University of Pretoria: UP webinar explores effects of intimate-partner violence

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Transformation Office recently hosted an online event that explored intimate-partner violence in South Africa. The webinar was held as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign, which takes place annually between 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day).

Professor Nicole de Wet-Billings, Assistant Dean for Postgraduate Studies in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand, was a panellist and focused her attention on the relationship between intimate-partner violence and the physical health of female victims. “According to my research, there is a direct link between hypertension and gender-based violence, more specifically intimate-partner violence,” she said. “About 58% of women who have experienced sexual violence are hypertensive. Physical, sexual or emotional violence increases the probability of hypertension. Intimate-partner violence puts young women’s health at risk.”

Hypertension, she added, is often seen as something that occurs among older women. “But my research focused on young women between the ages of 20 and 35; 40% of young mothers are hypertensive, thus debunking the myth that hypertension affects only older women.”

Sarah Lekale, Director of Goldfields Family Advice Organisation, was also part of the conversation. “Intimate-partner violence is a global pandemic affecting thousands of women – and it is higher than it has ever been,” she said. “The most severe case of intimate-partner violence is death: 85% of victims are females; the rest are mainly members of the LGBTQI+ community and a small margin are males. Abusers are good at convincing victims to stay in these violent relationships. Many victims have died at the hands of their partners.”

“I am tired of seeing the reports on how high intimate-partner violence is,” Prof De Wet-Billings said. “We need more evidence and scientific proof about the effects of it, why it is happening and what can be done to solve it. Intimate-partner violence is not the end – it is a starting point. We need government, citizens and law enforcement to work together to find solutions.”

Lekale then encouraged victims to speak out and ask for help. “If you are in an abusive relationship, there is a way out. Your partner may have convinced you otherwise, but there is a way out. There are shelters around the country for victims of gender-based violence. At these shelters, you will receive counselling that will help you to deal with trauma. If you are not a victim but know someone who is, you can also contact these shelters.”

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