Why Domestic Violence Victims Stay
All South Africans need to dispel the disturbing secrets of domestic violence. Everyone must proactively ask: Why does a domestic violence victim stay with someone who beats them up?
The Domestic Abuse Crisis in South Africa
We are not psychiatrists, social workers or experts in domestic violence. But we are sharing a story that many victims in South Africa are too afraid to tell.
This story could apply to any person of any age or gender. For now, let’s just refer to a young woman named Rebecca*. Rebecca is a 22-year-old university graduate who has just moved to a large city after getting her first job as an assistant. On the outside, Rebecca looks like a normal young adult, excited to start her adult life. But little do people know about a heavy secret Rebecca was hiding every day.
Rebecca’s secret was that she lived dreading sunset. After work, her boyfriend would return home and take his inexplicable rage out on her. Every evening, she faced a gun loaded with hollow-point bullets. The gun would be pointed to her head by a man she thought was her soulmate. He would threaten to kill her more times than she could even remember. And nobody was none the wiser.
Rebecca’s crazy love story is not exclusive or unique to her. Too many people in South Africa live in a psychological trap disguised as love. It may even be your story too. Nobody looks like a typical domestic violence victim.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone – all races, all religions, all income and education levels. It’s everywhere. However, it is important to note the following remarkable statistics:
- A WHO study says that 60,000 women and children are victims of domestic violence in South Africa. 137 women are killed by a member of their own family.
- 1 in every 3 women is a victim of physical or sexual violence.
- 27% of women aged between 15 and 49 years have been abused by an intimate partner or spouse.
- Women in Africa are the most vulnerable and at the highest risk of being killed by domestic abuse.
- Over 85 percent of abusers are men, and domestic abuse happens only in intimate, interdependent, long-term relationships and families.
- Women aged 16 to 24 are 3 times likelier to be domestic violence victims compared to women of other ages.
What Are the Signs of Domestic Violence?
The biggest domestic abuse target is likely to be anybody who knows extraordinarily little about domestic violence. It is not that hard to see the warning signs and patterns. The first is the onset of extreme behaviour. Abusers can be extremely dominant or even extremely submissive. This depends on what easily manipulates you. It is all about having automatic control. Abusers have an intrinsic need to have everything go their way. All the time. This is also a huge sign of underlying insecurities that they project onto unknowing victims.
Every time you give them what they want, they respond with a false reward mechanism. They show toxic habits such as showering you with gifts and idolising you. The brightest red flag is the moment an abuser “love bombs” you when you can feel deep inside that this is not right.
Some abusers are extremely educated. They are highly respected members of society. They are known as people of power and authority. They could exude an aura of confidence and make their victims feel like royalty. Some abusers are super smart, funny and sensitive.
Victims are unassuming of the first signs of a domestic violence relationship. They ignore the seductive charms and extreme attention. They also don’t know that the biggest goal is to isolate the victim.
Some victims are forced to drop out of school and quit their jobs. Some are forced to give over the complete authority of their finances. Even if they do everything their abusers demand, victims are often facing near-death blows. Their lives are in danger every minute of every day. So why do they stay?
Rebecca’s boyfriend owned three guns. He kept one in the glove compartment of their car. He kept one under the pillows on their bed. He kept the third one in his pocket at all times. He convinced her that the guns were there to protect her. But those guns were a message for her. Her boyfriend was growing tired of beating her up. So, the guns served as next level warnings of the progressive physical abuse.
Every time he gets frustrated because she’s working, he threatens her life. Rebecca gets choked until she can’t breathe or scream. She hides the bruises and protects him from anyone who asks her if he is okay. Despite the abuse, she is convinced that they will live happily ever after. She loved him and he was always deeply sorry. She is unaware that the final step in the domestic violence pattern is death.
Over 70 percent of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has ended the relationship. Once the victim tries to leave, the abuser has nothing left to lose. They continue to stalk victims and invade their privacy. The ultimate danger is that either the abuse persists until the victim dies or there is one final life-threatening attack that shatters the victim’s denial and activates their instinct to survive.
Break the Silence On Domestic Violence
Domestic violence victims must tell everyone: the police, my neighbours, my friends and family and even strangers. They too deserve medical attention, shelter and counselling.
Here are some important contact details that every victim should note:
- SAPS emergency number: 10111
- People Opposed to Woman Abuse (POWA)
- Childline South Africa
- Child Welfare South Africa
- Families South Africa (FAMSA)
- Tears Foundation
- The Trauma Centre
- Thuthuzela Care Centres
- Gender-Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428
- STOP Gender Violence Helpline: 0800 150 150/ *120*7867#
Abuse could be affecting your daughter, your sister, your best friend right now. Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence by shining a spotlight on it. Victims need understanding from everyone.
Expose abuse by talking about it with your children, your co-workers, your friends and your family. Recognize the early signs of violence and conscientiously intervene, deescalate it, show victims a safe way out. Together we can make our homes the safe havens they should be.