Gender violence in the Spotlight, For Women's Month we celebrate "What She Said"

DEBATE: Domestic abusers don't have a profile, and there's no typical victim

In your marriage you feel appalled by yourself.

Claudia Burger, Social Worker and Programme Director of ANEX and a domestic violence survivor

Mothers, sisters, daughters, friends - anyone of these women could be a victim of domestic abuse.

Domestic violence remains a pressing issue in the country. When looking at this issue from the outside, it is difficult to understand why women who are abused by their partners don't just leave. That is because we don't fully grasp the situation.

To help us understand this and to give some insights on the realities of domestic abuse, Pippa Hudson hosted a panel on domestic violence. Joining her were various women who work with victims of abuse in various spheres.

We often hear figures like one in six women or one in four are victims of abuse. Seeham Semaai, director at the Women’s Legal Centre says the numbers are based on the women who actually report their abuse. She adds that women don't know about the acts that can protect them.

One of the challenges that we have are those are the actual reported ones. There are a lot of women who are still out there, who don't understand the purpose of the domestic violence act or the protection of harassment act that can assist them.

Seeham Semaai, director at the Women’s Legal Centre

Even if women are aware of these Acts, Semaai says the number of withdrawals of cases are high. This feeds into that perception that women who are abused could just leave - but often it is not that simple.

Nozuko Conjwa is a social worker at Nonceba Family Counselling and says that this could be attributed to the psychological abuse women in these situations face. She adds that many women feel like the can't leave an abusive relationship because the feel like they don't have support outside their relationships.

Another big factor, according to Nonceba, are cultural reasons that prohibit women from leaving a marriage. No matter haw bad the situation gets, women get told to stay with their abusers.

If you look at that, it is abuse on its own because the women we think are going to be able to assist us in terms of curbing domestic violence, are also perpetrating it by telling us to stay.

Nozuko Conjwa, social worker at Nonceba Family Counselling

Claudia Burger is a social worker and programme director of Activists Networking against the Exploitation of Children (ANEX). She is also a survivor of domestic abuse. From her experience, women struggle to leave because they are fully stripped of all confidence.

Burger says one of the hardest things to deal with when in a violent relationship is the stigma attached to it. She says people will shame you for things you already feel ashamed about. When it comes to the actual abuse, you do feel appalled, yet you cling on to the good moments of the relationship - because you feel like you cannot leave.

The person who inflicts the violence is like a tsunami. You don't know when to expect what. I was abused in every way, beside physical. At 3 o'clock you start asking yourself, what do I need to prepare myself for tonight.

Claudia Burger is a social worker and programme director of ANEX

When it comes to the abusers - there is no particular face or type of person. In fact, there is not such thing as a typical victim either. Pauline Perez, general manager at Nonceba Counselling Centre says women who come to them for help come from all type of backgrounds.

Burger adds that there is no way of telling who a perpetrator is. You have no way of saying only those people are abusers. In the case of her ex-husband, he was well liked in a crowd, and would be fine in a braai, but privately was very controlling and narcissistic.

Conjwa says that there are no profile for a perpetrator of abuse, but common issue that arises with them are anger, control and power.

The abusive partners come from different places. They're white, they're black, they're professionals, they're non-professionals - and so there is no such thing as a typical perpetrator.

Pauline Perez, General Manager at Nonceba Counselling Centre

First for Women did a survey of survivors of domestic violence to find out more about how to help the situation. One of the biggest fears women have of leaving an abusive relationship is the economic factors. But the First for Women survey showed many survivors were able to find their feet quite quickly after leaving.

Robin Farrel, director at First For Women Insurance, says that 90 % of women found financial independence. It took them between three months and two years to find their feet, but they did it one way or another. Another key factor in overcoming abuse was great support systems, particularly of other women, who helped them regain their confidence and give them strength to leave.

Farrel says some of the best advice from survivors for those wanting to leave is to plan where they are going, keep evidence of abuse, keep a bad with all your important documents and be prepared to leave at any minute.

That's the message we want to give to those women who are currently victims. They can become survivors and they can become financially self sufficient.

Robin Farrel, director at First For Women Insurance

Listen to the full panel discussion below:


This article first appeared on 702 : DEBATE: Domestic abusers don't have a profile, and there's no typical victim


CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
Share stories not stereotypes this Women’s Month

Share stories not stereotypes this Women’s Month

Words have power. They have the power to unite or divide, heal or hurt.

[WATCH] #ChangeHerStory: Rewriting the narrative for victims of abuse

[WATCH] #ChangeHerStory: Rewriting the narrative for victims of abuse

#ChangeHerStory is about raising awareness about high levels of gender-based violence in South Africa.

Reeva Steenkamp Foundation empowering young women and breaking stigma of abuse

Reeva Steenkamp Foundation empowering young women and breaking stigma of abuse

The Reeva Steenkamp Foundation works with women and children that have been exposed to abuse, CEO Kim Martin explains.

Civil groups call for national commission on gender-based violence

Civil groups call for national commission on gender-based violence

On Friday, civil organisations will march against violence on women and children, as a part of the #NotInMyName campaign.

[WATCH] Redi Tlhabi's #Femicide roundtable

[WATCH] Redi Tlhabi's #Femicide roundtable

From patriarchy, language used towards women and victim-blaming, panelists discussed uncomfortable truths behind women abuse.

Popular articles
[LISTEN] 'We are dealing with an outbreak of Listeriosis' - Dr Thomas

[LISTEN] 'We are dealing with an outbreak of Listeriosis' - Dr Thomas

Head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at the NICD Dr Thomas says that Listeriosis is problematic because it isn’t notifiable.

Publisher saves South African students billions with free textbooks

Publisher saves South African students billions with free textbooks

This year we're going to hit a million downloads of free textbooks in SA - James van der Westhuizen, country manager for Bookboon.

‘Conflicted’ Zuma will never again have say in appointing NPA boss, court hears

‘Conflicted’ Zuma will never again have say in appointing NPA boss, court hears

Shaun Abrahams is no longer the National Director of Public Prosecutions and President Zuma can't appoint his replacement.

Steinhoff money woes and why you should care

Steinhoff money woes and why you should care

The company lost around R100 billion leaving the JSE reeling in one of the biggest private sector business scandals.

Few retirement funds unaffected by Steinhoff implosion (i.e. you just got had)

Few retirement funds unaffected by Steinhoff implosion (i.e. you just got had)

Your money, and Steinhoff… Bruce Whitfield interviews Certified Financial Planner Peter Calitz.

‘There were clear warning signs at Steinhoff. All of which fund managers missed’

‘There were clear warning signs at Steinhoff. All of which fund managers missed’

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Sygnia Group CEO Magda Wierzycka.

Zille: 40 000 affordable housing units in the pipeline for WC

Zille: 40 000 affordable housing units in the pipeline for WC

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says the government plays a crucial role in the provision of affordable housing in the province.