The death of Reeva Steenkamp has brought international attention to the issue of violence against women. On valentine’s day, 2013, she was shot to death in the bathroom of her boyfriend’s home. He asserted that he had mistaken her for an intruder and had fired into the bathroom with the door closed, not realising that she was in there. What brought publicity to the case was the fact that the boyfriend involved was none other than Oscar Pistorius, Gold winner at the paralympics and the first disabled contestant to compete in the Olympic Games. He was known as ‘the blade runner’ because of his prosthetic running legs and previously used to be celebrated for his contribution to sport and disabled person equality rights.
He was found guilty of killing Reeva purposefully and given only a six year prison sentence for murder, despite the fact that the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa is 15 years. While Reeva’s family did not get the justice they deserved, her death put the issue of women’s rights into sharp focus.
35% of Women Worldwide Are Abused
Data from the World Health Organization shows that 35% of all women worldwide – or one in three women – will become the victim of physical or sexual violence during their lifetime. Most of this violence isn’t committed by the stereotypical stranger lurking in the shadows but by the woman’s intimate partner or ex-partner. These startling statistics are likely to be much higher in reality as many cases of violence don’t get reported. Embarrassment, fear and sometimes the mistaken notion that it’s okay for women to endure violence at the hands of their husband prevents women from coming forward to report violent crime. Lack of support from police or other official organizations can also put women off coming forward, as they fear they will not be taken seriously. While almost half of victims will discuss their situation with a friend or relative, very few will actually involve the police.
Only 1 in 9 Rapes in ZA Reported
In South Africa, although 40% of za women will be raped at some point during their lives, only one in nine rapes are ever reported to the police.
Lack of reporting could have devastating consequences because once a husband, partner or ex begins to engage in violent behaviour unchecked, they can escalate this behaviour and end up killing. 38% of worldwide murders of women are committed by intimate partners or ex-partners.
Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Ignoring the behaviour won’t make it go away and staying with a violent man can end in tragedy. Here are some warning signs for you to look out for:
- Blaming others: If your partner blames other people for his actions and uses negative language towards you and other women, for instance, by calling you names, then this could escalate into violence.
- Controlling you: If he controls you by taking all your money, telling you that you can’t work or restricting when you can leave the house, this could escalate into violence.
- Jealousy: Becoming jealous and equating this with love, phoning repeatedly during the day to check up on you, asking friends to watch you, accusing you of being unfaithful and saying the behaviour is out of concern for you.
- Isolation: Isolating you from family and friends by picking fights with them or barring them from the house.
- Cruelty to animals: Men with a history of cruelty to animals or to children are more likely to become violent with you.
- Sexism: Forcing you to do all the domestic tasks and treating you as inferior is a typical trait of men who go on to abuse.
- Threatening you with violence if you don’t do what he wants is only one step behind actual violence.
- Use of alcohol or drugs – If he has an addiction, he is more likely to become violent.
- Demanding sex: Even when you are ill, tired or have just given birth. Withdrawing affection if you refuse sex is another warning sign, as is having violent sexual fantasies and wanting to engage in violent sex games with you.
Don’t leave it until it is too late! If your partner has any of these behaviours, contact Toughlove. Our therapy programmes can provide you with self-help techniques and family support to help your partner correct his behaviour. If it can’t be corrected, we can assist you with safely moving on with your life without them. You don’t need to put up with abusive behaviour.
If you feel you or your children are at immediate risk of harm, telephone the police.