Reasons why people don’t report abuse
(and why they should)
Abuse affects everyone, no matter your age, gender, background or race. The only way to break the cycle of abuse is to speak out and get help. Sounds easy, right? Not always, Choma. It’s a sad and horrible reality that women and children just don’t feel safe. With an average of 1 in 3 children experiencing abuse and 1 in 5 women experiencing physical violence, it’s easy to understand why. Whether you’re the victim of abuse or you’re witnessing (or suspecting) abusive acts taking place, there are many reasons why you might hesitate out of fear to come forward and say or do something about it. Here are a few:
Shock and Fear
When people suspect that someone they know is being abused, they are often too shocked to take it in at first. This is perfectly normal; most people are naturally trustful so suspecting that someone they know, (like a friend or relative) is capable of abusing their child or partner is hard to imagine.
When you’re the victim, fear is natural and understandable. It’s hard, but facing that fear and getting help will strength to remove yourself from abusive situations in the long run. Whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual abuse, there are organisations like ChildLine (available toll-free on 08 000 55 555) who you can call to talk about what’s happening, get advice and take a friend or someone you trust and go to your nearest police station. Remember, you’re not alone and abuse is never your fault.
In cases of emotional abuse, victims often begin to doubt themselves and second-guess all their decisions. This can prevent them from getting the help they so desperately need. There’s a form of emotional abuse known as gas lighting where the victim is manipulated into doubting their own memories of what happened, and wondering if they’re crazy. Sometimes victims are even convinced that what’s happening is normal, or even their fault. It’s hard, but if this is happening to you, you need to trust your instincts and step away from the situation to get help. Speak to someone you can trust (you can even call any of the numbers I’ve provided below Choma).
Fear of Retaliation
Often people are scared of reporting abuse because of the way that family and friends will react. Victim-shaming, which is where the victim of abuse is somehow made to feel like they are responsible for their abuse, is a huge problem. It prevents people from healing from their trauma because people either don’t believe them or imply that they were somehow at fault. Chomas, if you were or are the victim of abuse, it is never your fault, remember that!
If the abuse occurs in your family or group of friends, you might be afraid to speak out because of how they’ll react. Maybe you’re worried that they’ll take the abuser’s side? It’s a valid fear, but at the end of the day you need to put yourself first and get the help you need to get away from abusive situations.
Abuse is a huge problem in our country Choma, and it’s one that won’t go away until we break the stigma and silence around it. That comes from reporting these acts to the police victim support centres and other organisations who are here specifically to help. If you speak up about your own abuse (or abuse you suspect is happening to someone you know), not only will you get help, you may save someone else from facing the same thing another day.
Here are some organisations you can contact for help:
LifeLine: 011 728 1347
National counselling line: 0861 322 322
Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA) helpline: 083 765 1235
Rape Crisis Counseling lines:
021 447-9762 (Observatory)
021 633 9229 (Athlone)
021 361 9085 (Khayelitsha)
If you need advice or help, remember that you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657)
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