Gender-based Violence


Gender-based Violence

“Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?
Has he ever raised a fist as if he were going to hit you?
Has he ever thrown an object that hit you or nearly did?
Has he ever held you down or grabbed you to restrain you?
Has he ever shoved, poked, or grabbed you?
Has he ever threatened to hurt you?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we can stop wondering whether he’ll ever be violent; he already has been.”
– Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Fast Facts:

  • 0.3% of women in South Africa reported gender-based violence to the police.
  • Four women are killed by their partners in South Africa every day.
  • The second most common cause of these deaths occurs when women decide to end their relationships.
  • Sexual offences against women increased from 31 665 in 2015/16 to 70 813 in 2016/17.
  • Sex without consent  in marriage is also considered  as rape.
  • Domestic violence has the most repeat victims of any other crime in that a victim suffers 35 assaults on average before reporting it to the police the first time.
  • South Africa’s female homicide rate is 6 times above the global average.
  • South Africa has recently been named as having the highest level of adult per capita alcohol
    consumption in Africa. This contributes to increased levels of both Gender Based Violence and HIV
    infection, alcohol abuse often leads to violence against women, risky sexual behaviours such as
    inconsistent condom use, coercive sex or rape and multiple sexual partners.
  • South Africa has an estimated 6,800,000 people living with HIV, making it one of the countries with the highest rates of infection in the world.
  • Over 41% of rapes reported in South Africa involve children under age 18.

What is Gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is a systemic pattern of controlling, coercing and violent behaviour intended to punish, abuse and ultimately control the thoughts, beliefs and actions of another. It is about power and control. It includes emotional, physical, verbal, sexual and financial abuse. It encompasses intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse and violence between siblings.

If you’re afraid of your partner, that’s a big red flag.

Forms of abuse

Physical abuse is defined as any deliberate act, behavior or physical force by an individual or individuals against someone which causes them bodily harm, injury, trauma or puts their life in danger like kicking, punching, burning and the use of a knife or gun to cause bodily harm.

Physical abuse can and in most cases does, play a role in the cycle of domestic abuse and more often than not goes hand in hand with controlling behavior, emotional and verbal abuse and other forms of violence like stalking, sexual assault and murder.

Signs that someone is being physically abused could be:

  • Wearing clothes that don’t fit the season, like long sleeves in summer to cover bruises
  • Excuses for injuries
  • Black eyes
  • Busted lips
  • Red or purple marks on the neck
  • Sprained wrists
  • Bruises on the arms

Emotional abuse includes any behavior that is used to control, demean, harm or punish a woman.

Many people think that emotional abuse is not as serious or harmful as physical abuse. Women state that this is not true, and that the biggest problem they often face is getting others to take emotional abuse seriously.  The presence of emotional abuse is the largest risk factor and greatest predictor of physical violence. Emotional abuse is responsible for long-term problems with health, self-esteem, depression, and anxiety in women.

The end result is the same as for physical abuse – a woman is fearful of her partner and changes her behaviour to please him or be safe from harm.

Some tactics of emotional abuse by an abuser are to:

  • Isolate a woman from her friends, family, cultural or faith community, care providers, and prevent her from having independent activities such as work, English as a Second Language classes or other education
  • Act overly jealous or possessive; accuse a woman of having affairs if she talks to another man; coerce her into sexual activity to prove her love
  • Criticize a woman constantly – her actions, size and appearance, and abilities
  • Use a woman’s disability or deafness to demean or control her
  • Threaten, intimidate, harass, or punish a woman if she does not comply with her abusive partner’s demands
  • Use the children to control a woman, for example undermine her authority as a parent or threaten to take them if she should leave
  • Make all of the decisions in the family, withhold information and refuse to consult her or about important matters such as where they live, or the family’s finances
  • Control the money – what is spent, how it is spent, not allow a woman access to financial resources, or conversely not contribute to any of the household expenses.

