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World Health Day: Abused women at higher risk

Women exposed to intimate partner violence are more likely to suffer from mental, sexual and reproductive ill health; they are also more prone to attempt suicide. In recognition of World Health Day, which takes place on 7 April, the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children has raised concern around the physical and mental health of women who experience intimate partner violence.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence are twice as likely to experience depression, 16% more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby and 1.5 times more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted infection, this includes HIV.

Based in Manenberg on the Cape Flats, the Centre, a shelter and facility for abused women and children, sees over 600 women per month; “The women who seek assistance from the Centre arrive not only with physical injuries, but longer term psychological and health concerns too,” says Director Shaheema McLeod.

“Violence against women is an entrenched societal problem; we need to expand our methods of intervention to address the long term impact of abuse,” says McLeod. “Mental illness, such as depression and suicidal attempts, are not uncommon.”

A key point of intervention is health services; of the one in three women who experience physical or sexual violence by their partner, 42% sustain significant injury. “Our healthcare providers need to be made fully aware of and be able to support and offer assistance to these women,” says McLeod.

Since opening their doors in 1999, the Centre has assisted more than 180 000 victims of violence and abuse. Their onsite emergency shelter houses an average of 100 women and children at a time. The Centre offers a number of services, including short and long-term accommodation, legal assistance, skills training and counseling for adults and children. Over the past few years, they have seen a 65% increase in the number of women and children seeking their services.

* Research and stats provided by a World Health Organisation report: Global and regional estimates of violence against women.

ENDS

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 Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications

Emma Proctor

emma@be-cause.co.za

021 447 1082 / 072 930 4412

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

Director: Shaheema McLeod

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