Resources for domestic violence victims in South Africa
Domestic violence is a significant problem that faces both men and women in South Africa. During the national COVID-19 total lockdown of the country, there was an alarming surge in reports of domestic violence from all over the country. Even before lockdown, SA had one of the highest number of violent crimes against women and children, particularly in their own homes.
According to studies by the World Health Organization (WHO), South African women are murdered by their intimate partners five times more than the global average.
The world’s awareness campaign against gender-based violence is imminent. The international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls includes 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and runs every year from 25 November; The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day.
It is a United Nations campaign.
Global Citizen reports that the SA Police Force’s gender-based violence hotline counted a whopping 2,300 received calls in the first five days of lockdown — nearly three times the rate before the lockdown — showing that violence against women had increased and not decreased as previously assumed. It is important to note that the lockdown in SA also prohibited the sale of tobacco and alcohol, which many believed added to the stress in the homes of addicts and raising the rate of domestic violence incidents as a result.
Amidst these reports, there was an increase in reported rapes, with many of the cases being inter-marital, and even family members raping elderly women and young children in their own home.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement about the increased numbers that: “For public faith in the criminal justice system to be maintained, gender-based violence needs to be treated with the urgency it deserves by our communities working together with our police.” He added that more than half of the country’s women had experienced violence from someone with whom they were in a relationship.
During the lockdown, Gender adviser at the Social Policy Network, Rose Gawaya, said publicly that the government GBV and femicide command centre alone recorded more than 120,000 victims in the first three weeks.
Where can I go if I am being abused?
Abuse isn’t only physical violence. Being screamed and shouted at, controlled with fear and also being financially abused can be damaging to one’s mind and affect you negatively. Verbal abuse is sometimes overlooked, but if you are in a toxic relationship in which someone continually insults and belittles you, you have every right to seek help and leave (although, leaving isn’t always easy).
Family Law explains that acts that count as emotional abuse include controlling the victim’s actions (where they go, what they eat, what they say), withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness and denying the victim access to money or other essential resources and necessities.
There is a lot that some victims of abuse need to consider before leaving an abusive situation. Many times, the abuser is the breadwinner, and the woman has nowhere else to go (at least not for very long). Religion, social expectations and the feeling of failure can also keep abused women stuck in a marriage or living situation.
It is important to remember that someone who remains in an abusive relationship isn’t stupid. Abusers usually control their victims with fear and threats.
The most dangerous thing that you can do in an abusive relationship is get caught leaving. You have to plan your exodus and have a support team on the outside.
There are quite a few places to go to in SA if you are a victim of domestic violence:
Firstly, call the police if you feel that you are being threatened. The national police number is 10111 or save the direct number of the police station closest to your home to call them directly.
If you are in danger, having the iER app on your phone can alert the proper authorities, as well as a circle of friends and family that you choose to nominate.
FAMSA has offices nationwide and gives counselling to the abused and their families. To find your nearest FAMSA branch, call 011 975 7101, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.famsa.org.za.
Lifeline is a 24-hour counselling service. Call the SA National Counselling Line on 0861 322 322.
People Opposing Women Abuse or POWA provides telephonic counselling and legal support to women experiencing abuse. POWA also accompanies women to court and assists them in completing documents. Call the POWA helpline on 083 765 1235 or visit www.powa.co.za.
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. Confidential services are provided to all victims at no charge! *134*7355# | email@example.com
Legal Aid South Africa offers legal assistance. To locate your nearest Justice Centre, call 0861 053 425 or visit www.legal-aid.co.za.
Rape Crisis offers free, confidential counselling to people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Call 011 642 4345.