Sexual abuse includes rape, unwanted sexual contact, and verbal sexual harassment. It includes intimate-partner violence, sexual assault, forced prostitution, exploitation, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, infanticide, and neglect. Sex without consent  in marriage is also considered  as rape.

Economic abuse is the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which a person is entitled under law, or which the complainant requires to pay for basic household necessities, mortgage bond repayments or payment of rent in respect of a shared residence. It also covers the unreasonable disposal of household effects or other property.

Money is controlled by your partner for example:

  • Keeps cash and credit cards from you
  • Puts you on an allowance and makes you explain every cent you spend
  • Keeps you from working whatever job you want
  • Steals money from you or your friends
  • Won’t let you have money for basic needs like food and clothes

A questionnaire to help you decide whether you are exposed to gender based violence.

Are you in an abusive situation?

This questionnaire is designed to help you decide if you’re living in an abusive situation. There are different forms of abuse, and not every victim of abuse experiences all of them. Below are questions about your relationship with your partner. Each answer or response has points assigned.

Never           0 points

Rarely          1 point

Sometimes   2 points

Frequently    3 points

Answer each question with the response that best describes your relationship and write the number of points in the margin. By totaling all of the points you can compare your score with the Abuser Index at the end of the document.

____ 1. Does your partner continually monitor your time and make you account for every minute?

____ 2. Does your partner ever accuse you of having affairs with others or act suspicious that you are?

____ 3. Is your partner ever rude to your friends?

____ 4. Do you ever feel discouraged from starting same-sex friendships?

____ 5. Do you feel isolated and alone, as if there were nobody close for you to confide in?

____ 6. Is your partner overly critical of daily things, such as, your cooking, your clothes, or your appearance?

____ 7. Does your partner demand a strict account of how you spend money?

____ 8. Do your partner’s moods change radically, from very calm to very angry and vice versa?

____ 9. Is your partner disturbed by you working, or the thought of you working?

____ 10. Does your partner become angry more easily if he/she drinks?

____ 11. Does your partner pressure you for sex more often than you’d like?

____ 12. Does your partner become angry if you don’t want to go along with his/her request for sex?

____ 13. Do you quarrel much over financial matters?

____ 14. Do you quarrel much about having children or raising them?

____ 15. Does your partner ever strike you with his/her hands or feet (slap, punch, kick, etc.)?

____ 16. Does your partner ever strike you with an object?

____ 17. Does your partner ever threaten you with an object or weapon?

____ 18. Has your partner ever threatened to kill either him/herself or you?

____ 19. Does your partner ever give you visible injuries (welts, bruises, cuts)?

____ 20. Have you ever had to treat any injuries from your partner’s violence with first aid?

____ 21. Have you ever had to seek professional aid for any injury at a clinic, emergency room, or doctor’s office?

____ 22. Does your partner ever hurt you sexually or make you have intercourse against your will?

____ 23. Is your partner ever violent towards the children?

____ 24. Is your partner ever violent toward other people outside your home and family?

____ 25. Does your partner ever throw objects or break things when he/she is angry?

____ 26. Has your partner ever been in trouble with the police?

____ 27. Have you ever called the police or tried to call them because you felt you or other members of your family were in danger?

To score your response simply add up the points for each question. The sum is your Abuse Index Score. To get some idea of how your relationship is, compare your score with the following chart:

81-64   Dangerously Abusive

63-26   Seriously Abusive

25-11   Moderately Abusive

10-0     Non-abusive

A woman with a score of 11-25 range, however, does live in a home where she experiences some violence at least once in a while. It may be that this is a relationship where violence is just beginning. In a new relationship there is good reason to expect it will eventually escalate into more serious forms and may occur more frequently.

Women with scores in the 26-63 range are in a seriously abusive relationship that can, under outside pressure, or with the sudden strain of a family emergency, move into the dangerously severe range. Serious injury is quite probable if it has not already occurred. A woman here needs to consider finding counseling. She should seriously consider getting help, even leaving.

