In South Africa, we are in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against women and children.
A newspaper estimated that one in every four women is physically abused by her intimate partner. Every six hours, a woman is killed by her current or former intimate partner. Abuse can also be emotional, sexual and verbal. It is shocking to find that the same woman will continue to live with the abuser and endure more abuse.
Love cannot be the reason for being together. Nobody abuses somebody they love, neither can the abused love somebody who continues to hurt her. Various reasons are advanced for enduring abuse. Alcohol and drugs make women vulnerable and helpless. An intoxicated man will have fewer inhibitions and easily resort to violence.
Other reasons for accepting abuse may include low self-esteem, depression, guilt, fear, embarrassment and self-blame. A common reason is the financial dependence on men especially for women who are unemployed, are poor and have no education.
It is worse for women who have no parents or siblings, or whose family members cannot afford to support them. The cycle of violence consists of three phases. The first phase is tension building from the abuser leading to an argument. The second is the explosion phase where the abuse occurs.
It is at this phase that the victim may threaten to report or actually report the abuse. The honeymoon phase then follows. He apologises and showers her with flowers, chocolates and gifts.
She withdraws charges, returns home and lives in a false state of security until the first phase starts all over again. The violence will not end until the victim leaves or both seek counseling.
Typical characteristics of abusers consist of:
- Jealousy or insecurity- She has to account for her time and whereabouts. Some have to submit photographic evidence of their locations.
- Controlling behaviour- Some women are locked inside their homes. Others cannot leave the house or use the car. Their partners retain their bank cards.
- Isolation- Women are isolated from family and friends so that she cannot seek help.
- Forces his partner to have sex or engage in sexual activities against her will.
- Hold strong gender justification for his role, ‘man of the house, king of the castle’ or advances a religious reason for his behaviour.
If you are a victim or a perpetrator, it is time to stop the abuse. If you are a witness, don’t look the other way. Report all incidents of abuse.