Bonolo Mokua

How to understand your journey as a survivor of abuse

Being a father , GBV

Even though Martin had the house, wife and child he'd always wanted, he lived with the fear of perpetuating the same violence he experienced growing up, because “society” had programmed him to think that victims are doomed to repeat the same violence they experience.

Heartlines Fathers Matter recently hosted speaker, transformation coach and founder of MatrixMen, Martin Pelders, at the Fathers Matter Ambassadors Conference where he spoke about surviving childhood trauma.

“I walked around in a void for 43 years of my life, overcame five suicide attempts, but God had better plans,” he said.

After struggling for 10 years to have a child with his wife, Martin became a father, but he felt haunted by all the messages he’d heard in his life about victims perpetrating the same abuse they have experienced. Today, Martin has a great relationship with his daughter because he realised on his healing journey that children ultimately need three things: security, love and sustenance.

A sobering picture

We have all witnessed how over the years the home has become the site of extremely violent incidents against women and children. The latest South African crime statistics for October to December 2022, which were published on 17 February 2023, demonstrate how cruel and unsafe South Africa is for women and children.

  • 1 101 women and 319 children were murdered in those three months.

  • In total, 7 555 people were killed daily between October and December 2022.

  • 12 419 rape cases were reported to the police, an increase of 9.8% compared to the same period in 2021. Of these, 5 935 rape incidents occurred at the residences of the perpetrators or survivors, meaning the victim was raped by someone they knew.

  • 15 545 sexual offenses were reported to the police between October and December 2022.

These numbers aren't just statistics, they reflect the lives of those lost and those who now have to deal with their idea of survivorship. The most important lesson to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to healing, and every person's experience is unique.

Taking steps to heal from sexual abuse

Everyone's healing process is different and there is no linear way way to approach it, but here are some possible ways to start your healing journey:

  • Share your story – Licensed professional counselor and psychotherapist from the US, Carrie Mead, says “It may be challenging, but sharing your story can help begin the healing process.” It's important to remember that you’re not defined by what happened to you, and you can heal from it.

  • Do what empowers you – Find the things that make you feel powerful and in control and remember that empowerment may look different for each person, so try to focus on what’s best for you.

  • Build a strong support network – Identify people in your life who can support you through your journey.

  • Ask for help – Find a trauma-informed therapist who can offer you coping tips and skills to help you on your healing journey. Mead recommends not going through everything alone as it may hinder your healing process. “If someone offers to take care of you, let them do it.”

If you need support or are looking for advice on how to heal from trauma, click here.

I am an image
Bonolo Mokua

Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.


Ole Seth Simon Still

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