Gender Based Violence – a pandemic in South Africa

Due to the stressors caused by the pandemic, South Africa has seen an increase in gender-based violence (GBV).

“Lack of finances, no access to support systems and added responsibilities can create inherent conflict within a couple,” explains Tasleem Daffurn, social worker and member of The South African Association of Social Workers in Private Practice (SAASWIPP). In the first week alone of lockdown, more than 87,000 cases of gender-based violence complaints were reported[1].

According to Daffurn, South African Society is steeped in patriarchy and in many cultures and families, women are seen as lesser than men. “With couples spending more time together, and not being able to work or visit family and friends, it can put tremendous strain on a relationship,” says Daffurn. “This can bring to a head underlying issues that were already within the relationship.”

Many perpetrators of GBV feel a loss of power within the relationship, and lockdown has also added to this, causing anger and frustration.  “Many abusers have been abused themselves, or exposed to it within their homes growing up and it can become something that they see as normal, or a way of life,” explains Daffurn.

Women who are already in a volatile situation, need to put in place a safety plan. “Let a close family member or a friend know your contingency plan and have a safe word that can used to let your support system know that they are in trouble,” says Daffurn.  Other tools that may help is to stay calm and never to argue with the abuser as this can escalate the situation. “Try finding an excuse to leave the house so you can get to a place of safety,” Daffurn concludes.

Many women in an abusive relationship can believe it’s their fault, and the abuse is normally coupled with verbal abuse, making them feel as if the abuse is deserved. “If you see that a woman has unexplained injuries, depression or lack of freedom due to the abuser, approach her without judgement, and listen without blaming her,” states Daffurn.

Once a woman has had to seek a place of safety it might be safe, but being safe and feeling safe are very different. “Women go through a lot of mixed emotions once they leave their abuser,” explains Daffurn. “Concern of putting other people at risk, questioning their decision to leave and also grief over the loss of the relationship and their home are common.”

Here are the contact details for someone to report GBV if they are a victim:

  • POWA – People opposing women abuse
  • National GBV Helpline – 0800428428
  • SADAG – South African Depression and Anxiety Group

If you want to report GBV happening to someone else:

  • POWA – People opposing women abuse
  • National GBV Helpline – 0800428428

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