Weathering the storm: Gender-Based Violence

Are you wondering what Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is?

Well! GBV is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s (women or girl, man or boy) will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females.
It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivations of liberty.

The word GENDER in Gender-based violence
Refers to the social differences between males and females that are learned. Though deeply rooted in every culture, social differences are changeable over time, and have wide variations both within and between cultures. “Gender” determines the roles, responsibilities, opportunities, privileges, expectations, and limitations for males and females in any culture.

It is important to know that both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls. The use of the word ‘gender-based’ is important as it highlights the fact that many forms of violence against women are rooted in power inequalities between women and men. Gender-based violence is not only a criminal act but is a human right’s violation within all societies

Types of GBV

GBV can take many different forms but ultimately fall within the three types: physical, emotional and sexual. Although people respond to GBV in different ways, it is safe to say that GBV can have lasting effects and serious consequences be it directly or indirectly. Different types of gender-based violence’s require different help responses.

Sexual violence
Refers to any completed or attempted sexual act against a person’s will or against a person unable to give permission. The different forms of sexual violence include rape (forced sexual acts, including by an intimate partner/husband), sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation by someone in a position of power (such as a lecture, boss) or even in exchange for money, services or goods.
Physical violence

This one refers to an act of physical violence that is not sexual. This form of violence often occurs in intimate partner relationships and within family members. Physical violence does not only include physical forms of violence but also neglectful acts that cause physical pain or injury.
Examples include: hitting, withholding of food, use of weapon, strangulation and so forth.

Emotional and psychological violence

This is the infliction of mental or emotional pain or injury. This includes violence perpetrated in a non-physical manner usually by an intimate partner or person in a position of authority. For example, forms of emotional and psychological violence include verbal harassment, name-calling, insults, manipulation etc.

Social or economic violence

This includes violence perpetrated in a non-physical manner or embedded in laws and policies that deny women and girls, and other vulnerable groups, access to income/earnings, financial services, assets and social opportunities for advancement. Examples include: (1) discrimination and/or denial of opportunities, services or resources, (2) denial of access to education, health assistance or remunerated employment and/or (3) denial of property rights. Family members, community members, society, institutions and organizations can perpetuate this type of violence.

What are some of the consequences of GBV for survivors?

GBV has emotional, health/physical and social consequences that not only affect the victim but the entire family and even the society at large. It is because of such dynamic consequences that victims tend to live in silence within such relationships. It is therefore important that victims who choose to disclose feel supported and not stigmatized or blamed for the violence. It is also important to know that there is support not only with family and the community but also within stakeholders (professionals, the law, GBV organizations).
  • Physical injury
  • Disability
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections, including HIV
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Unsafe abortion, miscarriage
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleeping and eating disorders
  • Death, including suicide
  • Depression and sadness
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Self-blame, guilt and shame
  • Re-experiencing the trauma, flashbacks
  • Avoidance of places or situations, isolation
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts/actions
  • Victim-blaming
  • Stigmatisation
  • Rejection and isolation by family and/or community
  • Forced marriage
  • Decreased earning capacity/contribution
  • Risk of re-victimization
  • Death/honour killings

Some harmful traditional practices can also be considered types of GBV if they are intended to maintain women and girls’ subordinate status in society. Amongst these examples are Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced child marriage and honour killings.
Intimate Partner Violence, also known as Domestic Violence, is a pattern of abusive behaviour in an intimate relationship, including marriage that is used by one person to gain or maintain power and control over the other person. It often involves several different types of violence, including ongoing emotional/ psychological violence, physical and sexual abuse.

Facts Myths

The fact is, no women deserves to be abused. Perpetrators use tactics of control, manipulation and abuse that make it very difficult for women to escape the violence. Research has also shown that women also stay in abusive relationships because of shame and guilt, lack of safe housing, or the stigma of divorce.

This is the furthest thing from the truth. Violence against women is a human rights violation, regardless of whether it occurs in the family or the public sphere. Women are not properties and therefore belong to no man even in marriage. Domestic violence affects everybody. These are the same women that go out to the society to bare children who are then raised in such environments thus the cycle continues.

The fact is, rape is defined by action and not by the identity of the perpetrator or the survivor and so any forced sexual intercourse is rape, irrespective of whether the survivor is spouse, partner or girlfriend to the perpetrator or not.

The fact is, gender-based violence can take different forms as previously mentioned. Physical abuse is just one form of violence and GBV can manifest as emotional, verbal, economic, social and psychological abuse.

Fact is, feelings of anger don’t automatically lead to violence but it is the person who chooses to react with violence or aggression thus exerting power and control over another person. It’s a matter of exerting power and control over women in GBV cases.

For tips on how to ensure emotional safety

  • Put an end to it by reporting it
  • Keep a record of all the incidences that have occurred, pictures, voice recording etc.
  • Seek legal and professional help
  • Remove yourself from the situation in a safe manner
  • Enquire about community and university-based support forums
  • Reach out to family and friends that you think may be able to help
  • Avoid being alone with the perpetrator
  • Don’t confront the culprit alone
  • Don’t suffer in silence
  • Do not engage in maladaptive behaviour (such as drinking alcohol, using drugs or risky sexual behaviour etc.)
  • Don’t become a vigilante in pursuit for justice
  • Do not deal with it alone

It’s true, Every situation is different but don’t be SILENCED… College of Law and Management Studies Student Support Services is here for you



Sometimes it may be easier to tell a friend rather than a stranger and in other instances it may feel better to tell a stranger (professional) than a friend because of judgement and fear of being stigmatised. So how can we help support GBV victims become survivors:

  • Have a sympathetic hear
  • believe the person
  • avoid judgmental questions
  • offer practical support, such as accompanying the person to the police station
  • provide them with factual information with regards to reporting a case, maintain event, gender-based support centres etc.
  • Share the gender-based violence number, 0800 428 428

#We are with you on your journey to success/sikanye nawe ohambeni lakho oluya empumelelweni


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