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4 September 2018
Family is key to victims of gender-based violence

(Published - 4 September 2018)

The month of August has, once again, been characterised by the celebration of women - their strength, their tenacity. But it is equally important to highlight the onslaught against women.

Nita Lawton-Misra, Registrar of the University of the Western Cape, hosted a panel discussion - entitled: Gender-based violence - what is the solution? - to explore these shameful issues.

“It seems the more awareness we raise about this demon among us the more it rears its ugly head. Why? What are we doing wrong? What has made it acceptable to resort to violence? Was it ever different? And when and how will it stop?” said Lawton-Misra.

Panellists and the audience, which included academics, activists and community workers, provided some valuable answers and insight.

Professor Hester Julie, Head of the Clinical Programme at UWC’s School of Nursing, stressed the importance of simply listening to the victims of gender-based violence. “You don't need to have the answer. Just listen and believe - this already creates a safe space and hope for the victims,” she said.

Professor Julie, who is involved in the gender-based violence programme at the Saartjie Baartman Centre, also explored cultural pressures that makes it difficult for women to challenge men. She implored fathers to set about changing this.

“[Fathers] are key to changing the current role-modelling and norms that we have of patriarchy. The key is the family.”

Joy Lange - Director at St Anne's Home, a shelter for abused women and children - echoed her sentiments. Lange said that doors are often closed to women who are victims, especially by family members who judge them. She said women often do not understand that their self-worth and their dignity is often eroded when they are victims of gender-based violence. She encouraged women to speak out and emphasised the need for victims to have support.

Elizabeth Hoorn Petersen, Executive Director and founder of the South African Faith and Family Institute, stressed that any woman can fall victim to abuse of women - even professionals. She questioned how society generally first considers the behaviour of the abuser - putting the burden on women to access safety.

“The supremacy, oppression and patriarchy are partners that contribute to why gender-based violence still persists. It is probably the most dangerous time for a woman when she makes plans to leave (an abusive partner),” said Hoorn Petersen.