Violence and HIV: How to break the cycle
Did you know women who have experienced violence are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who haven’t? HIV is a Human Immunodeficiency Virus and experiencing gender-based violence (GBV) puts women at a higher risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) because abusers harm victims as a way to take control and show their “power” over them. This is why ending GBV is one of the many solutions we need to reduce HIV infections among young women. Here’s a guide to what you can do to break the cycle of gender-based violence.
You can read how gender-based violence and HIV is linked in the first place in this article here.
Why do we need to break the cycle?
GBV is defined as: “any form of deliberate physical, psychological or sexual harm, or threat of harm, directed against a person on the basis of their gender”. So, while we automatically think of rape, this definition also includes both physical and emotional abuse, and yes, bullying can definitely fall into this field. As mentioned there are three main types of GBV:
Physical – beating, biting, using weapons, pulling hair, chocking.
Psychological – insults, extreme constant criticism, yelling, discriminating, blaming, shaming, humiliating.
Sexual – sexual harassment, unwanted touching, rape, forced prostitution, sexual trafficking
How GBV increases HIV is that the person abusing the victim might force them to unsafe behaviour. GBV is all about power and exercising control over the victim. If you’re a victim of GBV, you’re often left feeling powerless, unable to stand up for yourself and at risk of being pressured into unsafe behaviour such as unprotected sex.
The way the cycle of abuse continues is when victims of abuse are not given any support and those who are abusive towards them are not held accountable for their actions. In a domestic situation (in a person’s home), abuse affects everyone and can make others at risk of being abusive in the future or of being abused in the future. The more GBV continues, the more the risk of further abuse and of HIV is spread. Keeping silent on these issues gives the cycle of abuse space to grow and become worse, not just for those experiencing it, but also for those who might be at risk in future.
What does it take to break the cycle?
The first step to breaking the cycle of abuse and the increased risk of HIV is by standing up for a change. Start by understanding the effects that GBV has on victims and understanding that it is never ever the victim's fault. Like I said Choma, the key to helping end GBV is supporting the victim (even in simple ways like not shaming someone for being in an abusive relationship) and by holding an abuser accountable. Men are most often the perpetrators of abuse and so including them in the conversation about ending abuse is crucial.
Talk to your friends and family members. This includes not only friends and family who you know or think are being abused, but also those who you know are abusive. You can do this by using the help provided in my articles to teach victims and perpetrators what abuse is and why it is wrong. The problem starts with those who are abusive and that’s why solving the problem needs to begin with having these conversations with abusers.
An important thing to remember is that teaching someone why abuse is wrong and how this behaviour should change doesn’t have to end up in an argument. Plus, it’s a great way for you to learn even more than you already know.
Choma, even though you’re trying to help end the cycle of abuse, to keep yourself safe, never put yourself in harm's way.
Breaking the cycle of Gender-based violence can only happen when everyone is willing to unlearn problematic behaviour and ways of thinking, and are ready to re-learn compassion, understanding and what real love is supposed to be about. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but it’s very necessary.
Choma, here are some numbers to contact if you or a friend are being abused and need urgent 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 Counselling Helplines:
021 447-9762 (Observatory)
021 633 9229 (Athlone)
021 361 9085 (Khayelitsha)
Otherwise Choma 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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