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Increase in women and child abuse

“Gender based violence continues to increase in the Western Cape and the rest of the country,” says Shaheema McLeod, Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children. Marking the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, McLeod points to an inefficient judicial system, lack of awareness within the police force and ignorance around what constitutes abuse, as some of the reasons behind the high levels of violence in South Africa.

“The bulk of cases go unreported; fear, shame, denial and further abuse from the perpetrator, are some of the reasons for this. There is very little victim support; only 3% of offenders are found guilty of the crime committed,” says McLeod. “Campaigns such as the 16 Days for No Violence are an excellent vehicle for creating awareness around abuse, however to really see a difference, we need to change our behaviour and the belief systems that are so deeply rooted in our country.”

The Saartjie Baartman Centre, which was established 15-years ago, has assisted more than 100 000 victims of crime and violence. Over the past few years, the organisation has seen a 65% increase in the number of women and children seeking assistance. Based in Manenberg, an area with extremely high incidences of violence, a number of services are offered, including short and long-term accommodation, legal assistance, skills training and counseling for adults and children. The Centre is the only shelter to accept boys up to the age of 18 who are accompanied by their mother.

“There should be zero tolerance towards violence, no matter what day of the year it is. Education starts with our children. Unfortunately all to often victims of abuse become the abusers – this is the cycle that we have to break, only then will we see campaigns such as the 16 Days initiative having a real impact.”

Research and findings:

  • In South Africa a woman is raped every four minutes or killed every six hours by her intimate partner.
  • One in five women are forced into sex by an intimate partner.
  • Constructions of masculinity and patriarchy in South Africa has resulted in a readiness to use violence to assert power.
  • More than 100 cases of child abuse are reported every week in South Africa.
  • A child is sexually assaulted every three minutes.
  • The chances of a girl being raped in South Africa are much higher than her chances of completing secondary education.
  • Perpetrators of abuse are getting younger.

* Research provided by the Western Cape Government and the Medical Research Council.

Myths versus reality:

  • Myth: Only certain kind of women are abused.
  • Fact: Women of all races, cultures, class and religion are abused.
  • Myth: Alcohol, drugs, stress and unemployment cause violence.
  • Fact: These can worsen the situation, but they are not the cause.
  • Myth: Women ask for it (provoke abuse) and need to be disciplined.
  • Fact: No one wants or deserve to be abused.
  • Myth: Abuse is a private and family matter.
  • Fact: Abuse is is everyone’s concern; it affects the individual, family, community and the country as a whole.
  • Myth: It’s only abuse if it’s violent.
  • Fact: Neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging.



Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:

Beverley Houston

021 447 1082 / 082 824 8617

On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:

Director: Shaheema McLeod

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