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Under-funding rape and domestic violence services: Neglecting women’s well-being, neglecting women’s work?

Domestic violence is the most common form of violence experienced by South African women and causes the greatest number of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases in women, according to the South African Stress and Health Survey conducted by the University of Cape Town and Johns Hopkins University. The same study found that rape, another crime overwhelmingly experienced by women and girls, was the form of violence most likely to result in PTSD, in addition to causing the most severe and long-term forms of PTSD.[1] But this is not all: depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance abuse, repeated victimisation, disability, HIV-infection and chronic physical health problems may also arise following an experience of rape or domestic violence. Good services to victims and their families are therefore crucial, both in ameliorating post-traumatic stress, as well as preventing some of these other health consequences from developing.

However, where these two crimes are concerned, no service is better than a bad service. A very substantial body of research shows that services do more harm than good when provided by people who have not been adequately trained to respond to rape and domestic violence, who also hold victim-blaming beliefs and do not receive debriefing and supervision. In other words, some degree of specialisation is required to provide quality services. Yet, in the context of funding cuts which began in 2010 and shifts in Department of Social Development (DSD) policy around funding to non-governmental organisations (NGO), it seems that fewer services of deteriorating quality are precisely what is being provided to survivors of rape and domestic violence.

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NGOs urge Minister Gordhan to address the chronic under-funding of rape and domestic violence services and the under-valuing of NGOs’ work.

Ahead of the National Budget speech on Wednesday, 26 February the Shukumisa Campaign is urging Minister Pravin Gordhan to recognise demands for better services for survivors of rape and domestic violence. This is in the wake of a report released today by the Campaign which found that funding cuts to just 17 organisations serving this group of victims led to the loss of 100 jobs between 2010 and 2013. At least 10 services provided by these 17 organisations were also closed.

Joy Watson

Dying for Love: Sex, Blood and Valentine’s Day

The One Billion Rising Against Sexual Violence or V-Day campaign which takes place on 14 February, is one opportunity for taking an activist stance. The campaign began in 2013 as a worldwide call to end violence against women and children. Based on the statistic that one out of every three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, the campaign is an attempt to get a billion people across the globe to form part of an activist movement to end gender-based violence. It comprises a form of protest or “risings” which take the form of art, dance, marches, flash mobs and story circles. Joy Watson discusses the relevance of such a campaign in the South African context.