Women with scores in the top range 64-81 need to consider even more seriously the option of leaving at least temporarily while she considers her next move. The violence will not take care of itself or miraculously disappear. Over time the chances are very good that the woman’s life will be in danger.

Gender based violence  & Human rights in South Africa

It was not until the introduction of the Bill of Rights that all women in this country received formal recognition as equal citizens. South African women -under the social and even legal control of their fathers or husbands – were second-class citizens for many years.

South Africa’s common law deprived white women of guardianship and various economic rights. Black women were obviously doubly disadvantaged as a result of their race and their gender. Customary law, for instance, gives black women the status of minors and excludes them from rights regarding children and property.

Our Constitution and laws give women many rights. Most importantly, the Bill of Rights gives all women the right to equality.

In short the Equality Clause says that no person may be discriminated against on a number of grounds, including things like their sex and gender.
Equality between men and women is one of the most important aims of the Constitution.

Women are obviously protected by the full range of rights guaranteed in the new Constitution – the rights to life, dignity, privacy and others. But they receive specific protection in section 9, entitled “Equality”.
It says:

“(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.” The prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of gender, sex, pregnancy and marital status is clearly intended to protect women. The grounds “sex”, which is a biological feature, and “gender”, a social artefact, are both included – perhaps unnecessarily. But the result is that this section leaves no doubt that no unfair discrimination based on any feature of being a woman will be tolerated.


What is the 16 days of activism?

It is a worldwide campaign to oppose violence against women and children. It aims to raise awareness of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and children and to rid society of abuse permanently.

When does the campaign take place?

The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is held from 25 November to 10 December every year
However, the success of this campaign rests on our daily individual and collective actions to safeguard our society against this cycle of abuse.

Do you know that Parliament has passed laws to protect the rights of individuals against abuse?

The Domestic Violence Act of 1998
The Children’s Act of 2005
The Maintenance Act of 1998
The Promotion of Equity and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act) Amendment Act of 2007

The Domestic Violence Act No 116 of 1998.

The main purpose of the Act is to provide the highest form of protection from domestic violence. The law places responsibility on state organs and in particular the police to ensure that survivors of domestic violence are able to apply for protection orders to prevent abusers from entering a mutual home or the survivors home or place of work. The order can also allow for the seizure of weapons The DVA has an expansive definition of domestic violence that include physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological and economic abuse as well as intimidation, harassment, stalking and controlling behaviors. It also recognizes a range of familiar and domestic relationships, including same sex relationships.

Gaps and Challenges:

One of the major challenges hindering the effective implementation of this Act is that when it was developed, it was not costed. Further whilst it is acknowledged that addressing gender based violence requires a multi-disciplinary approach the Act does not place obligations on the Department of Social Development in the provision of care and support services and neither the Department of Health or National prosecution authority.

In a 2012 Tshwaranang Study focused on reviewing the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act; found that a substantial percentage of police officers had limited knowledge of the provisions of this Act more specifically relating to their responsibilities. In addition to this the study found that both lack of human and financial resources impacted on the ineffective implementation of this Act coupled with the notion that most officers did not view domestic violence as a crime but more of private family matter. According to Vetten (2012), domestic violence matters are classified as social crimes in the SAPS and the lack of clarity on what social crimes are compounds the problem of not viewing this act as serious matter.

Does domestic violence have an effect on children?

It not only has a devastating effect physical and emotional affects on victims, but also have an impact on those around you. Children learn how to interact from a young age and being exposed to domestic violence can lead a child to be an abusive violent adult. Children are abused in more than 46%  of homes in which domestic violence occurs.

In which type of family or relationship does gender-based violence occur?

  • Persons of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, and sex can be victims or perpetrators of Gender-based violence.
  • Alcohol use, drug use, and stress do not cause gender-based violence; they may go along with gender-based violence, but they do not cause the violence.
  • Generally, Gender-based violence happens when an abuser has learned and chooses to abuse.
  • Gender-based violence is rarely caused by mental illness, but it is often used as an excuse for domestic violence.
  • Note: Men are the victims of gender-based violence in 40% of cases.

