Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Gender-Based Violence: Opportunities and Coping Resources for Women in Abusive Unions

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Gender-Based Violence: Opportunities and Coping Resources for Women in Abusive Unions

Article excerpt

The study explored the perceptions of six health and social service providers, clinical and counseling psychologists and social workers, in the Vhembe District, Limpopo Province on the reasons for battered women to remain in abusive relationships. These were sampled through the expert sampling method on the basis of their ability to provide professional knowledge on the topic under study and data were analysed using the content analysis method. The participants considered the phenomenon of battered women remaining in abusive relationships to be due to cultural, financial and psychological reasons. While it was explained that these women sought help, the help was sought for secondary reasons other than leaving the abusive relationships. Referral network systems for these women were reported to be available in the Vhembe District albeit not sufficient hence the women do not have enough support to help them leave the abusive relationships. Community advocacy programmes are needed to empower women in abusive relationships to deal with their situations.

Keywords: domestic violence; woman battering; abusive relationships; health and social service providers; referral network systems.

According to the World Health Organization (2011), violence against women is a form of gender-based violence that results in the physical, sexual or mental suffering of women. The Domestic Violence Act no. 116 (1998) in South Africa specifically defines physical battering as an act that includes pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting with a fist, kicking, choking, grabbing, pinching, pulling hair or threatening with weapons. Starbuck (2006) shows that this form of battering also involves contact which is intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injuiy or other physical suffering of bodily harm.

Domestic violence is so rife in South Africa (Dissel & Ngubeni, 2003) to an extent that the Domestic Violence Act, 116 of 1998 was established in the countiy as a way of eradicating the occurrence of violence against women. The Act recognizes that domestic violence is a serious social offence and violation of human rights hence it has made provision for the issuing of protection orders to protect victims of this form of abuse from further victimization and the arrest of perpetrators if the protection orders are violated. Vetten (2005) supports the widespread of the physical abuse of women, specifically showing that it is the most lethal form of domestic violence in South Africa. Its prevalence in the different provinces in this countiy was shown and the Limpopo Province had the third highest prevalence of the physical abuse of women compared to the other provinces. It is also shown that this phenomenon is most prevalent among women in rural areas. There is also the 16 Days of Activism which focuses on violence against women and children. Although this is a global campaign that focuses on violence against women, WHO shows that South Africa is still the home to high levels of violence against women despite the constitutions and legislature overhaul that safeguard women's rights. These reports indicate that woman battering is still a social problem in South Africa.

It has been noted that there is a difference between women who remain in abusive relationships and those who leave. Battered women remain in abusive relationships for different reasons. According to Duffy and Momirov (1997), fear of leaving can be overwhelming and many women do not know where to turn to get help when they want to leave an abusive relationship. Walker (2009) adds that women who remain in abusive relationships use selfdestructive coping mechanisms which allow them to continue living in abusive relationships. Some women remain in abusive relationships because of their lack of knowledge of or access to appropriate support services to assist them. Fear of the unknown and unwillingness to leave can cause battered women to remain in abusive relationships (Murray, 2008). …

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