Gender-based violence is becoming a major cause of concern in South Africa. Women are dying brutally at the hands of men.
Not a week goes by without media headlines highlighting another woman’s death. Another life lost at the hands of someone she trusted. Such is the violence against women, that on June 17, President Cyril Ramaphosa said COVID-19 was not the only pandemic South Africa was facing.
“As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country. At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension,” he said at the time.
With the country demanding something be done, how bad is gender-based violence in Newcastle? How safe are the women in our community?
“Gender-based violence in Newcastle has become worse,” emphasises Mary Dobbie, Newcastle Crisis Centre’s director.
Since January, the Crisis Centre has housed 25 victims of gender-based violence. A drastic increase from 2019.
Mary explains that since the implementation of the lockdown, the Newcastle Crisis Centre and other shelters from across the country have been communicating with each other and the White Door Foundation. “There has been a big difference nationally as well, especially in the larger cities.”
Has the nationwide lockdown been a contributing factor to the increase in gender-based violence cases?
“The lockdown is playing a role. The perpetrators are now at home and the victims cannot get out and are struggling to get help. Those who do get out, we are doing our best to help,” May enthuses.
Looking at recent gender-based violence cases, Mary explains it is concerning to note that cases are becoming more and more brutal. “You just need to look at the media headlines, it is frightening.”
In her experience, who are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to gender-based violence?
According to Mary, people in positions of authority are often the biggest perpetrators. Individuals who community members would never expect.
“I do not know whether it is the stress of their positions or because of the economy. But it seems too easy for them to take it out on their wives.”
Mary says it is also important to highlight that men are also victims of abuse. However, men often tend to remain silent and don’t always speak up about their abuse.
But why do women stay with their abusers? Why do they not leave?
Mary says women are often scared to leave, however, not always for the reasons that some might imagine.
“Women are scared that if they leave, they will not be able to afford to send their children to school. They are scared they will not have anywhere to live. They tend to stay for security. But it is important for them to know that there is help.”
With the focus being put on gender-based violence, women can contact the following numbers for help:
- Newcastle Crisis Centre – 034 315 3389
- South African Police Service – 10111
- Gender-Based Violence Command Centre – 0800 428 428. The command centre also has a call-back service victims could use by dialling *120*7867#.