Is it easy to spot an abuser?


Abusers are not easy to spot. There is no ‘typical’ abuser. In public, they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family. They often only abuse behind closed doors. They also try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need a doctor.

Abusers often have low self-esteem. They do not take responsibility for their actions. They may even blame the victim for causing the violence. In most cases, men abuse female victims. It is important to remember that women can also be abusers and men can be victims.

What are the effects of domestic violence?

Physical injury, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, low self-esteem, anger, hitting, biting, withdrawal.

Women often cannot insist on fidelity, demand condom use, or refuse sex to their partner, even when they suspect or know he is already infected himself. And they often lack the economic power to remove themselves from relationships that carry major risks of HIV infection. . . . Women, fearful of getting beaten or thrown out, are unlikely to ask their boyfriends to wear a condom, or question them about fidelity

There are a variety of ways that gender-based violence may put victims at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS; ways in which abusers use their own or the victim’s HIV+ status as a weapon of coercion; and additional obstacles to health and safety that exist for HIV+ people who are also victims of domestic violence.

How Gender-based Violence Puts Victims at Risk of Contracting HIV

  • Victims are often unable to negotiate the use of safer sex practices with coercive partners.
  • Abusers may rape or sexually assault their victims as part of their pattern of control, making it unlikely that the abuser will use a condom. In fact, some abusers may intentionally infect their partners with HIV in an attempt to keep the victim from leaving.
  • Abusive partners who engage in sexual activity outside the relationship, potentially expose victims to STD’s including HIV.
  • Abusive partners may force victims to engage in sexual activities with others.
  • Victims of gender-based violence often suffer a wide range of health-related problems caused or exacerbated by the abuse. This negative effect on their health may compromise their immune system in ways that increase their risk of HIV.
  • Abusers may prevent victims from receiving medical care which may, in turn, negatively impact their health and increase their risk of contracting HIV.

There is no crime termed ”domestic violence”. Measuring the extent of domestic violence therefore requires paying attention to different sorts of familial and intimate relationships, as well as different types of abuse. Police data does not offer a comprehensive guide to this terrain. Cases of domestic violence are likely to be recorded as cases of assault. Given the serious nature of domestic violence, it is important that assault victims are encouraged to report incidents to the police.

The police do not release the details about the number of assaults that involve intimate partners although they are required by law to record cases of domestic violence in a register at police stations and have victim friendly rooms available. Despite these requirements, regular compliance is very low:

The Civilian Secretariat for Police found that between October 2013 and March 2014, only 1.4% of police stations inspected (two out of 145) were fully compliant with the Domestic Violence Act.
77% were partially compliant and 21% were rated as non-complaint.
This means that the police are not adhering to their own policies in relation to recording domestic violence and therefore do not have an accurate picture of the extent of the problem facing the country.

The SAPS six-point plan to assist victims of gender-based violence

  1. All victims should be treated with respect and dignity and interviewed by a trained police official in a victim sensitive manner.
  2. Victims should be assisted in a victim friendly or alternative room, where a statement will be taken in private providing victim support services.
  3. Victims will be referred/taken for medical examination by the healthcare professional to obtain medical evidence and complete a medical report, including seeing to the health of the victim.
  4. The investigation should be conducted by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigation Unit or a detective with relevant training.
  5. Victims of sexual offences, femicide and infanticide and their families should be referred to victim support services that are available within the precinct for legal, medical, social and psychological help.
  6. Victims should be proactively and continuously given feedback on the progress of their cases.

Gender-based violence helpline: 0800 150 150
Gender-based violence command centre: *120*7867#

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
25 November


Women’s right to live free from violence is upheld by international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), especially through General Recommendations 12 and 19, and the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

UN Women partner with Governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations and other institutions to advocate for ending violence, increase awareness of the causes and consequences of violence and build capacity of partners to prevent and respond to violence.

