What is Gender-Based Violence ?
Gender-based violence (GBV) takes on many forms and can occur throughout a person’s life cycle. Types of gender-based violence can include the murder of babies on account of their sex; child sexual abuse; sex trafficking and forced labour; sexual coercion and abuse; neglect; domestic violence; elder abuse; harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriage, violence against those who are deemed to bring dishonour to the family or culture, and female genital mutilation/cutting.
Women and girls are the most at risk and most affected by gender-based violence – something all too well known within the South African context. Consequently, the terms “violence against women” and “gender-based violence” are often used interchangeably. However, boys and men can also experience gender-based violence, as can sexual and gender minorities. Regardless of the target, gender-based violence is characterized by the use and abuse of physical, emotional, or financial power and control. Something a real man is willing to fight against, for the sake of his mother, his sister, and his daughter.
The different types of Gender-Based Violence
Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event, but rather a pattern of perpetrator behaviors used against a survivor. The pattern consists of a variety of abusive acts, occurring in multiple episodes over the course of the relationship. Some episodes consist of a sustained attack with one tactic repeated many times (e.g., punching), combined with a variety of other tactics (such as name calling, threats, or attacks against property).
Physical abuse may include spitting, scratching, biting, grabbing, shaking, shoving, pushing, restraining, throwing, twisting, slapping (with open or closed hand), punching, choking, burning, and/or use of weapons (e.g., household objects, knives, guns) against the survivor. The physical assaults may or may not cause injuries.
Sexual violence can take many forms and take place under very different circumstances. A person can be sexually violated by one individual or several people (e.g. gang-rapes); the incident may be planned or a surprise attack.
Women who are incarcerated may be subjected to sexual violence by prison guards and police officers. Other forms of sexual violence include, but are not limited to:
sexual harassment (including demands for sex in exchange for job promotion or advancement or higher school marks or grades)
trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation
forced exposure to pornography
female genital mutilation
There are different types of psychological assaults.
Threats of violence and harm
The perpetrator’s threats of violence or harm may be directed against the survivor or others important to the survivor or they may be suicide threats. Sometimes the threat includes killing the victim and others and then committing suicide. The threats may be made directly with words (e.g., “I’m going to kill you,” “No one is going to have you,” “Your mother is going to pay,” “I cannot live without you”) or with actions (e.g., stalking, displaying weapons, hostage taking, suicide attempts).
Emotional abuse is a tactic of control that consists of a wide variety of verbal attacks and humiliations, including repeated verbal attacks against the survivor’s worth as an individual or role as a parent, family member, friend, co-worker, or community member. In domestic violence, verbal attacks and other tactics of control are intertwined with the threat of harm in order to maintain the perpetrator’s dominance through fear.
Perpetrators often try to control survivors’ time, activities and contact with others. They gain control over them through a combination of isolating and disinformation tactics. Isolating tactics may become more overtly abusive over time. Through incremental isolation, some perpetrators increase their psychological control to the point where they determine reality for the survivors.
Use of children
Some abusive acts are directed against or involve children in order to control or punish the adult victim (e.g., physical attacks against a child, sexual use of children, forcing children to watch the abuse of the survivor, engaging children in the abuse of the survivor). A perpetrator may use children to maintain control over his partner by not paying child support, requiring the children to spy, requiring that at least one child always be in the company of the survivor, threatening to take children away from her, involving her in long legal fights over custody, or kidnapping or taking the children hostage as a way to force the survivor’s compliance.
As we’ve discussed before, abuse is not just about being beaten or physically bruised and scarred. Abuse takes on many forms. Some people don’t even know they are being abused. So what is abuse according to the law?
According to the South African Domestic Violence Act of 1998, domestic violence is defined as “Sexual abuse; emotional abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse, stalking, damage to property, harassment, entry into the complainant’s residence without consent, where involved parties do not share the same residence; or any abusive or controlling behaviour towards a complainant, where such conduct harms, or may cause immediate harm to the safety, health or wellbeing of the complainant.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), conducted a study in 2013 on Women Abuse in South Africa and found that 50% of the women they surveyed had reported that they were victims of emotional and verbal abuse. This means that 1 in 2 South African women are victims of some form of abuse!
Any form of abuse can be difficult for the person being abused for many reasons. However, not talking about abuse can be one of the reasons abusers continue to abuse. When it comes to abuse, remember that the person who is being abused is not at fault. No one deserves to be abused, no matter what!
Being abused also doesn’t mean that you are weak or that you are a punching bag. Seeking help or speaking up about abuse doesn’t mean that you’re telling everyone your business. It takes a lot of courage when dealing with abuse, and that’s why we need to stand up for ourselves and for the people we see in abusive relationships.
Break the silence against domestic violence
If you are in an abusive relationship:
You can talk to us about it, ‘a problem shared is a problem half solved’
The Stop Gender Violence Helpline aims to support those affected by gender-based violence, reduce its occurrence and so prevent these adverse impacts.
In 1999, the National Stop Women Abuse Helpline was initiated by Soul City and the National Network on Violence against Women, in partnership with LifeLine South Africa. In 2004, the Line was formally broadened to incorporate issues of both sexes and was reflected in the change of the Line’s name to the Stop Gender Violence Helpline.
The Line provides anonymous, confidential and accessible telephonic information, counselling and referrals in all 11 official languages to survivors, witnesses and perpetrators of gender-based violence.
The Line operates 24 hours a Day 7 days a Week including Public Holidays