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Sacrificing a marriage to save a child

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*Woman accused of ‘disciplining’ stepchild with metal rod

*Man leaves young wife after fearing for daughter’s life.

A woman suspected of beating her seven-year-old stepdaughter with a metal rod appeared before Broadhurst Magistrates Court last week charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The abuse is said to have been so bad that 35-year-old Doreen Barreto’s husband left her after just eight months of marriage.

Fearing for his daughter’s safety, Lucas Barreto, 55, walked out of the matrimonial home on 25 April 2019, roughly six months after his wife had given birth.

He has since served Doreen with divorce papers.

During trial, state witnesses claimed Doreen excused her behaviour by saying she was disciplining the child for refusing to wash the dishes and returning home from school dirty.

Although she is facing a single charge, the Kanye native is said to have assaulted her stepdaughter on more than one occasion.

Tsholofelo Primary School Head, Reginah Matshaba, told court the young girl was sent to her office on 11 March 2019, after the child’s class teacher noticed she had bruises on her face.

According to the School Head, when she asked what happened, the girl replied that her step-mum had beaten her. Upon hearing this, Matshaba said she immediately called the school’s Guidance and Counselling teacher to inform her about the student’s allegations.

“I undressed the young girl and found that she had bruises on her back and buttocks and she told me Doreen used a belt to beat her. She had a wound on her forehead, which she said her stepmother used a metal rod to hit her. We called the social worker who took the child to the police station to open a case,” testified Matshaba, adding this was not the first time Doreen was accused of abusing the little girl.

“This was not the first incident. In 2018 we called her to school after realising the child had bruises. She admitted she assaulted her and promised to never do it again,” continued the school leader.

Doreen was arrested after the social worker opened a case and detained for three days before being released on bail.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Voice outside court, Lucas explained he decided to end his marriage to save his daughter’s life.

Struggling to contain his emotions, he revealed his daughter’s mother passed away in 2015. When he met Doreen two years later, Lucas had envisioned raising the child together with this beautiful younger woman who had won his heart.

However, he says their relationship started to sour even before ‘I do’s’ were exchanged.

“I found her with three kids and we have one. In January 2018 she assaulted my daughter and I reported the matter to Broadhurst police. When she was called for questioning she showed remorse, apologised and I accepted,” said Lucas, claiming he realised he had made a mistake soon after their wedding day.

ACCUSED: Doreen Barreto

“In August 2018 we got married and it became worst. I was not even comfortable to leave my daughter with her. I engaged both our parents to address this issue but it never helped. I applied for child protection after her case was reported and Chief Magistrate, Linah Oahile-Mokibe ordered that we take the child to SOS. I refused to do that and decided to move out of this toxic marriage to protect my child. I cannot buy marriage with my daughter’s life!”

Broadhurst Magistrate, Gaseitsewe Tonoki adjourned the matter and ordered that trial continues on 27 November when more witnesses will testify. Doreen is yet to take the stand.

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