They also promote the need for changing norms and behaviour of men and boys, and advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

UN Women supports expanding access to quality multi-sectoral responses for survivors covering safety, shelter, health, justice and other essential services.

Get help

What can you do to be safe?

  • If you feel you are in danger from your abuser at any time, you can call 10111 or your local police.
  • If you are in danger when the police come, they can protect you.
  • They can help you and your children leave your home safely.
  • They can arrest your abuser when they have enough proof that you have been abused.
  • They can arrest your abuser if a personal protection order (PPO) has been violated.
  • When the police come, tell them everything the abuser did that made you call.
  • If you have been hit, tell the police where. Tell them how many times it happened. Show them any marks left on your body. Marks may take time to show up. If you see a mark after the police leave, call the police to take pictures of the marks. They may be used in court.
  • If your abuser has broken any property, show the police.
  • The police can give you information on domestic violence programs and shelters.
  • The police must make a report saying what happened to you. Police reports can be used in court if your abuser is charged with a crime.
  • Get the officers’ names, badge numbers, and the report number in case you need a copy of the report.
  • A police report can be used to help you get a Personal Protection Order.

Get support from friends and family

Tell your supportive family, friends and co-workers what has happened.

Find a safe place

It is not fair. You should not have to leave your home because of what your abuser has done. But sometimes it is the only way you will be safe. There are shelters that can help you move to a different city or province.

These are the 17 ways that POWA recommends every abused woman should consider following as she plans to leave for good.

1. Have a safety plan
To leave an abusive relationship safely, think things through carefully. You need money and somewhere to stay, and to know how you are going to keep yourself – and your children – safe.

2. Never tell your abuser that you are leaving
Don’t threaten to leave in a heated argument, as this is when most women get killed. Even telling him when he is calm might lead to him planning an act of violence against you. Just plan and then quietly leave.

3. Plan to take your children with you
Not only will this protect them from potential harm in your absence, but it also makes it easier to make the case for obtaining legal custody later. Don’t plan to come back for them, as this can make things more complicated and even dangerous for you. It may be harder to plan, but taking your children with you is an important step for these reasons.

4. Save a stash of money secretly
Abusive partners often prevent their partners from accessing money. Start saving up change from anything you’ve spent, or returning items to shops and hiding the cash.

5. Get a second secret phone
Abusive partners may check your phone and even install a tracking app. Try to get hold of an affordable second phone and keep it secret so that you can make plans and call for help if you need to.

6. Identify a safe space that you can go to when you leave
This could be the secure home of a trusted friend or family member, or a women’s shelter. Contact POWA for assistance in finding a shelter near you.

7. Pack a bag of things you need and hide it somewhere away from your home
This is so that you can leave quickly when you are ready without anyone knowing that you are going. Include money, a change of clothes and important documents including: proof of address (even though you are leaving), ID documents, proof of income, financial records, medication and marriage and birth certificates.

8. If you have a car, hide the spare keys
This is so that you can still leave if your partner takes the original set away from you.

9. Learn your partner’s schedule
Work out when you have a long enough gap to leave uninterrupted.

10. Create a fake trail
Make calls using your usual phone to women’s shelters or hotels that are far away from where you will be going. If you have the funds, you can even pay for a hotel with a shared credit card, and receive a booking confirmation on a monitored email address.

11. Get the law on your side
The police and courts can help keep you safe from your abusive partner, but you need to know what steps to take:

Write up a diary and evidence of any physical abuse that can be used later as proof. Take photos if there are visible marks. If you visit a doctor, ask them to note that the injuries are as a result of domestic violence. If sexual abuse has taken place, keep the clothes and sheets as evidence in a paper bag or wrapped in newspaper (but get these to a police station sooner rather than later). The diary should include the type, time and date of the incident, because these are the questions that they might ask in court.

