OPENING THE GBV CONVERSATION ON Y-FM (Wednesday 16/09/2020)
With Khutso Theledi and Prof Hayley Walker-Williams
Resources to Assist Victims of GBV
- South African Police Service
In a case of domestic violence or sexual assault, the South African Police Service will help you find:
medical attention; shelter and victim counselling.
SAPS emergency number: 10111
- People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa)
Powa provides counselling, both over the phone and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.
Tel: 011 642 4345
- Childline South Africa
This non-profit organisation helps abused children and their families with a free counselling service. It deals with issues such as physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, behavioural problems and trafficking, and gives legal advice.
Toll-free helpline: 0800 055 555
- Child Welfare South Africa
Child Welfare South Africa focuses on child protection, child care and family development. Neglect and child abuse can also be reported.
Tel: 074 080 8315
- Families South Africa (FAMSA)
FAMSA provides counselling and education to help improve marriages and families. It helps in cases of domestic violence and trauma, divorces and mediation. There are 27 offices across the country.
Tel: 011 975 7106/7
- TEARS Foundation
TEARS Foundation provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
Free SMS helpline: *134*7355#
Tel: 010 590 5920
- The Trauma Centre
The Trauma Centre provides trauma counselling and violence prevention services for people affected by violence
Tel: 021 465 7373
- Thuthuzela Care Centres
Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) are one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution. The website also provides access to information on gender-based violence.
- SAPS Emergency – 10111
- Gender-Based Violence Command Centre – 0800 428 428
- STOP Gender Violence Helpline – 0800 150 150/ SMS *120*7867#
- Halt Elder Abuse Line (Heal) – helpline for elderly people – 0800 003 081/ E-mail: email@example.com
- Human Trafficking helpline – 08000 737 283 (08000 rescue) / 082 455 3664
FOR ANY ASSISTANCE CONTACT US AT THE VAAL THERAPY CENTRE
TEL: 082 383 7826 or www.vaaltherapycentre.co.za
What is GBV and who does it affect?
Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence directed against a person because of their gender usually as a result of power or gender inequalities between women and men. GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, and/or financial and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances and/or strangers. Overall, most acts of GBV are committed by men against women, and the perpetrator is known to the victim, such as a partner or family member. However, both women and men can be victims of GBV. GBV does not discriminate and cuts across all barriers thus any person of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim.
It is a profound and widespread problem in South Africa with long-term devastating impacts for the victim’s including mental health difficulties, inter- and intrapersonal and sexual difficulties. The Crimes Against Women in South Africa Report compiled by Statistics South Africa account that GBV is 5 times higher in South Africa than the global average. However, accurate statistics are difficult to obtain as most incidents of GBV go unreported as victims fear their safety, being stigmatized and/or have no faith in the justice system.
Why do some victims find it hard to leave these toxic environments?
It is documented that most women leave an abusive relationship 4-7 times with varying degrees of permanency before they escape the perpetrators control. Generally, the fear of leaving is often far greater than the fear of staying and leaving does not guarantee the victim’s safety. This is because women live in fear of aggravating the abuser; they fear for their and their children’s safety and even though the situation is intolerable they may be forced to remain as the perpetrator provides them and their children with shelter and food. As GBV is shrouded in secrecy and stigma the fear of being shamed or stigmatized for leaving may also prevent victims from leaving. Furthermore, an early role-model of an abusive parent may normalize an abusive situation for a victim. The repeated cycle of violence also affects these women’s self-belief and as such victims may feel that they will not be worthy of receiving love and support in a healthy relationship, as for years, the abuser has gaslighted (which means to manipulate someone into doubting their own sanity or rationality) them into believing that they are to blame and are unworthy of receiving love and respect. They may also believe the perpetrators empty promises to reform. Religious or cultural values may further forbid separation or divorce or going against the patriarchal leadership of the family. At times women are socially, geographically, physically and financially isolated and thus have no access to resources to allow them to function independently of the perpetrator. Literature also depicts that women have lost faith in the police services or justice systems and may feel that no one will be able to protect them or their children if they leave.
What needs to be done to assist GBV victims?
