By Nyasha Mutena
Silence remains one of the major hindrances to ending domestic violence throughout the world. For varying reasons, so many victims continue to suffer in silence.
Excuses range from explanations when asked about visible bruises, black eyes and broken bones to defending the perpetrators should anyone try to give emotional support, only to open up when it is too late for any possible interventions.
Oblivious to the immense power of a voice, they drown in a pool of misery and subsequently can meet their premature death.
Abuse was the case for Tanya Robyn Haden Tebb when her live in boyfriend, Denton Leslie Boshi, Director at Caterwise Turura, a Harare based wholesale supermarket started using violence against her. Only that she did not choose eternal silence or wait until it was a little too late.
Narrating her harrowing ordeal to this publication, she said Denton attempted to murder her by drowning whilst they were holidaying in in Kariba.
“At one point he held me hostage for weeks trying to hide my bruised and battered body from sight, all the while threatening me that if I told anyone of the abuses, he would destroy me and my family. That he would mutilate my body and have me thrown in jail on false charges he would make up against me,” said Tanya.
However, on the 26th of March 2020, Tanya finally broke down and told her family of the abuse she had been suffering. They quickly consulted the police and a report was filed. On 27 March 2021 Tanya made yet another police report when she discovered that Denton had remotely deleted all of their conversations from her phone. She sought legal advice and an interim Protection Order was granted on 31st March 2020 prohibiting Denton, now her ex-boyfriend from coming anywhere near her or making any contact.
Within 2 weeks of receiving her interim Protection Order, Denton instructed his lawyers to issue her with a threat. It said that if she did not issue ‘an apology, in writing, for the defamatory and false statements contained in her affidavit’, they would ‘proceed with a damages claim against her for the amount of US$500,000’.
Tanya maintained that the allegations in her affidavit were hundred percent true and her lawyer responded telling Denton and his lawyer that contacting her personally via SMS and sending agents to her house with threats was contravening her interim Protection Order and that if they continued to make threats, they would both be held in contempt of court. At one point, Tanya says Denton approached the courts claiming that he was being denied the chance to collect his belongings despite available emails from as far back as December 2019 asking him to collect his stuff from her house, including his pets which he refused to do.
The pair met in June 2019 via the online dating site Tinder. Tanya was holidaying in Spain at the time and Denton booked his ticket and flew over to Spain to profess his love for her. She was appeased with gifts, flowers, poems and was convinced that she had found true love. She believed that they were soul mates meant to be together forever.
Soon after returning to Zimbabwe he moved into her house, but before long, Denton changed and started demanding that she sign half of her house over to him.
“Sometime in August 2019 the abuse began, he grabbed me by the throat one night unexpectedly and threw me against the wall, threatening to kill me. That’s when I started fearing for my life, but he managed to convince me to stay in the relationship and help him seek therapy for his ‘reactionary behavior’. He also accused me of being at fault for daring to test his control and dominance in the relationship,” said Tanya.
In December 2019 she finally left the country in a bid to get away from her abusive boyfriend, asking him to please leave her alone, but he responded by love bombing her with 242 whatsapp messages and 105 emails the following day.
She says that she endured sexual assault and that sometimes he would grab her hair and drag her with it across the floor.
“He enjoyed to push me down and twist my arthritic toe until I screamed in agony, or shove food up my nose. He would punch me in the face, push, poke and choke me. Denton used his fists, threats, the police, litigation, social media and the newspapers to try and bully me into submission, but finally the courts saw through his pretense and convicted him of physical abuse,” said Tanya.
On the 17th of May 2021, Magistrate Sharon Rakafa slapped him with a $20,000 fine and a 3 year suspended jail sentence. The fine converts to approximately US$200.
When asked for comment, Denton had this to say;
“Fine US$165 Can’t believe it. Can you see this as violence or even hair pulling – complete rubbish. This is the evidence video clip she gave and used to convict? May God Help us If this is a crime or justice !!!,” He said after sending a 5 second long video.
Cases of this nature hardly ever see the light of day, due to lack of evidence and victim intimidation. With the rise in domestic violence worldwide, some countries have made the offence of coercive control of a criminal act.
In the United Kingdom, the offence of coercive control came into force on 29th December 2015 and carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison. Ireland, Scotland and France joined England and Wales in extending the definition of domestic violence to include emotional abuse and coercive control. In Australia a bill was proposed in October 2020 making coercive control a criminal offence carrying a jail term of 5 to 10 years.
Zimbabwe is making strides towards ending GBV, the COVID-19 pandemic and steps taken by government to slow or stop the spread of the virus, including lockdowns and movement restrictions, have had a range of impacts on GBV in the country and the world at large.
Tanya hopes her story will inform policy making and encourage other victims to speak out and be heard.