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Dec 04, 2022

Getting involved in romantic relationships is slowly becoming a near death experience for an increasing number of women in South Africa. For some, death does become the unfortunate end from engaging in relationships. Horrifying daily reports in the news, bring this reality of the monster that is gender-based violence (GBV) to the fore. 

GBV can take on any of a number of faces, with physical abuse often being regarded as the worst kind, BUT for an abuse victim all abuse is exactly that = ABUSE. For many reasons, some cases of GBV do not form part of the official reported statistics, but that does not negate the victim’s experience. Their experiences are just as valid, and the visible and invisible scars of abuse tell the tale. 

All abuse brings emotional terror to a victim. Even if the abuser uses subtle tactics, the impact is just as traumatic. Abusers will often manipulate victims into thinking that they are responsible for the abuse. Some go as far as to emotionally blackmail the victim by giving them gifts.

Red flags

As varied as forms of GBV can be, the following red flags are often the first indicators:

  • Control
  • Pushing and shoving 
  • Threats
  • Constant state of anxiety and confusion 
  • Being invalidated and devalued 
  • Silent treatment as a form of punishment

Gradually, these can graduate to more overt acts of abuse. Ultimately GBV threatens a person’s physical and psychological integrity. Victims are thus at an increased risk of developing mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children who witness acts of GBV also get emotionally and psychologically impacted.

Some victims are fearful to leave the toxic environment of such relationships for different reasons and end up leaving these relationships in coffins. Society’s response is one of the reasons that some may fear leaving and this is seen in the practice of victim blaming. Blaming the victim indirectly normalises and justifies GBV and brings shame for the victim, thus discouraging them from coming forward and seeking help. The community also has a role to play in breaking the stigma by being supportive to victims rather than crucifying them. 

What can YOU do?

Listen to the abused person’s story without trying to rationalise it in your own way. Learn to trust what they say, because only they know the impact of those experiences. It doesn’t matter how nice the abuser is, as this is often a deliberate effort to undermine the victim’s experience. So, stand up and support a vulnerable person. Turn the victim into a survivor by helping them leave the toxic environment.

To stop the cycle, victims are encouraged to break their silence, speak out, seek help from loved ones and authorities. Opening up, turns a victim into a survivor.

If you are experiencing trauma and anxiety and depression due to being a victim of GBV, you are encouraged to make use of the Tempo Emotional Wellbeing Journey via the Bestmed member portal or Bestmed App.

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