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Why do men abuse women?

Why do men abuse women? There’s no one answer, but research around the world have repeatedly shown that boys who were abused as children are significantly more likely to be violent adults.

One such study, conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand’s public health department and the social justice organisation Sonke Gender Justice, found that male study participants, who had been abused or neglected as children, were five times more likely to commit gender-based violence than those who have not endured such abuse. The study was conducted among 2600 men in Diepsloot, Johannesburg.

Women may be afraid of strangers, but it’s a husband, a lover, a boyfriend, or someone they know who is most likely to hurt them. Usually, men who are abusive are seeking a sense of power and control over their partners or their own lives, or because they are tremendously dependent on the woman and are threatened by any moves on her part toward independence.

Some men are abusive because that’s the only way they know how to be close to or relate to a partner. Some men grew up in violent households, where they watched their mothers abused by their fathers and where they themselves were abused. Some men become violent under the influence of drugs or alcohol, although the substances themselves do not cause the violence.

What are the warning signs?

  • Jealousy and possessiveness.
  • Humiliating and insulting you in front of others.
  • Sabotaging your relationship with friends and family.
  • Sudden changes of mood – charming one minute and abusive the next.
  • Monitoring your movements, insisting on time limits when you do things, checking your phone, social networks and spending.
  • Controlling what you wear and eat (so subtly, you don’t see it happening).
  • Blaming you for the abuse (“I’m not like this with anyone else!” “You make me like this.”)
  • Expecting you to have sex when you don’t want to, including when you’re ill or asleep.
  • Damaging your treasured possessions.
  • Harming or threatening to harm family pets.
  • Driving recklessly to frighten you.
  • Threatening to kidnap or get custody of the children if you leave.
  • Telling you you’re useless and could never cope without him.
  • Dominating how you feel – whether that’s happy, afraid or frightened.
  • Having the power to make you constantly change your behaviour to avoid his “displeasure”.

Leaving a relationship, no matter how abusive, is never easy. Women who leave relationships often have to opt for living in poverty. That’s a very difficult choice to make. There are many social, cultural factors that contribute to encouraging women to stay and try and make the situation work. Some women remain emotionally and/or economically dependent on the abuser despite the fact that she faces continued abuse if she stays with him. Women are at highest risk of injury or violence when they are separating from or divorcing a partner. Women can be very intimidated by a partner and the consequences of her leaving. It takes a long time for a woman to give up hope in a relationship and to recognize that the only way she can be safe is to leave him.

Victims of domestic violence can receive support from a social worker.  Social workers at Free State Care in Action are trained to provide victims with counselling, support services and assistance in obtaining protection from their abuser. Victims and their children can receive trauma counselling from the social worker in order to address the emotional impact of the abuse of every family member.  For more information contact Free State Care in Action on 051-4446143.