12. Report the assault to your local police station.
Take any evidence including photographs or stained items of clothing or sheets along with you. The police may not refuse to open a docket for domestic violence.

13. Obtain a domestic violence protection order from your nearest family court.
You will need to take your ID and any evidence of abuse along with you. You will first receive a temporary protection order, and then after a court appearance, you will receive a permanent protection order. The court may still grant your partner visiting rights to see his children if the abuse was only against you – although it can be argued that allowing them to see violence against their mother is an act of abuse. Every case will have a different outcome. Once obtained, if your partner ignores the restrictions, call 10111 and report him to the police immediately.

14. Make sure you have transport arranged for the day of leaving
Arrange a taxi or an Uber, a reliable friend or family member or your own vehicle.

15. Visit ForWomen
Visit, an information hub that offers access to a growing network of causes, all fighting to bring an end to woman abuse. Connect with any of them quickly and easily to get the help you need.

16. Inform your place of work that you have left your abusive partner
Ask them to prevent your partner from entering the building or gaining access to you.

17. Be careful about what you post on social media
Don’t give away any information about where you are or who you are with. It would be best to stay off social media altogether.


Get medical help

If you have been hurt, go to the hospital or your doctor. Domestic violence advocates (people to help you) may be called to the hospital. They are there to give you support. You may ask medical staff to call one for you.

Medical records can be important in court cases. They can also help you get a Personal Protection Order. Give all the information about your injuries and who hurt you that you feel safe to give.


If someone discloses a gender based violence incident to you:

It is imperative not to ignore, interrupt or try to stop the person.
Make sure you hear the person through as far as they are willing to go.

When speaking to a young person about their experience of abuse, these are the six things that they want to hear from you:

  1. I believe you.
  2. I am glad you have told me this – you are very brave to have come forward.
  3. I am sorry this has happened to you.
  4. You are not alone in having experience of abuse – it can happen to lots of people.
  5. It is not your fault.
  6. There are people who can help

The person does not expect you to promise confidentiality (nor should you). If you are a family member, friend, teacher or a youth worker, then it is not your job to counsel the person. Your role is to listen to them and then suggest courses of action or make appropriate referrals.
Always consult with the person about what they think is the best way to help them and offer them information about local support agencies or help-lines that have expert knowledge on gender-based violence.

To assist you and the person decide the best course of action, it is useful to consider:

  • Is the disclosure about current or past abuse?
  • Is the person in immediate risk?
  • How does the person feel about the situation?
  • Does the person want/need to take any action today? Does the young person want to tell anyone?
  • What has the young person done in the past (if anything) to get safe and how helpful was this?
  • Does the person know anyone who can help?

  • Remind them that this is not their fault – no one deserves abuse.
  • BELIEVE them! You might be the first to listen or to validate their experience.
  • Explain that you are afraid for their safety and the safety of their children.
  • Be patient! Don’t expect them to have all the answers immediately.
  • Help them relocate resources in a place of safety.
  • REMEMBER: they are taking a huge risk by talking about the abuse.


You can also report it to the police or a support group or organisation near you. You may save a life by speaking out.

  • SAPS Emergency number: 10111
  • Lifeline National counselling line: 0861-322-322
  • Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800-150-150
  • POWA Helpline: 083 765 1235
  • FAMSA National office: (011) 975-7106/7
  • Childline 24-hour toll-free helpline: 08000 55 555

If you think you might be in in violent relationship, or you witness domestic violence at home – you can do a self-test quiz:

Abuse Quiz

Teen dating Violence Quiz

Love Addiction Quiz

Sexual Abuse Quiz

Victim of Bullying Quiz


You can text chat to an online facilitator on the LIVE CHAT for more help and guidance.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, you may feel you have nowhere to go, no one to talk too. This is not true. You can safely talk to a facilitator on the “MOBIEG LIVE CHAT Helpline” about it. Nobody can trace your call and you may remain anonymous.

Book a Counselling Session

You can book individual counselling sessions with the following therapists:




Comments are closed.