Mental health is greatly impacted by GBV

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faceless muscular ethnic man grabbing wrist of girlfriend during dispute
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Victims of Gender-based Violence (GBV) countrywide are always looking for help in dealing with issues that affect them on a daily basis.

Despite many interventions from government and civil society, GBV and femicides continue to be amongst the biggest challenges in this country.

GBV also includes the abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, intersex, queer, asexual and questioning (LGBTIQA+) communities.

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Most disturbing about this reality is that all the current GBV and femicides’ statistics available on the public domain are purely based on reported cases – the figures are likely far much higher as many cases go unreported.

“A by-product of GBV, which the greater part of society is growingly coming to recognise, is its impact on the mental wellness of victims. As we grow increasingly aware of the mental health phenomenon, we are starting to see the connection between GBV and poor mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” explains the Gauteng Legislature’s Portfolio Committee Chairperson Refiloe Kekana.

And more studies are emerging, proving that these conditions significantly increase the risk of attempted or completed suicide amongst women. Put differently, women and members of the LGBTIQA+ community who experience mental health challenges as a result of GBV are far more likely to have suicidal thoughts – or surrender to such thoughts.

“Girls are not spared when it comes to GBV. The Gauteng Health Department recently recorded that over 23 000 teenage pregnancies between April 2020 and March 2021, with 934 being girls aged between 10 and 14. It is important to correctly label the pre-teens and early teenagers who become pregnant: they are victims. Pre- teens are victims of sexual assault because they are children who cannot give consent. There is also a need to look closely into mid-teens’ first encounter with sexual intercourse being out of coercion and force,” explains Kekana.

The Gauteng Provincial Legislature and other oversight bodies continue intensifying scrutiny work to hold accountable those entrusted with the responsibility of providing services to women and girls.

However, such efforts are not enough without citizens and communities playing their part through active citizenry.

Chairperson Kekana calls on every community member has the responsibility to ensure that women, children, and the LGBTIQA+ community enjoy their Constitutional right to life, as well as all the freedoms that everyone else enjoys.

“When we raise the alarm and report the violation of these rights we are choosing to be active citizens; we are part of the solution,” Kekana said.

Useful contacts for victims of GBV

Several organisations offer support and counselling for women who have been affected by GBV.

People Opposed to Woman Abuse (POWA)

Powa provides counselling, both over the phone and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.

Website: http://www.powa.co.za. Tel: 011 642 4345. E-mail: info@powa.co.za

Families South Africa (FAMSA)

Famsa provides counselling and education to help improve marriages and families. It helps in cases of domestic violence and trauma, divorces and mediation. There are 27 offices across the country.

Website: http://www.famsaorg.mzansiitsolutions.co.za/. Tel: 011 975 7106/7

The Trauma Centre

The Trauma Centre provides trauma counselling and violence prevention services for people affected by violence.

Website: http://www.trauma.org.za/. Tel: 021 465 7373. E-mail: info@trauma.org.za

Thuthuzela Care Centres

Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) are one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution.

The website also provides access to information on gender-based violence. Website: http://isssasa.org.za/

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