. He didn’t kick me or punch me. It was a strangle at a drinks session but it felt like I was wearing the bruises I felt inside on every inch of my skin. This was over a year ago and I have never felt quite at home in my skin since that day.

I did not press charges. We are still not together but we speak intermittently. I still care. It’s confusing that even now, after everything, I still care. It’s confusing to me that I did not press charges. You have all these ideas before something like that happens about what you would do and how you would do it, but for me, none of those applied when it was him and it was me. I still think people should leave and press charges. I have just learnt how hard those things are to do.

I could speak about the details, the things that are specific to me and what happened, but what hit me after the dust settled was how universal it is. How my story is really just another shade of black or blue in what is too many people’s story. What I also learned, is that everything is political.

You will be questioned. Your truth will be questioned and even if you have the answers you will begin to question yourself. When something that is so intensely personal is politicised, you begin to realise that you cannot separate yourself from your womanhood.

Warsan Shire writes:

“Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women, kitchen of love, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy. Sometimes, the men, they come with keys, and sometimes the men, they come with hammers.”

I am not writing this because my story is any different, but because I think there is a feisty, brazen woman out there who thinks that things like this only happen to shy girls who have to wear dark glasses and make-up.

I also think we live in a society that is too quick to judge and point fingers about things they do not really understand. While we all do it, I am hoping we will pause to think about that black and white movie and what it must feel like when the man you love declares war on your peace.

For most of us, Women’s Day is another day to braai or sleep in, but just take a moment to think about the unique struggles we have to overcome every day to just be heard or seen. Think about the unique struggles we have to overcome every day to only accept the love we deserve. Courage as a female, is often just living every day on your own terms in a world that has already decided which space you occupy.

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