‘I’m so cross that I smack her’: Domestic Violence from the Perspective of a Perpetrator

For the first time the soft-spoken man reveals that the marriage, he so far presented as the corner stone of his life, lies actually in ruins. The matraze on which I was sitting last time is gone. “On Thursday she came home and was mad at me. I don’t know but I think it was because of money. I was arrested for nothing“ At the beginning of the week, David says, his wife denounced him for drug dealing and for having verbally abused her. He went to prison for one night and was subsequently bailed out by his mother. The story unfolds. He confides that he was arrested seven times for robbery and drug related crime and four times for domestic violence. David has physically assaulted his wife claiming that she “provoked” him beforehand. What seems to bother him most is that she supposedly exposes his inability to provide materially for his family in public, particularly when his friends are present. When his role as the male provider is put into question David becomes offended. He then communicates his feeling of disempowerment through rage. “When I’m tired and I can’t keep it in anymore I swear at her. Sometimes I’m reflecting when I’m angry. I’m so cross that I smack her because she’s eating on me, you see…That time I was baie kwaad [very angry]. I was boos [livid]. It was stuff I kept in for maybe two, three, or four months.”

“What did you keep in?” I inquire.

“It was just the way she was talking to me. I was avoiding her, just leave it. When I didn’t talk to her she sometimes was like shouting at me ‘Your mother is a puss [female sexual organ]. Fucking Talk!’ Stuff like that. And I think she takes me for a child, a laaitie [boy]. I must do only what she says, you see what I mean?” Then David tells me that his wife does not want him to talk to other women or hang out with his male friends. She wants him to find a regular job but, he says, he is unable to succeed.

“I try the best to help my children. At the time I was stealing I was all right because there was something I could put on the table. On the other hand it wasn’t right. It all comes back to you, the tears and all that stuff. Why? Because you just take it and you do shit. I used to live like that. I took a gun to rob someone to get some money, you see. But I don’t wanna do it anymore. I want to get a proper job. I know but I mustn’t be here.”

I reckon that it would be best for David to join his brother in Eastern Cape. The latter recently offered him a job but an attempt to take off last week failed after a quarrel with his mother. I know I am not a social worker but I decide to talk to David’s mother and to his wife. If he would get another chance to leave the life of drugs and gangs the future for him, his wife, and his three children might look brighter. What will the women say? David encourages me to talk to them.

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