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1st for Women surveys financial independence in abuse survivors

By Danielle van Wyk

To usher in Women’s Month, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the National Campaign against Violence towards Women and Children. While the Department of Justice estimates that one out of every four South African women are survivors of domestic violence, a recent survey from the 1st for Women Foundation stated that 90% of women who leave abusive relationships become financially independent.

The foundation that conducted a survey of 100 domestic abuse survivors added that: “31% of the abuse survivors interviewed said that it took a year to regain their confidence following an abusive relationship.  Others said it could take anywhere between three months and two years to take back control of their lives and enjoy the freedom that is rightfully theirs.”

The build-up to the leaving of an abusive partner is relative, and “for some women the decision to leave an abusive relationship is instantaneous while for others, it is one that is reached over time,” said Robyn Farrell, trustee of the 1st for Women Foundation.

HHhHWomen The decision to leave abusers varied among the women.

“Many left for the sake of their children, or ran way, leaving when he wasn’t at home. One respondent said that it was the realization that no child should witness any disrespect or abuse to their mother and that it took a while but she became brave enough to walk out the door with her child in tow and said that it was the best decision she ever made,” Farrell added.

Ramaphosa said in a speech yesterday: “The biggest thing we need to do now is create awareness across our communities. This is because some people believe it is a norm for women and girls to be beaten. We need to create an awareness that it is not right - including the bad language we use to speak to our young boys and girls, this language must change.”

Farrell provided a few tips for abuse survivors:  

  • Build a support system – it may be just one person or a network of people, but these are the people that will be there for you at your lowest moments and will help you build up the courage you need to start over.  
  • Research safe houses – if you have nobody to turn to, remember there are safe houses all over the country that welcome women in your position and will help you get back on your feet.
  • Have an escape plan – know when and how you’re going to leave as well as your immediate destination. Many of the women surveyed said they left while their partner was at work.
  • Always be prepared to leave – if you can, pack a bag with important documents and necessities in case you have to leave in a hurry.
  • Plan but don’t over plan – this can make the idea of leaving completely overwhelming so rather take it day-by-day.
  • Do some legal preparations – keep evidence of physical abuse like photos and police or hospital records. These should be kept with some else like a family member to ensure they are never discovered by your partner.

Familiarising yourself with safe houses in your area is a good start and is advised. The Western Cape Government, for one, has a list of facilities you could look in to.

Unfortunately campaigns aimed at this cause tend to only pop up around Women’s Month and die down quickly after, but Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale along with Ramaphosa is adamant to make this a 365 day initiative.

 “The campaign is an ongoing effort to ensure that we not only provide support services to women and children, but also - as emphasised by the deputy president a number of times - that we engage men in discussing this issue,” stated Seale.

*Other organisations that are devoted to providing safe spaces for abuse victims include TEARS, POWA, Lifeline, Saferspaces and Zazi, to name a few.

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