How does GBV affect women and children?
South Africa has one of the highest rates Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and although both men and women can experience GBV, the statistics in South Africa show that most of the victims are women and girls. Women and children still experience violence in their everyday lives. Here’s the impact of this.
There are various mental health conditions that affect abused women and children, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions also increase the risk of attempted or completed suicide among women and children.
Increased HIV/STI and unplanned pregnancy risk
Women are already 2 to 4 times more likely than men to become infected with HIV during intercourse. Sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) are often fuelled by violence. Violence limits women and children’s ability to protect themselves from HIV, as they’re often forced to have sex without a condom or they don’t have the power to negotiate safe sex or to refuse sex. Victims often can’t test for STIs or HIV and fail to seek treatment.
Gender-based violence limits women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights. Women that experience physical or sexual violence during pregnancy increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or termination of pregnancy (which is usually forced), as well as premature labour and low birth weight.
GBV also limits women’s access to fair family planning. As a result, they have little control over decisions affecting their sexual and reproductive lives, including when and how many children they want.
Poor social skills
Children raised in families where a woman is abused are also victims of violence- if not physically, psychologically. These children witness violence and may grow up believing such behaviour is normal. This negatively affects their self-development and ability to function in society. As a result, they struggle with social skills and find it difficult to interact and build trusting relationships with others.
The unfortunate reality is that in South Africa, reports of GBV are often dismissed by the police who see the issue as a private matter for families, rather than a criminal matter. Many women and children also experience stigma associated with sexual violence. Together, these factors contribute to the underreporting of GBV cases,- this can lead to death of victims. Always remember- there are organisations you can reach out to. Chat to me if you need assistance.
Where to get help
People Opposed to Woman Abuse (POWA)- provides counselling, both over the phone and in person, temporary shelter and legal help to women who’ve experienced violence. You can contact them on 011 642 4345.
Families South Africa (FAMSA)- provides counselling and education to help improve marriages and families. It helps in cases of domestic violence and trauma, divorces, and mediation. They have 27 offices across the country, and can be contacted on 011 975 7106/7.
Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs)- one-stop facilities available at most clinics and hospitals to help victims of sexual violence build a court case. They also provide access to information on gender-based violence. Find a centre near you by visiting their website.
We must continue to make people aware of gender-based violence and its effects on women and children. No matter what gender you are, being educated about GBV is an important step towards fighting and ending it.
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