At any given moment you have the power to say this is NOT how the story is going to end. Christine Mason Miller
Gender-based violence helpline: 0800 150 150
Gender-based violence command centre: *120*7867#
Have you been abused?
“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
Gender-based violence is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will. It is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females.
The term ”gender-based violence” comprises not only rape and attempted rape, but also physical assault, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, forced early marriage, domestic violence, marital rape, trafficking and female genital mutilation.
There is one risk factor, though, that stands out above all the others: strangulation. Batterers who strangle their victim are more likely to engage in other extreme acts of violence; it’s a message that there are no limits to which he won’t go. The odds are, he’s willing to kill. ¹ (Joni E Johnston. Psychology Today.)
Surviving strangulation is surviving attempted murder.
- 0.3% of women in South Africa report 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.
- 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 the highest level of adult per capita alcohol consumption in Africa. Alcohol abuse contributes to increased levels of both Gender-Based Violence and HIV.
- 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.
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.
Types of abuse
Physical abuse is defined as any deliberate act, behaviour or physical force by an individual or individuals (perpetrator) against someone (victim). It causes the victim bodily harm, injury, trauma, or put his/her life in danger. Methods are kicking, punching, burning, and using a knife gun to cause bodily harm.
In most cases, physical abuse plays a role in the cycle of domestic abuse and more often than not goes hand in hand with controlling behaviour, emotional and verbal abuse, and other forms of violence like stalking, sexual assault, and murder.
Signs of physical abuse are
- 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 behaviour that controls, demeans, harms or punishes a woman.
Many people think that emotional abuse is not as severe or as 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 the most significant predictor of physical violence. Emotional abuse is responsible for long-term problems with health, self-esteem, depression, and anxiety in women.
The 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.
- 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 class 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
- Constant critique on 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 (where they live, finances) or withholding information
- Control the money and total spending ²
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 considered as rape..
Economic abuse is to deprive a person of financial resources. The complainant must 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.
Your partner controls the money:
- 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
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 has already infected himself. And they often lack the economic power to remove themselves from relationships that carry significant 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.
Does domestic violence have an effect on children?
It has a devastating effect on the physical and emotional impact on victims and affects those around you. Children learn how to interact from a young age, and a child exposed to domestic violence can grow up to be a violent, abusive adult. Abuse occurs to 46% of children in domestic violence homes.
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 violence.
- Generally, Gender-based violence happens when an abuser has learned and chooses to abuse.
- Although mental illness is rarely the cause of GBV, people use it often as an excuse.
- Note: Men are the victims of gender-based violence in 40% of cases.
There are a variety of ways that gender-based violence may put victims at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS:
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 control pattern, making it unlikely that the abuser will use a condom. 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 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 and various 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 domestic violence’s serious nature, assault victims must be encouraged to report incidents to the police.
The police do not release the details about the number of assaults that involve intimate partners. The law requires police to keep a register of domestic violence cases. They must also have to victim friendly rooms available. Despite these requirements, regular compliance is deficient.
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 officer in a victim sensitive manner.
2. Police and social workers should assist victims 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 the victim’s health.
4. The Family Violence should conduct the investigation, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigation Unit or a detective with relevant training.
5. Victims of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse (and their families) should be referred to victim support services 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.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
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. Under the social and even legal control of their fathers or husbands, South African women were second-class citizens for many years.
South Africa’s common law deprived white women of guardianship and various economic rights. Black women were doubly disadvantaged as a result of their race and their gender. For instance, customary law 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 several 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 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”.
“(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 gender, sex, pregnancy and marital status is to protect women. The grounds “sex”, which is a biological feature, and “gender”, a social artefact, are both included – perhaps unnecessarily
What are 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 1998.³
The primary purpose of the Act is to provide the highest form of protection from domestic violence. The law places responsibility on state organs and the police to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can apply for protection orders to prevent abusers from entering a mutual home or the survivors’ home or workplace. The order can also allow for the seizure of weapons. The DVA has an expansive definition of domestic violence that includes physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological and economic abuse and intimidation, harassment, stalking and controlling behaviours. It also recognises a range of familiar and domestic relationships, including same-sex relationships.
Gaps and Challenges:
Although gender-based violence requires a multi-disciplinary approach, the Act does not place obligations on the Department of Social Development in providing care and support services and neither the Department of Health nor National prosecution authority.
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), primarily through General Recommendations 12 and 19 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
UN Women partner with Governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations, and other institutions to advocate for ending violence, increase awareness of the causes and consequences of violence, and build partners’ capacity 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.