I was asked recently what I thought the reasons were for the high rate of Gender-Based Violence and femicide in South Africa. The short answer is that it is impossible to pinpoint one reason only.
And exactly because the reasons are multiple, the solutions have to be multi-faceted too. If we consider only the fact that nearly 60% of women in SA who are killed die at the hands of their spouses/partners or a person they are closely acquainted with, we have to acknowledge that there is something horribly wrong in the way we as a nation see our relationships.
What I also know, is that habit is formed from a first-time behaviour. All of us that have fallen off the diet wagon, know that when we break our diet, we promise ourselves that it is simply for today, thereafter it becomes only this week and 3 months later we ask ourselves how it is that we let all our previous discipline and good intentions slip for so long.
I believe that this very scenario of waiting for the right time or things to get better plays itself out in relationships. We get into a habit, a pattern of behaviour that if negative, must be stopped. The first time a spouse or partner shouts or behaves in an aggressive manner is the time for action. The time to say “no”. The same applies to the abuser who lifts his/her hands for the first time. In some instances, it can end there, if the consequences are severe enough to get them to understand that this really is the line that you draw.
Please understand I am not saying that this article even begins to explore the complexity of a relationship in which there is violence, I am definitely NOT victim blaming, I am saying that as a possible tiny part of the solution in this extremely complex problem, if it is possible to stop the first time offender, this may be a way to do it.
In assertiveness training, we recommend that you use something called the DESC approach. This means you describe the problem, express with examples your feelings, specify the alternatives (behaviour change required) and call the consequences.
For example: You punching me is not acceptable to me, ever. I feel that there are better ways to settle disagreements and being punched makes me feel angry, but also unable to trust you as my friend and partner. I do believe the alternative is for you to consider anger management classes or to take a week on your own to figure out what it is that drives you to this unacceptable behaviour. Once you are done with your self-examination, we will go for joint counselling to see if we can work our way through this. I would prefer to work things out, but if you are not willing to take all these actions, today is the end of the road for us. I am also advising you, your and my parents today of this ultimatum to you.
The challenge with consequences is that we must always be prepared and willing to carry them through. We cannot show weakness with consequences on something as important as this. This means that if we are not PREPARED to have the tough conversations or not prepared to carry through, it would be better to say nothing and think harder about what it is that we ARE prepared to do. But sooner or later you will have to be the one to make the life-changing decision if you are on the receiving end of a violent relationship.
Up To Me also believes that the economic empowerment of women will contribute to providing more options and alternatives for women who are ready to make their change and start an exit plan. If you are interested, have a look at the programmes we offer. There is no cost to the beneficiary.
Debbie Engelbrecht 26.02.2021 is an executive of Up To Me, MD of Staff Training and an accredited Enneagram IEQ9 Coach.