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What is domestic violence?

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. And, sadly, domestic violence is the most common and widespread human rights abuse in South Africa. Every day, women are murdered, physically and sexually assaulted, threatened and humiliated by their partners, within their own homes.

​It is estimated that one out of every six women in South Africa is regularly assaulted by her partner. In approximately 46 percent of cases, the men involved also abuse the children living with the woman. Crime statistics released in 2019 showed that 2 930 adult women were murdered in a 12-month period from 2017 to 2018, which amounts to one murder every three hours.

Gay and lesbian relationships have been identified as risk factors for abuse in certain populations. Domestic violence also occurs in same-sex relationships. Historically, domestic violence has been seen as a family issue and little interest has been directed at violence in same-sex relationships. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour that transgresses the right of citizens to be free from violence. When one partner in a relationship harms the other to obtain or maintain power and control over them, regardless of whether they are married or unmarried, living together or apart, that is domestic violence (https://www.divorcelaws.co.za/domestic-violence-ebook.html).

What are the causes or risk factors for intimate partner violence (IPV)?

Although there is no specific cause for domestic violence, women at the highest risk of being the victim of domestic violence include those with male partners:

  • Who abuse drugs (especially alcohol), are unemployed or underemployed, afflicted by poverty, have not graduated from high school, and are or have been in a romantic relationship with the victim.
  • Unmarried individuals in heterosexual relationships tend to be more at risk for becoming victims of intimate partner abuse.
  • With a mindset that gives men power over women puts individuals at risk for becoming involved in an abusive relationship, either as a perpetrator or as a victim.
  • Research indicates that those who grew up in a household in which domestic violence took place or in which a parent suffered fromalcoholism are          more likely to become either perpetrators or victims of intimate partner violence as adults.
  • Teenagers who suffer frommental illness are also at risk of being in an abusive relationship as young adults. African-Americans have been found to be at higher risk for being victims of teen domestic violence, with some studies indicating independence of socioeconomic status.
  • Another risk factor for teen dating/domestic violence includes lower grades. This may possibly be as a result of an inferiority complex.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of intimate partner abuse?

The acronym AARDVARC (An Abuse, Rape, Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection) describes a number of warning signs for friends, family members, and co-workers for recognising people who may be victims of intimate partner abuse.

  • Specifically, teens, men, or women who are often absent from school or work or have numerous injuries they try to explain away, like bruisesor black eyes.
  • Individuals with low self-esteem, who show a change in their personality, have a fear of conflicts, engage in passive-aggressive behaviour, blame themselves, seem isolated, or demonstrate stressrelated physical symptoms (for example,headaches, stomach upsetsleep problems, or skin rashes) may be experiencing abuse in their relationship.

In view of the above, it is imperative that more Health Promotion Programmes are implemented and also that all healthcare professionals should make it their responsibility to look out for signs of domestic violence (as described above) and educate clients on the spot when caring for them during visits at outpatient clinics.