As Women’s Month kicks off, forgood.co.za, the country’s largest online volunteering platform, has launched a campaign to raise R100 000 to help women who have been affected by gender-based violence.

The funds will go directly to Lawyers against Abuse, a non-profit organisation that provides free legal services and psychosocial support to victims of GBV.

“Our goal this year is to make Women’s Month count. With your help, we can ensure that victims of GBV are not further victimised by the justice system – and that their cases are heard and followed up on by the authorities. By donating towards this campaign, you can play an active role in creating and reinforcing support structures for women to come forward and receive the help they desperately need,” says Romy Heldsinger, CEO at forgood.

One of the main reasons for continued violence in South Africa is the failure of the justice system in GBV cases.

These failures create an environment where perpetrators of violence are not held accountable for their actions.

Read more: City sees a worrying increase in domestic violence cases

In South Africa, perpetrators of GBV are only arrested in 58% of reported rape cases, and only 18.5% of these cases ever go to trial. Of these cases, less than 9% end in a conviction, according to research conducted by the Medical Research Council.

“Victims of GBV are often further victimised when seeking justice by discriminatory police attitudes, victim blaming and the traumatic and adversarial courtroom environment. Without comprehensive support services, GBV victims are expected to navigate the complex and often hostile legal process alone. This can discourage women from pursuing legal action, and leave them open to further abuse,” says Rethabile Mosese, Deputy Director at LvA.

“Helping individual women to access the support they need has a knock-on effect that results in greater awareness of these issues and – in the long term – systemic change that can benefit generations of women to come,” says Heldsinger.

“The money we raise this month will go directly towards making sure victims of GBV get the right legal and psychosocial support. It’s our way of saying we have had enough.”

#MakeWomensMonthCount by making a donation towards LvA, in support of women who have suffered the effects of perpetual violence.

Visit www.forgood.co.za and click on the campaign link to get involved.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse or domestic violence by a romantic partner and current or former partners. Tackling intimate partner violence could lower the rates of mental illness. This is according to a new commission published by Lancet Psychiatry, taking a look at the interrelationship between IPV and mental health problems. The report was compiled by a team of experts, including South African Professor Soraya Seedat. They suggest that reducing levels of IPV experienced by women and children could significantly bring down the number of people who experience mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.

IPV and mental health
Violence against women and girls

According to the report, IPV is a public mental health issue that requires societal change, scientific effort and political will to tackle it effectively. A key finding in the report is that more than one in four women and girls aged 15 or older (27%) has experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence. In addition, it found that victims of IPV are at an increased risk of developing mental health problems.

The report suggests that societal norms that promote violence need to be addressed. In men, this can be seen as the endorsement of sexist, superior or sexually hostile attitudes. In women, it is the tolerance of violence against them. Challenging these beliefs can be an effective means of ensuring they do not develop throughout life. Thus, schools must integrate and develop models of gender equality and respect for both boys and girls. The report further suggests that an unfortunate root for violence against women is gender inequality at all levels of society. Professor Louise Howard, the Commission’s lead author and a professor in Women’s Mental Health at King’s College London UK’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) says, “our findings reinforce the need for mental health services to follow the NICE Public Health 2014 guidance which recommended mental health professionals routinely ask about IPV as it is so common an experience of people using mental health services.”

READ MORE: Covid-19 pandemic contributed to increasing in mental-health illnesses & gender-based violence

The difficulties with seeking mental health assistance

The commission found that many survivors of IPV, although they sought mental health services, found interacting with these services to be ‘harmful and retraumatising’. It cites previous research reported that around 2/3 of women and 1/3 of men in contact with mental health services experienced domestic abuse. “There is a distinct lack of training offered to mental health professionals like myself. I am a practising psychiatrist. As a medical student, a trainee, and even when I started practising in general adult psychiatry, I was never taught about the effects of domestic violence,” says Professor Louise Howard. The only way to reform this is by training practitioners in how to ask and respond safely to victims and create trauma care in conjunction with people who have experienced IPV.

READ MORE: Anti-GBV safety app is a tool for emergency situations

Responding to the GBV crisis

The authors of the report called for a collective societal effort to challenge IPV at all levels of society. It notes that whilst gender inequalities are present in all societal systems and institutions, it is more likely to affect those that come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As vital as it is to identify the problem, providing possible solutions is key, “collective momentum must be matched with real-world actions. In recent years we have seen the funding for specialist IPV services reduced, including in services designed specifically to aid women from racial minority backgrounds which were already severely underfunded,” says Professor Helen Fisher, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at King’s IoPPN.