The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children has raised concern around the increased risk of HIV infection in relation to intimate partner violence. Raising awareness during STI and Condom Week, which runs from 10 to 16 February, alongside Pregnancy Awareness Week, the Centre, which assists abused women and children, said women who are in violent partnerships are unlikely to discuss condom use for fear of reprisal from their partners.
“Negotiating condom use in an abusive relationship is extremely hard,” social worker and shelter manager at the Centre, Dorothea Gertse said. “Beyond the physical threat posed by violent partners, condom use becomes an emotional tool where the abusive partner plays manipulative games to guilt the other partner into not using protection.”
Gertse’s sentiment is backed by a World Health Organisation Report that found women who had physically abusive partners were four times more likely to be verbally abused and nine times more likely to be threatened with physical abuse when they asked their primary partner to use condoms compared to those who did not have abusive partners.
“Substance abuse very often goes hand in hand with the problem,” says Gertse. “Substances are often used as a coping mechanism against trauma and abuse; it becomes a never ending cycle that becomes very difficult to break.”
The Centre, which is based in Manenberg Cape Town, an area with high rates of crime and gangsterism has assisted more than 180 000 women and children since opening their doors in 1999. Over the past few years, they have seen an alarming increase of women with substance abuse issues seeking assistance at the Centre.
“Currently about 80% of the women who come to the Centre as a result of gender based violence, test positive for drugs,” says Gertse. “Our intake profile has changed, the women are very young, some barely 18-years-old, and substance abuse is a big issue, it’s almost expected.”
Over the past few years, the organisation has seen a 65% increase in the number of women and children from the community seeking assistance. “Violence against women and children continues to increase, drug and alcohol abuse is merely fueling an already volatile situation,” Gertse concluded.
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 447 1082 / 082 824 8617
On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:
Director: Shaheema McLeod