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Gender-based violence

The term Gender-based violence has become such a norm in South Africa that we have become desensitised to abuse. When we hear about a murder by an intimate partner, we have 1 of 2 responses. We either blame or don't believe the victim or we are disgusted. But still, just shrug our shoulders thinking someone else will solve the problem.  Many times we ask the question, 'Why did they stay'? Not understanding how isolating and debilitating abuse can make you feel.

In the light of the strong terms we are exposed to almost on a daily basis like murder, rape, general mutilation and forced marriages, we are almost tempted to say a slap here, and there is nothing when it is weighed against the above. However, the rapist did not start out as a rapist. The murderer did not wake up one day and decided to commit a murder. The assault started with the slap; the slap escalated into a punch; the punch became a stab that eventually ended up being fatal.

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!

Even though women are in most cases, victims of abuse it is also possible for them to be the perpetrator. Men and women alike suffer in silence, and that silence gives birth to shame. The victim will many times blame themselves saying: "If I did not make him/her angry, it would not have happened". It is especially true when a person's self-esteem has been broken down over time. As much as both men and women can be victims of abuse, it is the women who are most vulnerable. Poverty, lack of education, dependants from previous relationships, no or low income, all these things can make people susceptible to abuse. 

There will be warning signs like isolation from family and friends. When a person usually is outspoken, they will become withdrawn. In those cases, because of shame, it is very difficult to break the silence. Sometimes even after the silence has been broken, the victim will return to that abusive situation because of the ambivalent feeling they have towards the abuser.

No one can choose someone else, but we can help by being part of the support structure for the victim. Help the victim by going with them to make a case or get a restraining order. Encourage communication and connection with the friends and family of the victim and continue being a support structure as far as possible. By doing research on an institution in the area that is able to assist quickly when needed. 

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to break the silence, and women and men who survive should be seen as courageous. It is not just the government's problem. We can make a difference in this regard by teaching our children what it means to treat each other with respect and we, as grown-ups should lead by example. Then we will be able to change the narrative around abuse. 

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