‘I would have killed him, but prison gave me peace’

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‘I would have killed him, but prison gave me peace’

Woman recounts falling into a life of crime with her abusive husband, and how she turned her life around

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Prison saved her from killing her husband, says a Johannesburg accountant who helped herself one too many times from the company coffers – once to pay for an abortion. 
A stable marriage, happy home and a good job started to unravel at breakneck speed for Desiree Jansen* after her husband left his job “for no reason”. 
Living with many regrets, she says a low point was being lured by her husband into the murky world of crime.
What was totally unexpected though, was finding peace behind bars, she told a delegation at the Johannesburg Correctional Services Centre, known as Sun City.Jansen said all was well in her home. Her marriage was stable, and she was happy at work. That was until her husband left his job, seemingly without reason, and forced her to become the sole provider for the family.
And once the family started to struggle financially, her husband coerced her into crime, she claims. It started with stealing money to cover the family’s debts, but then it escalated.
“He took my bank card when I was at work. He was in charge of the money. And then all of a sudden the money was finished, but our home was still not finished. I didn’t know what to do. We started fighting; there was emotional and verbal abuse now.
“I didn’t want to tell my mom and dad, I was ashamed,” said the woman. “Then I found out he was having an affair and it broke me.”
Jansen was speaking during a visit to the prison by the Gauteng legislature aimed at uplifting inmates and restoring their faith in men.The woman said she took more money from her company, thinking it would solve their problems.
“But it didn’t because my husband was just splurging out there, knowing what I was doing. He was encouraging me, saying: ‘If you don’t provide, I am going to leave you’,” she said.
“I kept fighting for my marriage. He promised me he would leave this other woman, which he never did. And then I fell pregnant,” she added.
As they fell deeper into debt, she turned to her father-in-law for a loan and her husband moved out of the house, leaving her to take care of the household finances.Ultimately, she was arrested and sentenced for fraud. But, she said, instead of wallowing she used her circumstances to turn her life around.
“This place is not nice. My husband is out there and I have not seen him for the two-and-a-half years that I have been here. But I know God has a reason to keep me here because if he had not put me here, I would have committed a murder. I found my peace in here.”
Jansen is currently studying towards a BCom law degree.
“I will go out there and be a better person because that mistake does not define me,” she said.
* Real name withheld to protect the identity of her children.

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