Whether we want to admit it or not, domestic abuse happens on a daily basis in our homes, communities and businesses. The COVID pandemic has just put a spotlight on this pandemic due to the spike in both divorce and GBV stats globally as a result of being in lock down.
We can no longer ignore this other silent, often violent killer, and the destruction it causes to individuals, families and communities.
The unfortunate thing about domestic abuse or GBV is that it is often associated with physical violence or rape and the impact on victims of these traumatic experiences. Very seldom are the other forms of abuse spoken about namely:
- Psychological abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
GBV is also often only associated with male on female abuse, but very little is spoken about the female on male or LGBTQI abuse that takes place in homes and communities too.
Another seldom spoken about area of abuse is that which happens within organisational walls such as:
- Sexual harassment
- Inappropriate behaviour and misconduct.
- Using a position of power or authority
- Underlying threats of job loss or career progression etc
According to a 2014 study by KPMG, gender-based violence (GBV) costs SA between R28.4bn and R42.4bn a year — or between 0.9% and 1.3% of GDP annually, which is, sadly, in line with global GBV estimates.
With many employees working from home these days, companies are starting to be exposed to the reality that some of their employees are not safe at home. This can have a severe impact on work deliverables, productivity and mental health.
It’s a complex situation to be in as where do the responsibilities lie, with the employee and their home situation, or the employers requirement that they work from home? What resources do employees and employers have in place to support employees to be able to operate in a safe working environment?
If there were no perpetrators, there would be no victims.
If we want to eradicate GBV then it needs to start in our homes which is where our first exposure of being in a relationship is established – that of our primary caregivers or parents.
We learn from our primary caregivers what it looks and feels like to be in a relationship. We model their behaviours on how they engage, respond and react in their relationship and this is where our emotional foundation is formed.
It is in our childhood that we learn about communication, affection, emotional safety, trust, dealing with conflict, relationship dynamics, connection, reactivity, defensive behaviours, vulnerability, values, beliefs, attitudes and more.
As we grow and evolve through childhood, there are various other factors that can contribute to shaping a person such as the environment they are continuously exposed to, and where we learn what kind of behaviour is acceptable and not acceptable based on what is rewarded or the consequences thereof.
The reality is that we are not born abusers, we become abusers (unless there is a deeper psychological cause e.g. a psychopath). We are not born victims, we become victims.
Abuse is a learned behaviour, it is a choice to abuse and the behaviour can be changed if the abuser is willing to take responsibility for their behaviour and make sustainable changes.
Often the underlying cause of violence is anger and violence is the only way abusers know how to resolve (express) their anger, but what’s often underlying the anger is unresolved hurt and pain – and this is what needs to be addressed often through therapy and healing.
South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world of 132.4 incidents per 100,000 people. According to a survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council, approximately one in four men surveyed admitted to committing rape. Although the Parliament of South Africa attempted to amend and strengthen all sexual violence laws with the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act in 2007, the rates of reported rape, sexual abuse of children, and domestic violence have continued to rise (Source).
We can no longer ignore this pandemic, it needs to be a part of our everyday conversations not just when someone falls prey to GBV or it happens to be a national day or event marked in the calendar.
By cultivating a speak up vs shut up culture in our homes, communities, organisations and countries, we are able to remove the stigma, the social conditioning and the labels making it ok victims and perpetrators to speak up, get the help they need and start the healing process ending GBV.
A version of this article appeared on East Coast Radio
Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert, international and Tedx speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embacing No. Paula teaches individuals and companies tools and skills to immediately and positively enhance the quality of their personal and organisational relationships. More info: https://paulaquinsee.com/