Factors underlying women's decision not to report physical abuse : a qualitative exploration

Damon, Franzett Elize (2003-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Violence against women, commonly known as women abuse, is currently evolving into a serious social problem. In South Africa thousands of women are victims of violence inflicted by their intimate partners. Although violence against women is a serious violation of human rights, it is often not recognised as such. Violence against women in intimate relationships often results in women experiencing serious physical, psychological and reproductive health problems. When living or trapped in abusive relationships, women are exposed to injuries, ailments and diseases, wounds, chronic pain, infertility and internal bleeding. In spite of the fact that governments, including the South Africa government, have committed themselves to addressing women abuse through legislation, large numbers of women still experience extraordinary high levels of violence. However, many women neglect to report incidents of violence. Many women remain in such relationships, legislation aimed at protecting their rights not withstanding. The aim of this study was to explore why women neglect to report incidents of violence and to explore women's experiences of violence. Seven coloured women between the ages of 21 and 38 years and living in a small rural town in the Western Cape participated in the study. In-depth interviews were used to obtain information from these women. The extent of the problem of women abuse worldwide and in South Africa is illustrated by research conducted internationally as well as locally. Radical feminism is used as a theoretical framework to interpret the causes of women abuse, the 'acceptance' of women abuse by the community and society and the reasons why women choose not to report incidents of abuse. The analysis and the interpretation of the data is done against the background of social practices embedded in the patriarchal structuring of society. It was found that women's experiences and lives are predominantly structured in terms of their sex and that women comply with expectations set by their intimate partners, family and friends. In order to maintain their relationships, secure a household income and to protect their children against poverty, women remain silent about the abuse they suffer. The study also found that women's responses to abuse relate to the sources and options available to them.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geweld teen vroue wat algemeen bekend staan as vrouernishandeling, is tans besig om in 'n ernstige sosiale probleem te ontwikkel. Binne die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks is duisende vroue die slagoffers van geweld binne intieme verhoudings. Alhoewel vrouernishandeling 'n ernstige skending van menseregte is, word dit nie altyd as sodanig erken nie. Mishandeling binne intieme verhoudings lê dikwels ten grondslag van vroue se fisiese, sielkundige en reproduktiewe gesondheidsprobleme. Vroue wat vasgevang is in sulke verhoudings word blootgestel aan beserings, kwale en siektes, wonde, kroniese pyn, onvrugbaarheid en interne bloeding. Ten spyte van die feit dat verskeie lande se regenngs, insluitende Suid-Afrika, hulself verbind het tot 'n stryd teen vrouernishandeling met behulp van wetgewing, ervaar groot getalle vroue wêreldwyd nog steeds buitengewone vlakke van geweld. Baie vroue versuim egter om insidente van mishandeling te rapporteer. Baie vroue bly in intieme verhoudings ten spyte daarvan dat wetgewing wat gerig is op die beskerming van hul regte in plek is. Die doel van hierdie studie was dus om vas te stel waarom vroue versuim om insidente van mishandeling te rapporteer en om insig te verkry in die ervaringswêreld van mishandelde vroue. Sewe Kleurling vroue tussen die ouderdomme van 21 en 38 jaar en woonagtig in 'n klein plattelandse dorpie in die Wes-Kaap het aan die studie deelgeneem. 'n Kwalitatiewe benadering is gevolg en data is met behulp van in-diepte onderhoude ingesamel. Die omvang van vrouernishandeling wêreldwyd en binne die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks word geïllustreer aan die hand van internasionale en plaaslike navorsing oor die verskynsel. Radikale feminisme word as teoretiese vertrekpunt geneem in die interpretasie van die oorsake van vroumishandeling, die 'aanvaarding' van die verskynsel deur die gemeenskap en samelewing en die redes waarom vroue nie insidente van geweld rapporteer nie. Die analise en interpretasie van data is gedoen teen die agtergrond van sosiale praktyke binne die konteks van patriargale strukturering van die samelewing. Die studie bevind dat vroue se ervarings grootliks gestruktureer word in terme van hul geslag en dat hulle hul gedrag in ooreenstemming bring met die verwagtings van hul intieme maats, vriende en familie. Ten einde hulle verhoudings in stand te hou, 'n huishoudelike inkomste te verseker en hul kinders teen armoede te beskerm, besluit vroue om 'n stilswye rondom hul mishandeling te handhaaf. Die studie toon dat vroue se response verband hou met die bronne en opsies wat tot hul beskikking is.

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