Gender violence

Home is no longer a safe haven

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One’s home is often seen as a safe haven from the violence and turmoil that life can throw at you. But statistics are showing that women are more vulnerable at home than anywhere else.

Why is this? Surely the people closest to you have your best interests at heart? Sadly, there is no safe place at home in South Africa and beyond, with many men having little respect for gender violence legislation. Some reports show that you are more likely to be abused by somebody you already know, as opposed to a stranger.

According to Elisabet le Roux, Researcher, Unit for Religion and Development Research, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, ”Nearly a third (30%) of women worldwide who are in intimate relationships will experience violence at the hands of their partners according to the World Health Organization, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council. Globally, about 38% of all murdered women die at the hands of their intimate partners.

”South Africa is a case in point. According to a 2016 health and democratic survey, a fifth (21%) of women over 18 years old in intimate relationships have experienced physical violence from a partner; 6% experienced sexual violence from a partner. And a retrospective national study published in 2009 put the South African mortality rate from intimate partner violence at 8.8 per 100 000 women—twice as high as the United States.”

However, this is not just an African problem and developed countries like the USA also have alarming statists when it comes to gender violence. Is it that men can’t express themselves without resorting to violence? Communication is the key to any functional relationship.

According to Le Roux, ”The Centers for Disease Control’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that 9,4% of women have been raped by intimate partners in their lifetime, 15,9% of women have experienced sexual intimate partner violence, other than rape, and nearly 33% of women have been subjected to physical violence at the hands of their partners.”

What is even more alarming is that in war-torn areas that are known for high rates of sexual abuse from invading soldiers, women are still more likely to be abused by their partner or another family member. In 2018, with the access to information that both men and women have about living a better life and respecting one another, it is depressing to read these statistics.

The scars of war run deep

Le Roux goes on to outline some of the findings from a study from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of Africa’s most violent countries: ”The eastern DRC is still wracked by ongoing violence from different rebel groups. This has been going on for decades, and the eastern DRC is known for high rates of very violent sexual attacks perpetrated by soldiers as well as rebels.

”The survey showed that non-partner sexual violence, which would include sexual violence perpetrated by soldiers and rebels, was very high—20,8% of women reported non-partner sexual violence within the last year. What wasn’t expected was the shocking finding that more than two-thirds (68,7%) of the women who reported having experienced non-partner sexual violence in the last 12 months said that the perpetrator was a known person or a family member. The perpetrator was a militia member or another unknown person in only 6% of the cases.

”The very high levels of intimate partner violence were just as shocking: 68,8% of women in relationships who took part in the survey reported having experienced some form of intimate partner violence in the previous 12 months and 38,4% had been sexually violated by an intimate partner in the last year. Over 68,2% of men in relationships reported perpetrating intimate partner violence.”

Workplace abuse

Both women and men may experience sexual harassment in their workplace, which can negatively affect their work performance and general wellbeing. Sexual harassment at work undermines one’s sense of personal dignity and can cause physical and emotional illness.

”Young girls and boys should be educated on what’s acceptable in terms of how they should be treated and how they should treat others. Sexual consent is often misunderstood by young people. Schools are social institutions outside of homes with which almost every child has consistent contact.

It is important to instil sexual harassment education in children while they are still young. Some children don’t know or understand what sexual harassment is, which may lead to them thinking that it’s okay for someone to do something to them without their consent,” says Khethi Ngwenya, the Managing Director of SchoolMedia.

“Some people grow up not knowing what abuse is. In most cases, people think that it’s normal for them to be mistreated,” says Nhlanhla Mokoena, the Executive Director of People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA).

This just goes to show that there are people who only start learning about sexual harassment once it is too late, and they have less hope of reform in prison. It’s time that the men of South Africa take responsibility for their behaviour. We need better role models who respect women’s and children’s rights and encourage a more harmonious culture for our future generation’s sake. 

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