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.
  • Marital status and wealth plays a part in gender violence: Where one in 5 South African women older than 18 has experienced physical violence,  four in 10 divorced or separated women reported physical violence, as did one in 3 women in the poorest households.
  • 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.

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.

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 behaviours. It also recognises 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.
  • 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

Gender-based Violence and HIV/AIDS

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#

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 911 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.

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.



  • 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.

  • 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

Afterwards 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 can stay anonymous. The violence is not your fault. You can also report it to the police or a support group or organisation near you. You may save a life by speaking out.

Book a Counselling Session

You can book individual counselling sessions with the following therapists:




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