Abused Limpopo woman uses poetry to heal
After spending 17 years in an abusive marriage, Koena Selemela (46), penned her experience in a book called Healing Poems. This is an anthology documenting details of her horrific past as they unfolded every day.
She said from the outside people saw her as a happily married woman but inside her home, where there was supposed to be love and comfort, she was dying.
“I suffered four miscarriages. He and his family called me names and said I was killing his babies,” Selemela said about her ex-husband. The marriage, she says, was her most debilitating encounter.
She said she didn’t just suffer emotional pain, but physical pain and once took out a protection order against him.
Selemela, who grew up in Moletje Ga-Rametloane in Limpopo, came to Johannesburg to look for a better life – instead, she said, she met a man who would ruin her life. “I was young, in love and could not resist the joy of getting married.” But her joy was short lived.
“I used to write everything down – every minute of abuse. This was my way of healing. With this book, I want to tell other women that abuse is real. It filled me with anger. I remember how I nearly threw boiling water at him while he was asleep. Luckily I didn’t,” she says.
Lisa Vetten, a gender-based violence expert, said researches have shown that writing about one’s abusive past is therapeutic, which is why many women who have been abused have written books and kept diaries. “It is another way of coping. Instead of bottling things up, you write them down. You externalise them,” she said.
Selemela said she had forgiven her ex-husband, but not to go back to him – and for her own sake.
“I forgave him so I could move on. I could no longer hold onto grudges. You must give yourself a second chance in life.”
An edited version of this story was published by IOL.