For Christolene Isaacs, a 32-year old resident at St Anne’s, 'The Power of Support' is about the power of words to convey love and respect; to build instead of destroy.
Before arriving at St Anne’s in 2013, words had been used throughout her life to make her believe she was worthless. 'My granny always used words with me – I think she was upset that my mother ran away and left me with her as a baby. She and my aunts used to tell me 'you are so stupid, so dumb. You are a useless child'. I was used as the family servant. On my 10th birthday, my aunt came to fetch me – I used to cook and clean for her. Her children would go out with her and have fun. On that day, my uncle started to sexually abuse me. He said if I told anyone, he would throw me in the deep lake that was on the farm. He said I deserved to be raped because I was a stupid girl.
When I was 14, I tried to run away. I tried to swallow tablets but it didn’t work. When I was 17, a boy my age told me to come to his house and he and his family forced me to stay there. My family didn’t come for me. The police came but they left me there. I was there for 9 years and gave him two children. He used to beat me and give me words.
One day I ran away to Cape Town with my children. Then I found this guy – the father of my two younger children and I thought I could have a normal life with him but it was the nagmerrie of my life. One day he chased me and the children out of the house. A friend told me to go to Saartjie Baartman. They phoned St Anne’s and the next day I had a place to stay. For the first time in my life, I spoke about the sadness in my life - how my family treated me like a nobody. I got counseling from Rape Crisis. I had a lot of anger and stress inside me and my children needed therapy. Now I know I am a good person. I feel inside me that I have healed a lot. I know that words can break you down so I am careful about the words I use with my children.'
Through St Anne’s, Christolene has received sponsorship to attend an Adult Basic Education Training course at the Woodstock Learning Centre. She attends Literacy, English, Maths and Lifeskills classes. Her dream is to write a book about her life, so that 'other women won’t sit in their sadness so long- they will try to get help quicker.'