Firstly, our South African justice system is not victim-centred and this is an enormous flaw. A victim-centred approach seeks to minimize re-traumatization associated with the criminal justice process by providing victims with support and empowerment opportunities. The lack of such services for victims, is a huge problem, as in South Africa this crisis is disproportionate to the resources we have available to manage it. Overall, the actions of our justice system are a crucial part of the victim’s recovery. Protecting victims must become a priority for government and not just by focusing on response efforts but also by supporting these efforts with preventative programmes and policy development which addresses the underlying culture of violence where toxic masculinity is treated as the norm. Let us open conversations around gender inequality using non-violent communication and empathy and end the toxic silence.
Furthermore, we need to educate victims on their rights. GBV is a human rights violation. A healthy relationship is one where you feel safe and you are respected. The right to live free from violence and abuse is a basic human right not a privilege! Victims need to know their rights. However, the world for GBV victims can be lonely, isolated and riddled with fear and they can be frozen in fear thus we need to reach out and let them know what support is available to them.
Offering support can be the catalyst for their exit or recovery. Provide victims with contact details for specific support organisations and resources and encourage them to seek out local trauma clinics at primary health care facilities, or engage in telephonic counselling services with lifeline, or SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group), or POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), or social services and even support groups and if possible accompany them in accessing such support.
Victims can report to SAPS and/or apply for a protection order at their local magistrate’s court where they will be given forms to complete, which will prevent the perpetrator entering into any shared space with the victim and they can then be referred to a safe shelter. We need to assist these fearful victims in realising that they do have options and we believe them and can support them! By connecting them with supportive agencies and resources that can further aid them in coping.
After leaving what must victims do to help rebuild their lives?
Overall, GBV is not just an event it is a complex process and vicious cycle of trauma. Therefore, healing is a complex process.
The critical point of departure has to be on focusing on the healing of the victims and providing therapeutic support so as to allow the victims to shift their life narrative from one of victim to one of survivor and then thriver.
To do this survivors must heal and make meaning of their trauma and with support create a post-trauma so after trauma identity.
We must facilitate safe and supportive spaces where survivors can:
- Tell their stories (without fear and with acknowledgment and belief);
- Where they can realise they were not to blame and start to acknowledge how powerless they were and that their responses were normal for the abnormal situation in which they found themselves trapped;
- That they can now start to restore their power by making active plans and decisions as a survivor with support;
- That this can start to make sense of a life before, during and after the abuse and re-establish their place and purpose in the world by using new or altered coping strategies and resources available;
- That they can realise that their futures can be different and fulfilling;
- That they can reflect on their strengths throughout this struggle of GBV;
- And so perhaps become advocates for other victims.
Support groups are also very beneficial. It can be a vehicle of healing where women can witness similar experiences and so encourage and support.
Importantly we need to see these survivors as being “in the driver’s seat” in terms of them being the experts of their trauma and navigating their healing journeys about where they are at and where they want to get to. We must be patient and supportive in their processes.
Remember that even though survivors may be out of the abusive relationship they continue to confront the residual effects of the trauma and may continue to deal with other life stressors such as family and work stress.
Long-term victims should create a safety plan, and begin preparing for their exit which could include creating a word to share with friends when they are in danger, agreeing on a location where they can meet support when danger escalates, memorizing important numbers of family, friends and helping professionals and lastly making a list of things to pack when under threat such as identity documents, keys, medicine, cash etc.
Take home message
THE YOUTH MUST KNOW THAT A healthy relationship is one where you feel safe and you are respected! The right to live free from violence and abuse is a basic human right not a privilege!
Let us challenge normalizing violence against women and children and BELIEVE and support these victims! Lastly, are we asking the right questions as a society? We should not be asking why victims stay but instead why are perpetrators staying? What is enabling perpetrators to stay and bypass the justice system? What are we as a society doing to reinforce traditional patriarchal systems and toxic masculinity? And why are we not doing more to protect our victims?
Recently our President Ramaphosa mentioned the recent spike of GBV incidents in his state of the nation address. He said that: “This is brutality that defies comprehension” let us as a society begin to comprehend the magnitude and consequences of our silence and translate this into action!