16 Days of Activism: GBV survivors unite to end the violence

Research shows that more than five women or girls are killed every hour by a family member. Picture: Pexels/Pixabay

Research shows that more than five women or girls are killed every hour by a family member. Picture: Pexels/Pixabay

Published Dec 5, 2023


This year’s ‘16 Days of Activism’ campaign theme is ‘Unite’, encouraging people worldwide to speak out and reject all forms of violence, particularly gender-based violence (GBV) against women and children.

Research shows that more than five women or girls are killed every hour by a family member, and one in three women has experienced violence at least once in their lifetime.

It is crucial that we put an end to this. It’s time to unite, take a stand, support victims of GBV, and encourage perpetrators to seek help and rehabilitation.

“As the world focuses on the UN Women-led, ‘16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children’ campaign, organisations like Partners in Sexual Health (PSH) are making a positive impact in the lives of South African women,” said Patsy De Lora, founder and CEO of Partners in Sexual Health.

Without PSH and other similar NGOs, many more women and children, especially in smaller, impoverished communities, would not have the courage to seek help and support to leave abusive situations.

PSH, funded in part by the Social Employment Fund (SEF) through the Presidential Employment Stimulus and operating under the umbrella of Common Good, is working tirelessly to address this issue.

“Violence against women and children is a pandemic that transcends cultures and socio-economic statuses.

“Therefore, we urge citizens to become activists in their communities and work towards ending all forms of violence against women and children,” said De Lora.

One 25-year-old survivor, who used the pseudonym Sandra, shared her story of enduring years of physical abuse by someone close to her. Her courage to move on serves as an inspiration for others facing similar situations.

“It was a very difficult and painful experience, but I eventually realised that I deserved better,” said Sandra.

“I found the strength to speak up and share my story by seeking professional help from Partners in Sexual Health (PSH).

“As I shared my story, I realised that I was not alone and took comfort in that. I discovered that people like PSH’s team cared and were willing to assist me. After attending a session with them, I decided to take action and report the abuse to the authorities, seeking legal protection and justice.”

With the support of all the professionals involved, Sandra attended therapy sessions to address the emotional scars and learned valuable coping mechanisms.

“I connected with support groups to share my experience and gained strength from others who had gone through similar situations,” she explained.

“Over time, I began to rebuild my life. I found new interests and hobbies that brought me joy. And as weeks turned into months, the pain of the past slowly started to fade. I realised that I am not defined by my past but through my resilience and courage.”

According to Sandra, her experience serves as a testament to the transformative power of seeking help and finding support from organisations like PSH.

Another survivor from Murraysburg, Maryke, not her real name to protect her identity, endured an abusive relationship for over three years.

Her partner subjected her to regular beatings in the presence of their child and another child from his previous relationship.

She also experienced non-consensual sexual encounters with her partner, leading her to open criminal cases against him only to withdraw them due to emotional and physical abuse, a common experience among many abused women.

In addition to the physical violence, Maryke was frequently expelled from her home at night and later discovered that her partner was sexually abusing their child.

She shared: “A chance encounter with a PSH Health Promoter at the shops changed my life. PSH was inviting everyone affected by crime and gender-based violence to engage with them in our town.”

Attending the Victim Empowerment Programme became a turning point for Maryke.

“During the session, it finally dawned on me that I was a victim of gender-based violence and abuse and that this was a safe space where I could seek help.

“After the programme, I discussed my situation with PSH’s Social Auxiliary Worker, initiating my journey of healing,’ she recalled. PSH referred me to the Department of Social Development, the appropriate channel to intervene and seek help for the child he was abusing, to start my journey of healing.”

With the support and encouragement she received, Maryke found the strength to pursue legal action against her abuser and obtain a protection order.

“I gained the strength to leave the house, secure employment, and achieve financial independence. I cannot express enough gratitude to PSH for helping me reclaim my life. I still rely on them for support and to have someone to talk to when needed.”

Both Sandra and Maryke are considered the “lucky ones”. They were fortunate enough to break the cycle of abuse thanks to the intervention, guidance and assistance of PSH.

Sadly, far too many women continue to live in fear and face abuse – emotionally and physically – daily.