As a domestic violence counsellor, I gear up towards the 16 days of activism against women and children, every year. The 16 days of activism is an annual campaign run between the 25th of November to the 10th of December and it is a chance for individuals, organisations and charities, to raise their hands and voices against domestic violence. This year I enjoyed the privilege of attending a joint parliamentary sitting on Domestic Violence, which chaired on the 12th of November. The sitting was interesting and not without its finger pointing and script reading. With South Africa’s high level of rape and gross violence against women, it is up to the people of South Africa to bring the change forward, as our fight is on the streets and in our homes. As much as abuse is written down as something highly prevalent among lower socioeconomic households, the truth is that abuse does not see colour, race, wealth or religion. It does not discriminate on the basis of nationality or province, abuse is something that threatens wealthy households to poverty stricken households and it is something that destroys, devalues, devastates and breaks down.

This year, the theme for the 16 days of activism is “count me in.” The phrase makes a general call to the people of South Africa, to ask themselves, what are you doing about domestic violence and if it is affecting you, how can we help? I would like to add some of the statistics that came out of the D.A. shadow minister for women Denise Robertsons speech on the 12th of November.

  • One in four South African women are affected by domestic violence.
    From Stats SA 2014/15 we learn that:
    29 261 sexual offences and 54 261 serious assaults against women were committed
    A total of 166 908 crimes against adult females – we have some serious challenges within SAPS and the Justice system
    Many victims suffer secondary abuse at Police Stations while reporting offences or applying for interdicts against the abuser.
    Too often they are chased away by unsympathetic or perhaps over-worked police officers who may themselves be traumatised and in need of counselling. 

Our national statistics for domestic violence are frightening, so this year we truly do need to ask ourselves, can we be counted in this struggle towards freedom, equality and the right to live in a non – violent society? Domestic violence is destroying the lives of millions of women worldwide and while some look for physical scars to tell the truth, domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse, spiritual and financial abuse are all realities. Words that break down, name calling, offensive or threatening emails, letters or phone calls are all forms of abuse. If your husband or partner frequently calls you names or puts you down, frequently accusses you falsely or lies about you to others or belittles you in company, then you are experiencing verbal abuse.

Yet precious woman, you are valuable and you have worth. You were not born in to this world to be abused, to be hated or misused, you were born to shine. You were born to smile. Some people demand evidence for hidden scars, but what scars can we show to others, when they are scars on our hearts. Abuse leads its victims to doubt themselves, most women in abusive homes or marriages, do not believe they can break free or find someone to truly love them. Yet, when a woman finally breaks free, she will find that she is incredibly valuable and worthy of deep and lasting love. This year, I pray that we will not only acknowledge the 16 days of activism to end abuse but I pray that we will be counted in this struggle, everyday because we are worth it and because we can.

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