16 first steps to take in the fight against women abuse

Being a survivor of women abuse can be an overwhelming and isolating experience which leaves many women feeling alone and desperate. It can be difficult for those who see it happen to know what to do, for the woman who is being abused to get the support she needs and for society at large to do something which will stop women abuse from happening.

Taking the first step both in the fight against women abuse and to get help for someone who is being abused does not need to be taken alone. If every person in South Africa takes one first step in the fight against women abuse, we can all come together and through our collective efforts, give abuse the boot.

To mark this year’s 16 Days’ of Activism, here are 16 things to do in the fight against women abuse. By just doing one of these things and by encouraging others to take part, we can all support women abuse fighting causes and stop the violence against women.

  1. Don’t be a bystander – if you see a women being abused, whether it is physically, sexually, financially or emotionally, say something. In our Seeking Solutions survey and research report, emotional abuse was listed as the second most prevalent form of abuse and women stated isolation as a key challenge for not getting help when they are in an abusive situation. By standing up for a woman who is being abused immediately illustrates she is not alone.
  2. Don’t be a troll – when scrolling through your social media feeds, you may be tempted to criticise or negatively comment on another woman based purely on their appearance or how she is dressed. Trolling women or slut shaming them on social media due to the anonymity it provides is abuse.
  3. Talk to your children, especially your boys – toxic masculinity can start from a young age and it is important that your children do not grow up with sexist and unconscious bias towards women. Such attitudes can lead to men feeling justified to sexually harass a woman. Teach your children, through both actions and words, from an early age about respect and kindness towards one another.
  4. Support an NGO – join the many South Africans who are already supporting NGOs who are committed to the fight against women abuse. Connect with them via the For-Women.co.za platform and offer to donate your time, resources, and a skill or make a monetary donation. These organisations rely on support from all areas of society to continue helping survivors of women abuse.
  5. Educate yourself – South Africa has some of the highest rape statistics in the world and while we want to live in a country where rape does not occur, it is important to know what to do, for yourself or someone you know, if they are raped. Following the right procedure in terms of reporting the rape and collecting evidence will help with convictions of the perpetrators.
  6. Call out sexism in the workplace – sexism and micro-aggression in the workplace towards women also forms part of abuse and by effectively pointing this out to your colleagues they will realise what is not appropriate behaviour towards women. This can include distasteful jokes, comments or gestures.
  7. Empower women – women who are not financially independent or don’t have the adequate tools to empower themselves can also deter them from getting help, according to our Seeking Solutions Start by becoming a mentor to another women or sharing some skills which will assist them to produce an income.
  8. Start a support group – get together with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours to discuss aspects or areas of women abuse in each other’s lives and together, begin identifying ways in which you can help each other, and find solutions.
  9. Lobby your local government – by increasing access to government supported social workers, counsellors and safe houses will help women who have been abused. By lobbying local government, you can effectively hold them accountable to provide these services.
  10. Lobby your workplace – women abuse is everyone’s problem and therefore everyone needs to do something to stop it from happening. Speak to your HR manager and senior management at your company to find out what their role is in the fight against women abuse. Encourage them to start playing a more active role and offer the necessary counselling and support to women who have been affected.
  11. Get to know your community policing forum (CPF) – there does exist a level of distrust among the police and a real belief that the South African justice system is broken, according to our survey. However, by speaking to the CPF and having an open and honest conversation with them so that trust can be re-built will assist with women wanting to report abuse.
  12. Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers – save them on your phone so that if you see abuse happening you can report it quickly and to the right people. Don’t think about it, or question it, or procrastinate. If you see it happening, like any other crime, report it.
  13. Get help; Give help – if you have been a survivor of abuse, don’t wait to get help. You are not alone in your situation. If you know of someone who has been abused, ask her what help she needs.
  14. Take out home or car insurance with 1st for Women – a portion of your monthly premium gets donated to the 1st for Women Foundation which supports the fight against women abuse.
  15. Try talking to the abuser – if you notice a friend, relative or colleague is abusive, take them aside and try speaking to them. Encourage them to get help.
  16. Take the pledge – join many South Africans who have taken the first step in the fight against women abuse by pledging their commitment on our For-Women.co.za platform.

To win in the fight against women abuse, South Africa needs to tackle the problem through a programme of prevention, preparation and provision. It is a complex and multi-faceted problem comprising different types of abuse and underlying causes and it needs to be addressed holistically. Do something meaningful this 16 Days’ of Activism and support the NGOs listed on our For-Women.co.za website and the survivors of abuse. Give help so that they can get help.