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How to protect yourself (or a loved one) against gender-based violence over the festive season

According to Maria Glennie, Founder and CEO of TEARS Foundation, incidences of gender-based violence spike massively over the festive season.

“Last year over the festive season, we were inundated with 42 962 calls for help for gender-based violence, which was a 57% increase from November 2020 and a 117% increase from October 2020. The majority of the calls TEARS Foundation received over the festive season were related to domestic violence and sexual assault.”

“Each survivor’s experience and healing process is different, and for some people, the holiday period may be an especially tough time,” says Glennie. The government’s goal is to eradicate femicide and gender-based violence by 2030, yet currently, we are still on the backfoot.

While we wait for action and accountability to protect our women from the GBV pandemic, we need to, in the meantime, employ simple safety tips, self-care strategies, and the support of activists and advocacy groups in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

The following advice is offered to victims of GBV who say enough is enough:

It is not your fault: When you are in an abusive relationship, you might find you blame yourself for it, because your partner manipulates you into believing it is your fault. Abuse is never your fault. There is nothing you could do or say that would make it okay for someone to hurt you in any way.

Do not feel guilty: Feeling guilty about the abuse can also make you feel shameful about opening up to others about it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You did not choose to be in a relationship with an abuser. It is not your fault.

Make notes: Write down everything you can about the abusive incidents when your abuser is not around. Take screenshots of any abusive messages they send to you. If you are being physically abused, take pictures of the marks on your body, and go and see a healthcare practitioner. The evidence can help you when you need to file a report with the police or get a protection order. Even if you have not written anything down before, write down what you remember from previous abusive episodes. You might already have messages as proof, keep those too. Just remember to keep those notes and images out of your partner’s sight.

Safety planning: This a crucial step for someone involved in an abusive relationship:

  • Do not tell your partner that you are leaving them.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Practice how to get out safely, with your children.
  • Teach your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.
  • Put together an emergency bag with money/credit cards/debit cards, extra keys, medicine, and important papers such as birth certificates. Keep it somewhere safe and accessible.
  • Consider speaking to a trained domestic violence counsellor to create a detailed safety plan.

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