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Abuse has many faces

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Any behaviour that controls another person, causes physical harm or fear, makes them do things they do not want to do, or prevents them from doing things they want to do can be defined as abuse.

“Abused women usually experience multiple forms of abuse,” says Thandiwe McCloy, communications manager at the non-governmental organisation People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa).

Abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual and financial.

“Physical abuse includes the victim being slapped, punched, hit, kicked, shoved, scratched, bit, or thrown with objects.”

A victim can also be threatened or attacked with an object, locked in or out of a house, or abandoned in a dangerous place.

“It is considered as sexual abuse when someone makes you wear clothes or do sexual things that make you uncomfortable,” she says.

“This also includes pressuring you or forcing you to perform sexual acts that you do not want to do, having sex with you when you don’t want to, forcing you to have sex with other people, or forcing you to observe other people having sex.”

Emotional abuse includes when a partner insults you, makes you feel stupid or worthless, ridicules your beliefs, humiliates you, ignores you, intimidates or harasses you, is overly jealous or possessive, cheats on you, accuses you of infidelity, isolates you from family or friends, prevents you from going to work or school, attacks your children or pets, threatens to leave you or kill you, or threatens to kill himself if you leave.

Financial abuse is when a partner takes or spends your money, prevents you from having a job, takes or destroys your possessions, spends most of the money on himself, gives you a very small allowance, expects you to account for every cent and do more with the money than is possible, or refuses to give you information about your joint finances.

“An abuser usually goes through three repeating stages in his behaviour. This cycle of violence is important in keeping the woman in the relationship, because the abuser is both kind and abusive,” says McCloy.

The first phase, the tension-building stage, is followed by the abusive stage.

“Here the abuse escalates. The incident can last minutes or days.”

The third phase is the honeymoon stage.

“In this stage the abuser apologises, proclaims love, buys gifts to win the victim back and promises not to do it again,” says McCloy.

  • “As the relationship progresses, the abusive stage usually becomes more severe and the cycle gets shorter. Some abusers never enter the honeymoon stage; never feel sorry for what they do.” If you or someone you know is being abused, contact Powa for counselling, free of charge, on 011-642-4345/6. You can also send an email to counselling@powa.co.za or a direct message on Powa’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. ) Call the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 080-042-8428 or the Stop Gender Violence Helpline on 080-015-0150. This service is free of charge and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Visit powa.co.za for more information on the organisation.
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