The latest round of crime statistics for the July to September 2021 period, painted a bleak picture for the women and children of South Africa. 9 556 women were raped, (a 7% increase), 13 000 cases of domestic violence were reported, and child murders increased by a third. As President Ramaphosa said, this is shameful, and more should be done to prevent crimes against women.
There are a number of advocacy groups working hard to ensure this by holding government accountable for the promises and commitments they have made. This is important, especially now when the theme for 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children is ‘moving from awareness to accountability’. However, while civil society lobby for change and action, violence against women and children continues, unabated, and spikes over the December festive season.
According to Mara Glennie, Founder and CEO of TEARS Foundation, which offers a free, national, survivor-centred service: “Last year over the festive season, we were inundated with 42 962 calls for help for gender-based violence, which was a 57% increase from November 2020 and a 117% increase from October 2020. The majority of the calls TEARS Foundation received over the festive season were related to domestic violence and sexual assault.”
1st for Women Insurance has donated funds to ensure that TEARS has the resources to cope with the influx of gender-based violence (GBV) cases over the festive season. Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women explains: “Government’s goal is to eradicate GBV and Femicide by 2030, but we are already on the back foot. While we wait for action and accountability to protect our women from the GBV pandemic, we need to do what we can to support the passionate activists and advocacy groups who work tirelessly to assist victims and survivors of GBV in South Africa.”
“Each survivor’s experience and healing process is different, and for some people, the holiday period may be an especially tough time,” says Glennie. “Simple safety tips, self-care strategies, and the support of loved ones can sometimes make all the difference.”
The following advice is offered to victims of GBV who say enough is enough:
- It is not your fault: When you are in an abusive relationship, you might find you blame yourself for it, because your partner manipulates you into believing it is your fault. Abuse is never your fault. There is nothing you could do or say that would make it okay for someone to hurt you in any way.
- Do not feel guilty: Feeling guilty about the abuse can also make you feel shameful about opening up to others about it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You did not choose to be in a relationship with an abuser. It is not your fault.
- Make notes: Write down everything you can about the abusive incidents when your abuser is not around. Take screenshots of any abusive messages they send to you. If you are being physically abused, take pictures of the marks on your body, and go and see a healthcare practitioner. The evidence can help you when you need to file a report with the police or get a protection order. Even if you have not written anything down before, write down what you remember from previous abusive episodes. You might already have messages as proof, keep those too. Just remember to keep those notes and images out of your partner’s sight.
- Safety planning: This a crucial step for someone involved in an abusive relationship.
- Do not tell your partner that you are leaving them.
- Trust your instincts.
- Practice how to get out safely, with your children.
- Teach your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.
- Put together an emergency bag with money/credit cards/debit cards, extra keys, medicine, and important papers such as birth certificates. Keep it somewhere safe and accessible.
- Consider speaking to a trained domestic violence counsellor to create a detailed safety plan.