Nicoleen Swart is picking up the pieces of her life and living it to the fullest with her sons, after she became a public face for #GBV overnight without knowing what additional consequences it could entail.
“I would be very grateful if my story and journey could help other women to seek help faster, to plan ahead before they make their move, not to accept it when the justice system fails them, but most of all to save lives. I believe that if you stay in an abusive relationship, you will die.
“I now have the opportunity to be a mother to my sons, to find myself, to make new friends and to build a life because I live.”
The downside of her decision to allow the videos of the brutal attacks on her by her husband, Jaco Swart, to go viral, is that he disappeared and is nowhere to be found.
“He did not sign the divorce papers thus I cannot go on with my life. There is no paperwork in place for our sons so I cannot apply for them for passports to take them somewhere for a holiday and he is not paying maintenance.
“He used to make contact with his sons from time to time. I am also still living in fear. The sentence or the interdict will not stop him if he wants to take revenge. That is where the system fails victims,” says Swart.
She is not ready to allow a new man into her life, but she is slowly, but surely making new friends, building her self-esteem and finding strength in being a role model for other victims.
Swart dedicates her time to inspiring other victims. She joined MISA when she moved from Pretoria to Durban where she works as a Personal Assistant.
“I have an amazing employer who goes out of his way to accommodate me so that I can make a difference to help other victims. I am humbled by the opportunity to be MISA’s Face for the annual 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender-Based Violence.
She learned many lessons on her journey.
“If I had to do it all again, I would seek help from a victim empowerment centre first so that I could have a confidant to guide and to support me. I would have ensured that I have a friend or friends that he did not know about. I would have put cash and clothing aside and stored it with these friends so that we could have had clean clothes and money.
“I think it is very important to plan you escape carefully so that you can take into account where you are going to go with your children and how you are going to care for yourself and them until everything is finalised. Make provision beforehand.”
According to her, she would not have been able to manage it, if it was not for the love and support of her sons, mom, stepfather Jan and her sister Erika.
“It was very difficult, but I am so grateful I managed to escape. My sons are flourishing in their new environment. I am the happiest person on earth if they are with me and playing like normal boys.
“My goal for 2023 will be to find Jaco Swart so that I can finalise my divorce and I appeal to anyone with information of his whereabouts to come forward.”