Despite South Africa’s annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, domestic and sexual violence remain a major cause for concern given the shocking statistics.
A 2018 report by Statistics South Africa, ‘Crime against Women in South Africa’, revealed, apart from the horrifying incidence of rape, that 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual abuse.
A surprising finding was that 2.5% of women believe men are justified in beating women.
Most cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse in South Africa go unreported, which is why detailed statistics are lacking.
‘According to the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) more women are killed by their partners or ex-partners in South Africa than in any other country in the world,’ says Hein Hofmeyr, a clinical psychologist at Akeso Nelspruit.
‘Abuse experienced at the hand of intimate partners is the most common type of violence and the leading cause of death among South African women. The incidence is shockingly high. Every eight hours a woman dies because of partner abuse.’
Hofmeyr says research indicates that 40% of men have reported hitting their partners, and one in four has confessed to raping a woman.
According to the Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele, there have been 124 256 rape cases reported over the last three years.
‘The MRC states that only 2% of rapes are reported. It’s then safe to assume that the number of rape cases is closer to two million per year,’ says Hofmeyr.
‘What is even more concerning is that General Cele said 41% of reported rapes were committed against children. It’s quite apparent that we desperately need activism to create awareness about the need to put a stop to women and child abuse.
‘One of the reasons for the high rate of domestic and sexual abuse is lack of respect for the law,’ Hofmeyr says.
Educational psychologist, Tammy Epstein, believes part of the problem lies with absent fathers or absent role models.
When boys are raised without a father or a father figure, she says, there is a breakdown in the family unit, which may lead to adverse effects on the psychological development of boys.
Seeking help in abusive situations
Taking the decision to leave an abusive relationship is often the most difficult part.
Victims experience confusion, guilt, self-blame and isolation or withdrawal from their support network.
‘You might even believe that your partner will change, or they may promise they will seek help for their abusive behaviour,’ cautions Hofmeyr.
‘If the abuse is repetitive and your abuser or partner has not changed their behaviour, your safety becomes the only thing that should matter to you.’
He stresses that it is important to remember that the victim is not to blame in any way. Everyone deserves to be safe, happy and to be treated with respect.
There are people willing and able to help.
‘Start by confiding in a trustworthy friend or relative,’ he adds.
You can also contact your doctor, social worker, psychologist or counsellor. Getting out of the abusive relationship is the first step.
After that, you can start dealing with abuse-related difficulties, such as coping with the traumatic memories, depression or anxiety related symptoms, any addictions, sexual or intimacy issues, anger problems and any other factors or symptoms that are affecting one’s daily functioning.
‘Although you might feel trapped, helpless and hopeless, know that many other women and children have gone through the same process and you are not alone. Reach out and talk to someone.’
If you are a victim of abuse and need help for the psychological impact it has had on you, contact Akeso on 0861 4357 87 for further information or visit www.akeso.co.za.
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