By Paula Quinsee
November kicks off the global “16 Days of Activism” campaign highlighting the plague of gender-based violence (GBV) against women and children.
Whether we want to admit it or not, domestic abuse happens on a daily basis in our homes, our communities and our businesses. Covid-19 has highlighted the problem due to the spike in both divorce and GBV statistics globally as a result of being in lockdown.
GBV is often associated only with physical violence or rape and the impact on victims of these traumatic experiences. Very seldom are the other forms of abuse spoken about.
And with many employees working from home, companies are starting to be exposed to the reality that some of their employees are not safe at home. This can have a severe impact on work deliverables, productivity and mental health.
In South Africa, one in five women is reported to be a victim of domestic violence or abuse at some point in her life – this is among the highest incidence anywhere in the world.
According to a 2014 study by KPMG, gender-based violence (GBV) costs South Africa between R28.4bn and R42.4bn a year — or between 0.9% and 1.3% of GDP annually, which is, sadly, in line with global GBV estimates.
If we want to address and eradicate abuse then it needs to be a holistic approach championed in the home, by government and in organisations and it needs to address both perpetrators and victims. If there were no perpetrators, we would not have victims.
We need to be clear on where the roles and responsibilities lie across these three areas and actively participate, speak about, and engage in for changes to be sustainable for the longer term.
So what does that mean exactly?
In the home:
Parents set the tone (culture and values) by which the family functions and thrives and this is where we as children get exposed to, and experience what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour (abuse and abusive environments).
Children mimic their primary caregivers behaviour which then becomes the norm for them. We learn to respond and react to what gets acknowledged and what gets punished, in other words consequences for our actions and behaviour.
We need to teach both our daughters and our sons about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour by being conscious and aware of our own behaviour and the examples we are setting for our children, our families and in our communities.
In the workplace:
Leaders set the tone for the corporate culture, values, vision and mission and employees will mimic the leadership behaviour in the organisation based on what is acknowledged or rewarded and where there is accountability. This will be evident across a number of areas such as: rewards and recognition programmes, ability to have tough conversations, the upholding of policies and procedures, ethical behaviour and how situations are handled and consequences thereof.
We need to teach our employees what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour by being conscious and aware of our own behaviour and the examples we are setting for our employees, our customers, our service providers and our stakeholders.
Government needs to lead by example in addressing this epic pandemic (SA has the highest rape statistics in the world) through the allocation of the necessary resources and expertise to address this issue at a community level, a public sector level and in policies and laws that are representative and inclusive across all gender levels, i.e. men, women and LGBTQ, and that address all forms of abuse (physical, sexual, mental, psychological and financial).
How do we start?
Very simply by identifying and communicating what is and what is not acceptable behaviour or abusive behaviour and holding people accountable for their actions, for example:
We can no longer send abusers off to anger management classes while victims fear for their safety and grapple with the long-term effects of their trauma.
Together we are stronger and can stop abuse if we really want to but, it is going to take courage to stand up and say no more, this needs to stop whether you are a perpetrator, victim or active citizen.
What’s your choice?
Paula Quinsee is a member of the Quote This Woman+ database. She is a relationship expert and passionate advocate for creating healthy relationships at home, in the workplace, and against GBV, to co-create a more human connected world and positively impact people’s lives. Paula is also an international speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No.
Main Picture: UN Women