Depression among Female Survivors of Domestic Violence in Thohoyandou, South Africa

Article excerpt

This study aimed to investigate depression among female survivors of domestic violence. 112 female survivors of domestic violence who came to a trauma centre in Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province to seek help were selected as participants in the study. The participants' ages ranged from 15 to 65 years. The questionnaire used has items on demographic variables of the participants such as age, marital status, level of education, employment status, number of years married, number of children and also items on depression. A topic guide was also used to interview the participants on depressive symptoms.

A significant number of the physically abused women were suffering from depression (z=2.8434, p<0.05) compared to the general population. This study provides data that can be used to motivate the implementation of intervention programmes to address domestic violence against women. Such programmes should include the implementation of cost-effective intervention aimed at reducing the depression caused by domestic violence on women.

Key words: Depression, female survivors of domestic violence, South Africa.

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Domestic violence is a social problem. Domestic violence and the fear of violence committed against women have emerged as two of the most thorny issues in various countries worldwide. Although there is still a paucity of statistics of domestic violence cases, population based research indicates that from 20% to 50% of women in most countries have experienced spousal abuse (Gillian & Steed, 2000). South Africa is still home to shockingly high cases of violence against women and children. In South Africa, statistics on domestic violence are difficult to obtain but it is estimated that every six hours a woman is killed by her intimate partner (Mathews, Abrahams, Martin, Vetten, Jewkes 8c Van der Merwe, 2004). Despite the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 116, of 1998 and the constitution that safeguard women's rights, cases of women who have been physically abused continue to increase (Mathews, 2000). Violence against women contribute to situations of poverty, ill health and hardship embedded in the culture of violence (Vogelman 8c Eagle, 1991). Various studies indicate a high prevalence of both physical and psychological violence against women in South Africa (Gelles & Loseke, 1993; Jackson, 1996; Jewkes, 2002; Mashishi, 2000; Mathews, 2000; Nkuna, 2003 8c Smith, Thronton, De Vellis, Earp & Coker, 2002).

Gillian and Steed (2000) conducted two studies highlighting the extent of violence against women in three rural provinces in South Africa. The three provinces were the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. One study was done with women in rural areas and the other with men in urban area. The findings of the study showed that 25% of the women interviewed had been assaulted by their intimate partners. It was also found that 58% of the men interviewed admitted that they had physically abused their female partners. Eighty-four percent of these women suffered significant physical or mental health consequences as a result of the physical abuse. Another study found that 19% of women in the Limpopo Province had been physically abused in their lifetime by current or former partners (Mathews et al. 2004). Recent media reports reflect a disturbing increase of violent acts committed against women and some of these act even lead to family murder. Mashishi (2000) holds that an average of 80% of rural women are victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is not only recognised as a major barrier to social and economic development but also associated with health problems among women ranging from physical injuries to depression and suicide (Usdin, Christofides, Malepe 8c Maker, 2000). Maconachie and Van Zyl (1994) indicate that many victims of domestic violence are traumatised to such an extent that some attempt to commit suicide.


The literature review from international studies showed that more physically abused women are reporting depression (Carscadi, Olveary 8c Schlee, 1999; Ehrensaft, Moffit & Shallom, 2006 8c Rice, 2005). …