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Domestic abuse and violence against women and children are often underreported due to fear on the part of the victims.

According to Courtney Greene, an occupational therapist at Akeso Clinic Umhlanga, statistics of abuse experienced and reported in South Africa remain extremely high.

What is Abuse?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress”. This broad definition of abuse includes five subtypes: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and negligent treatment, emotional abuse and exploitation.”

Causes of Abuse

Greene highlights a number of factors that may lead to one person abusing another:

  1. Often abuse may stem from early learning experiences. Many abusers were abused in their lifetime and have learned to see hurtful behaviour as ‘normal’.
  2. The lack of social support or social resources may also lead to abuse, she adds. Caregivers who have the support of an extended family, religious group, or close friends and neighbours are less likely to lose their self-control under stress.
  3. Likewise, both substance use disorder and mental health disorders may cause a person to become abusers, as alcohol and mood-altering drugs provoke erratic and often violent behaviours. These weaken or remove a person’s inhibitions against violence toward others.
  4. Mental health disorders such as depression, personality disordersdissociative disorders, adjustment disorders and anxiety disorders can all affect a parents’ ability to care for their children appropriately, unfortunately leading to child abuse and/or neglect.

How Does Abuse Impacts On Psychology?

According to Greene, distorted thought patterns, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug dependence (substance use disorder), eating disorders and anxiety disorders are some of the negative psychological effects of abuse. An article published by the Livestrong foundation mentions three signs of emotional and mental abuse that you can identify in relationships:

  1. Jealousy: The abuser often shows signs of extreme jealousy, demanding to know where you go, who you see and may stop you from seeing certain people and going to certain places.
  2. Disrespect: Disrespect by mocking, criticising or humiliating the victim, often in public trying to shame and embarrass him/her.
  3. Control: The aggressor often uses mind games, anger, threats and insults to dominate the victim and control her actions and habits. They may tell you what to wear, who you may see, and use threats of violence or self-harm in order to attempt to control the victim.

Abuse Statistics in South Africa

In May this year (2017), the South Africa Demographic and Health Survey, conducted by Stats SA in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council, released the following sombre statistics of women abuse and sexual violence against them:

  • 21% of women over the age of 18 reported that they had experienced violence at the hands of a partner; that’s one in five women.
  • 8% of these women reported that they had experienced such violence during the last 12 months of taking the survey.
  • The Eastern Cape has the highest rate of physical abuse (with a whopping 32% of women report physical abuse)
  • KwaZulu-Natal has the lowest rate of physical abuse (with an equally shocking 14% of women reporting physical abuse)
  • Other provinces also showed worryingly high figures: The North West (29,4%); Mpumalanga (26,4%); Free State (21,4%); Western Cape (21,2%) and the Northern Cape (18,7%).

The survey also showed that it is particularly women living in the lowest wealth quintile that experience the most physical violence; similarly, women with no education are often victims at the hands of their intimate partners. The theme for 2017 is “Together we can end GBV in Education”, so let’s talk openly and teach our girls and boys by being role models that oppose any form of violence against another living being.

Source: Bespoke Comms. Image: Pixabay

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