Reported incidents of domestic violence in Hout Bay have escalated in December, bucking the trend of previous years. However, local non-profit Community Cohesion believes that while these levels are cause for concern, there could be a silver lining in that victims are making use of available channels to report abuse at home, where they had been loathe to in the past.
“Usually in December you will see a drop in cases. You might find people will visit family in the provinces they came from, and people feel more relaxed,” Community Cohesion director Bronwyn Moore said.
“You will usually find domestic abuse levels rise again at the end of January, when their bills come in for their holiday spending. As to why we are experiencing a rise now, we put it down to people knowing there are mechanisms out there to support them. Currently about 12 cases a week are being handled by us.”
Cases were also being reported in traditionally affluent communities, which signalled these residents were also feeling the pressure of the economic crunch and tensions at home were boiling over.
“What remains a huge concern for us is child neglect. You have parents at home abusing drugs and alcohol, not caring about their children. This is also seen as domestic violence.”
Community Cohesion social worker Angie Nyamunetsa said they also had cases where mothers were arriving from other provinces or countries with absolutely nothing.
“Sometimes the only survival option women have is to hook up with the first man they meet, they have children together and then the children she arrived with are victimised by the man,” Ms Moore said.
“These children are then neglected, and then some start taking drugs and engaging in crime. Some young girls then fall pregnant due to these push factors. Grandparents are raising second families so social grants.
Everyone is already feeling economically pinched and this adds to what then causes domestic violence.”
As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign draws to a close, Ms Moore felt that the name of the campaign should be changed to “16 Days of Non-Violence”.
“There are indications that violence against women and children actually increases during this period. The attitude of men is that if they are already labelled abusive, they will act in this way. It is the concept of making men the ‘other’,” she said.
She said she wanted the campaign’s name to be altered because men sometimes themselves were victims of abuse.
“What we need to emphasise is that abuse is not only physical. It is also psychological, social, emotional and economic. We deal with cases where the men’s partners abuse them to get more money or get revenge on them when the relationship ends. That is why we believe the campaign should be to end all violence in the home.”
Hout Bay police station commander Colonel Khuthala Nebhisi, who only started at the station this month, was unable to say whether there had been a spike in reported domestic violence cases compared to last year, but said there were definitely more people aware of the mechanisms in place to report cases.
“They are aware that they can apply for protection orders in court if they have suffered physical or emotional abuse at the hands of their husbands or wives,” she said.
“People need to be educated on their rights, and this does not only apply to women, but everyone. There used to be a sense among men that they would only be half a man if they reported these matters to police, but we are now a democracy as everyone had rights.”
One of the responses to the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign has been the Shukumisa (16 Days of Discontent) Campaign, which comprises 50 organisations and individuals across South Africa working towards combating sexual violence.
Rather than focusing on awareness around violence against women and children, the campaign presents a score card of what the government has achieved in terms of tackling sexual abuse. Giving a rating between zero and 10, the campaign aims to make government departments and those in power accountable for their responsibilities.