DOMESTIC abuse survivor Avril Gordon will live in fear for the rest of her life. Avril, who was the victim of what police have described as one of the most horrifying cases of domestic abuse ever recorded in Port Elizabeth, is back in the city to give a talk on her ordeal.
In a heart-wrenching interview with The Herald yesterday, Avril said she would always live in fear because her husband, Frederick Gordon, had reportedly said that once released, he would track her down.
“I will always be scared. People have told me that he has said he will find me. He said he will come straight to Johannesburg to look for me,” she said.
The soft-spoken and shy 53-year-old said she would never trust another man again.
“When I meet a man now I am inclined to step back a little. I am not willing to trust any man now, and I never will. I will never get married again.”
She said she was petrified of facing Gordon in court in order to testify against him. Their divorce has not yet been finalised.
“I am very scared of facing him again. I do not know how I am going to do it. But I know I have to. I have to get the strength from somewhere. I am just glad that he is in jail.”
Avril has made a remarkable recovery since her rescue in March last year. She has also coloured her hair a rich auburn colour.
Her hands and fingers were all broken during the savage beatings when she tried to shield herself and will never properly function again. Walking is difficult from all the times Gordon kicked her legs and she limps around and cannot drive. She also battles to climb up and down stairs.
Avril now also struggles to hear and is partially blind after losing vision in her left eye. She has only 62% vision in her right eye and is in need of glasses but does not have the money to pay for them.
She will also suffer from sinus problems for the rest of her life after her nose was split in half. She also suffers from regular muscle spasms and has had several operations and medical treatment over the past year.
Avril said she met Gordon, an air force sergeant who is 10 years her junior, in Bloemfontein 2½ years ago. They had met through friends.
“When I first met him I thought he was a gentleman. I remember thinking that he was kind and soft- hearted. After a while I went back and visited the same friends and he was there again and we started talking. Afterwards I saw him again at a shop and he invited me over to visit him. After a while we started visiting each other regularly.”
Avril, who was doing administrative work at a waste disposal company in Bloemfontein, said soon after they became involved Gordon was promoted and transferred to Port Elizabeth. They decided to move together and to get married.
“When we moved here we first lived at the barracks before getting a flat. We did not know anyone here so we did not have any friends.”
She said he started beating her two weeks after moving to Port Elizabeth.
“It was not the first time that he hit me. He did hit me while we were in Bloemfontein but he said he was sorry. I believed that he was sorry and decided to give him another chance. I thought that when we moved to PE he would change.”
But Gordon then started accusing Avril of seeing other men, despite locking her up in their Forest Hill flat when he went to work.
“I explained that I was alone all day and there was no way for me to leave the flat because he had the key, but he said I used other keys to get out. He started hitting me again. He even said there were men visiting me while he was at work.”
She said after Gordon threw her cellphone against the wall she could only communicate with her family in Gauteng on his phone and in his presence.
“He started drinking more and when he brought friends from work over then I was told to go to the room. His friends did know that he had a wife, but he did not bring people over often.”
Avril said the beatings soon intensified and when Gordon left for work she was locked up alone in the bathroom or in the bedroom.
“I would cry all day but when it was time for him to come home I would dry my tears. If he saw that I was crying he would get angry and hit me again.”
She said despite the frequent beatings which left her broken and bloody she cooked him supper every night when he arrived home. She also asked him how his day went every day.
“When he came home from work and he was quiet then I knew … [that I would get beaten]. When he was quiet I would try to talk to him to change his mood.”
Avril said she did not get beaten every day but when she did get a beating it would be severe.
“He would use a plank or a chain with a lock on the end, or he would use his fists. And he would normally beat me in the face. He told me not to cry or scream when he was beating me.”
Avril said Gordon usually apologised after he beat her but first instructed her to shower or bath and clean the blood from her face and change her bloody clothes.
“He would always apologise to me when I was cleaned up. When he beat me all I could see in his eyes was anger, but when he apologised his whole look would be softer.”
Avril said she also sustained severe burns to her back when Gordon poured a kettle of boiling water over her while she was in the bath. He never took her to a doctor. “In the beginning he said he loved me. Now I think it was more companionship than love. I do not think a person would physically abuse someone they love. This is the message I want to give to women who are going through the same thing. Get out before it is too late.”
Avril said she would have died had she not been rescued when police broke down the door to the flat.
“I would not have been alive today. I know he would have killed me. A policewoman moved into the flat next door and she reported it.”
She said police knocked on the door and instructed Gordon to open up but he instead remained quiet and pretended that no one was home. Police then broke down the door and arrested him.
“The only thing that kept me going on was my mother, my children and my grandchildren. They gave me the strength to go on because I wanted to see them and be with them again.”
Avril, who has not received any trauma counselling as yet, said she constantly battled with nightmares.
“When I have nightmares I play music to distract myself. I love slow and relaxing country music, especially music by Ray Dylan.”
Avril said she was now living with her sister-in-law, Tina, in Johannesburg but would not give her surname in order to protect her location.
She said she was happy to be close to her family again. She described Tina as a “godsend”.
“I want to thank everyone who prayed for me and sent me messages and cards and gifts. I had no idea so many people care. It really means a lot.”
About telling her story, Avril said: “I just want to be there for other women who are going through the same thing. No one deserves to go through this.”
Legal Aid Port Elizabeth spokesman Dave McGlew said the attempted murder case against Gordon should continue soon after a new attorney was appointed to represent him after he was not satisfied with the first one.
He could not confirm the date of Gordon’s next appearance.
Sharmain Guest, of the Sista’s support group for women, said the organisation had arranged for Avril to receive counselling later this week but said she was still in need of dentures, an optometrist and physiotherapy.
“Anyone who is willing to assist us can contact me on 082-711- 8431,” Guest said.