Category Archives: Domestic violence

Domestic violence during pregnancy

Domestic violence is any physical, sexual, psychological or economic abuse that takes place between people who are sharing, or have recently shared a home.

In Africa, there is more violence against women than on any other continent. Three women are killed by their partners in South Africa every day, thats twice as many women than in the United States of America. Violence during pregnancy has negative effects for both the mother and the child. Abused women are more likely to delay getting pregnancy care and to attend fewer antenatal visits.

Our recent research study looked at pregnant women who experience domestic violence in Hanover Park, Cape Town. We looked at the profile of women who reported domestic violence and what factors in their lives were associated with this abuse.


We found that women who were experiencing domestic violence were more likely than those without domestic violence to:

– have a current mental health problem like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or behaviours, alcohol or drug abuse

– have had past mental health problems
– have experienced past abuse
– not feel supported by their partner
– not likely feel pleased about being pregnant
– more likely experience food insecurity and not have a job

Out of this study with developed a learning brief which targets any service providers who interact with vulnerable women and children, especially those service providers who work with pregnant women. Such services providers can arise from nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) or civil society organisations and may be healthcare providers or social service providers.
Find this and more on our resources for professionals pages.

Suicide risks among pregnant women and new mothers

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day we’d like to focus on suicidal thoughts during the perinatal period

Mothers’ emotional needs can go undetected during the perinatal period where there is much attention on the baby and women often face multiple difficulties. Studies have shown that women at risk for suicide may be easier identified, by increasing screening of expectant and new mothers for major depression and conflicts with intimate partners. Thus care providers and family may be able to detect symptoms and signs of suicidal thoughts and possibly prevent further distress or the development of suicidal behaviour.

Symptoms and warning signs include 

– Talk of suicide or dying “If I died, would you miss me?” or “It would be better if I were not here or dead.”
– Depressive symptoms, including feelings of guilt, hopelessness or no sense of the future.
– Feeling isolated or wanting to be alone “No one understands me”.
– Obsessive thinking – thinking ‘too much’, especially about harming oneself or dying
– Giving things away (clothes, expensive gifts), “When I am gone, I want you to have this.”

Our recently produced Issue Brief deals with some of the risk factors and unearths some of the myths surrounding suicide during and after pregnancy.

Suicide during pregnancy - myths

Read this and other Issue Briefs on our website

#WSPD16 will be commemorated on 10 September
Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #WSPD16

Defeating the enemy within – intimate partner violence in South Africa

Abuse at the hands of one’s partner is rife across the world. And even though South Africa has the highest levels of this type of violence, healthcare providers are not trained to deal with it and it is still regarded as a taboo subject.

Domestic Violence in South Africa Image: Graeme Arendse

In South Africa, shocking statistics reveal that:

– half of all women killed are slain by their intimate partners
– this is the highest femicide rate in the world
– more than 50% of women report experiencing intimate partner violence, often during pregnancy
– 20% of women surveyed in antenatal clinics in Soweto reported sexual violence by an intimate partner
– 68% reported psychological abuse and
– more than a third of girls report having been sexually violated and
– 45% of children have witnessed their mothers being beaten

Now, the World Psychiatric Association has created the first comprehensive position paper and curriculum that can be used by institutes globally to try to combat intimate partner violence.

Simone Honikman, director of the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) in Cape Town, has hailed the new open-source curriculum, saying it will be very useful in South Africa. “I think this is an excellent resource for capacity building that may be easily adapted for our local setting. Over the years of working with health and social development workers of all types, we at the PMHP, have been struck by the need for improved access to accessible, competency-based training on addressing intimate partner violence and sexual violence.”

Read the full article by Tanya Farber in the Times Live here


IPV and HIV a vicious cycle

Gender Differences and Relationship Power Could be Key in Preventing HIV Among South African Adolescents

This study is the first known to examine gender differences in intimate partner violence and relationship power among adolescents in South Africa.

Millions of those infected with HIV worldwide are young women, ages 15-24, according to the World Health Organization. Because the HIV epidemic overlaps with an epidemic of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women and girls, researchers have suspected a correlation between inequities in relationship power and the risky sexual behavior that can lead to HIV transmission.

The research was conducted in South Africa, where the prevalence of both HIV and IPV is high and men often have more power in relationships than women. The team assessed data from more than 700 sexually experienced adolescents in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa who had been followed at regular intervals for 54 months as part of a separate NIH-funded trial.

Violence against women

Read more on this study on Gender Differences and Relationship Power Could be Key in Preventing HIV Among South African Adolescents | Annenberg School for Communication

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) during pregnancy

Prevalence and Risk Factors in South Africa

Violence against women is a global problem which exacts a high burden of suffering on millions of women and families, including women who are pregnant and postpartum.

In South Africa, studies have shown that 36-40% of pregnant women experience physical IPV, while 15-19% experience sexual IPV.

In this vulnerable population, IPV is associated with a range of physical and mental health consequences for the mother including pregnancy loss, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

South African data have suggested a direct link between violence and HIV infection, where HIV-positive women are more likely than HIV-negative women to have experienced physical violence perpetrated by their partner. Alcohol and other drug use have been identified as another risk factor for IPV during pregnancy, as intoxication may lead to irresponsible behaviour such as violence

In South Africa, the mortality rate attributed to IPV is the highest globally and is double that of the United States. For the infant, there are increased risks associated with preterm delivery and low birth weight.

Read our policy brief on violence against women in South Africa and how to break the cycle on our website


A women is killed every 8 hours in South Africa

 That is five times higher than the global average femicide rate!

It’s time for equal rights & lives free of Violence against Women!

#VAW #IWD2016 #Planet5050

Read our policy brief on violence against women in South Africa and how to break the cycle on our website



Also recently published: the preliminary findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on the causes of violence against Women in South Africa, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović.


The UN Women has released a photo essay ‘A day in the life of women’, to celebrate women all over the world on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2016

We are taking a stand to end violence against women & girls #16Days of Activism #orangetheworld

South Africa has the highest mortality rate attributed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) worldwide!*

Up to 40% of pregnant women experience physical Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), while up to 19% experience sexual IPV in South Africa. In this vulnerable population, IPV is associated with a range of physical and mental health consequences for the mother including pregnancy loss, depression and post-traumtic stress disorder.  


Over the next #16days the PMHP will take part in the global discussion to break the cycle of violence and abuse!


*in “Mortality of women from intimate partner violence in South Africa: a national epidemiological study.” Intimate Partner Violence in South Africa

Swept Under the Carpet: The Psychological Side of Maternal Health

While thousands of academic papers and other publications have documented evidence of perinatal common mental health disorders (PCMDs), social stigma has prevented more widespread awareness and treatment.

This research suggests a link between mental health and women’s empowerment!

The status and treatment of women plays a formative role in their mental health, she said. The quality of a mother’s relationship with their intimate partner – including factors like whether the partner is polygamous, violent, alcoholic, or rejects the pregnancy – is key.

Read more about breaking the barriers of stigma here


Or watch the webinar on

Integrating Mental Health into Maternal Health Programs


by the Wilson Center here

*pictures by the Wilson Centre & Newsecuritybeat

We are proudly taking part in #16days of activism

We are proudly taking part in #16days of Activism. Watch this space tomorrow #IDEVAW #endVAW #SayUcommit #HumanRights


The latest @TheLancet series on violence against women

The latest @TheLancet series on violence against women and girls covers the evidence base for interventions,
discusses the vital role of the health sector in care and prevention,
shows the need for men and women to be involved in effective programmes, provides practical lessons from experience in countries,
and presents a call for action with five key recommendations and indicators to track progress.


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