Domestic violence can be defined as a force that does harm or damage, to the point beyond which a tense situation will erupt into violence. It causes pain in the mind and the body and sometimes these facets cannot be repaired.
Karina Swart, Director of LifeLine West Rand, explained that domestic violence occurs between two or more people in a relationship: partners, spouses, family members, or siblings – age and sex do not matter. Domestic violence denies people their human rights.
And it’s not just physical violence like slapping, beating, kicking or sexual violence that causes irreversible damage, emotional violence is also included. Actions like insults, harmful criticism, mocking and so forth are also domestic violence. Inaction is also domestic violence; neglect includes keeping someone short of food, clothing, rest, schooling, shelter and safety. Economic violence includes not financially supporting a person, denying them money and denying the person the opportunity to earn an income or taking their money from them.
But why do people use violence?
“In an abusive relationship, the abuser uses violence as a tool, as a force to control the victim. Often abusers believe that their partners are responsible for their own unhappiness. This is because abusers feel as if the victims make impossible demands on them. The abusers end up punishing their victims because they cannot meet these demands,” said Swart.
“People who are deemed unimportant or have very little power, including those who struggle financially and women and children, often fall victim to this kind of abuse. Abusers often believe that violence is good for their victims – it makes them behave properly and shows the abuser’s love and concern.
They think they have the right to cause pain to others, because they have power over them.”
Physical effects of violence
Many long-term health problems can be linked to violence against women, including sexual or physical violence. These can include:
• Vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain (women)
• Unwanted pregnancy (women)
• Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV
• Trouble sleeping at night
• Chronic pain
• Digestive problems such as stomach ulcers
• Heart problems
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Nightmares and problems sleeping
• Migraine headaches
Mental and emotional effects of violence
If you have experienced a physical or sexual assault, you may feel many emotions – fear, confusion, anger, or even being numb and not feeling much of anything. You may feel guilt or shame over being assaulted. Some people try to minimise the abuse or hide it by covering bruises and making excuses for the abuser.
If you’ve been physically or sexually assaulted or abused, know that it is not your fault. Getting help for assault or abuse can help prevent long-term mental health effects and other health problems.
Long-term mental and emotional effects of violence against women can include:
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can be a result of experiencing trauma or having a shocking or scary experience, such as sexual assault or physical abuse. You may be easily startled, feel tense or on edge, have difficulty sleeping, or have angry outbursts. You may also have trouble remembering things or have negative thoughts about yourself or others. If you think you have PTSD, talk to a mental health professional.
• Depression. Depression is a serious illness, but you can get help to feel better. If you are feeling depressed, talk to a mental health professional.
• Anxiety. This can be general anxiety about everything, or it can be a sudden attack of intense fear. Anxiety can get worse over time and interfere with your daily life. If you are experiencing anxiety, you can get help from a mental health professional.
• Other effects can include shutting people out, not wanting to do things you once enjoyed, not being able to trust others, and having low-esteem.
Many women who have experienced violence cope with the trauma by using drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking, or overeating. Research has shown that about 90 per cent of women with substance abuse problems experienced physical or sexual violence in the past.
Substance abuse may make you feel better in the moment, but it ends up making you feel worse in the long-term. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or overeating will not help you forget or overcome the experience. Get help if you’re thinking about or have been using alcohol or drugs to cope.
Break the silence against violence of all kinds. You can talk to LifeLine about it, because “a problem shared is a problem half solved”.
Call LifeLine on their toll-free line any time on 0800 150 150 for more information and counselling. Alternatively, for face to face counselling, call 011 665 2281 (office hours). You can also call Crisis Line on 0861 322 322 or the National Aids Helpline on 0800 012 322 or send an e-mail to [email protected] for counselling.
Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected] or phone us on 011 955 1130.
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