More resources needed to support gender-based violence survivors: Powa

People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) called on survivors to break the cycle of suffering alone. Stock photo.
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) called on survivors to break the cycle of suffering alone. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Artit Oubkaew

People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) says there is a need to support survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and related crimes as the Covid-19 pandemic has shrunk the pool of resources available for this cause.

“Thrust into a period of great uncertainty and lost connections, heightened risk of isolation, suicidal thoughts, and other ailments have crept into the homes of millions of victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and other violations,” said the NGO's acting executive director Jeanette Sera.

The organisation said it had, since the start of the pandemic, adjusted its operations to reach survivors and provide support.

“When the police statistics indicated a huge spike in GBV we were alarmed because of the low influx of victims into our GBV shelters. It is then that we realised that needs of survivors had changed and, in many ways, become more urgent because of the isolating effect the pandemic has had on individual households,” said Sera.

Between June 2020 and April 2021, the police had, according to Powa, reported 1,100 cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) in which the victim was assaulted by their intimate partner.

Of the murders reported during this period, 22 were perpetrated by an intimate partner and 19 by husbands of victims.

“Close family members such as brothers of the victims also ranked high in the most likely perpetrators of domestic violence, with 397 cases of assault GBH committed by a sibling,” Powa said.

Increased socioeconomic pressures due to the pandemic had also contributed to the continued proliferation of violence against women and children.

“We are calling on survivors from across the country to tell their individual stories of survival, [to] demystify the faces and voices behind the statistics. Powa, in partnership with Joko, are again marking the annual 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children by tackling the issue at its heart.

“Together, survivors who use their voice for change can break the shame cycle of suffering alone and inspire a nation into action that makes a difference,” said Powa.

“It is sometimes difficult for survivors to come out and try to break the cycle of violence. I think for the people around such women, we need to hear her, we need to remind her that it’s not her fault and above all, we need to believe her.”

Despite the physical and psychological effects of gender-based violence being “well-documented” in SA, access to mental healthcare needed by survivors was scant in the public health system, placing a burden on organisations in the NGO sector to fill this gap, the organisation said.

“Disturbing trends seen in GBV reporting during the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed the intersection between problems in public healthcare, social welfare and GBV. 

“We also call on the government to boost resources towards helping this vulnerable group. As the country moves to recover the economy from the perils of the pandemic, we remind our people that economic recovery can’t be sustained in a broken society,” said Sera.

Powa and Joko are calling on those affected by GBV in any form to #DonateYourVoice by visiting www.joko.co.za

“Often, when victims don’t speak out it’s because they don’t think they’ll be believed and we as a society are to blame for that mindset, because often, women are not believed.

“Powa has spearheaded campaigns aimed at lending power to women’s voices. In aid of achieving this, R1 from every Joko pack sold [will go] towards supporting the organisation and its initiatives,” said the organisation.

“This year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign aims to hold up a mirror to society, to show that behind the statistics are real people, real stories, and real pain that deserve to be acknowledged if society is to be moved to better itself.”

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