When something wrong or bad happens, the immediate human response is usually to find out what or who is responsible. This may either be intended to find the root cause, in order to eliminate or avoid it in future, or it can be purely for the sake of finding someone to blame.
At the height of an abusive situation, certain questions and comments will arise that may be construed as “victim blaming”. This is due to various perceptions surrounding abuse, the perceived conduct or even the expected conduct of the victim.
Some will question what gave rise to the abuse, trying to find out what could have driven the perpetrator to such action; others will try to ascertain the victim’s possible “contribution” to the abuse – what did she do or say to trigger him, how was she dressed; while others will focus on the victim’s response to the abusive situation or the perpetrator- why is she not reporting it to the police, why is she still with him; etc. Unfortunately, these often result in the victim being subjected to secondary victimisation.
In these situations, society at large and even government do not escape from being blamed for the lack of action, inadequate action or even the incorrect action or responses towards the elimination of violence, harassment and abuse, experienced by the victims.
South Africa has the highest rape and GBV statistics in the world and yet we still have a long way to go in trying to understand and unpack Gender Based Violence, the reasons why it still occurs, the reason our stats are high and the inability to implement effective strategies for its eradication.
There are many movements, activities and campaigns aimed at combating GBV. Each year, the 16 days of activism campaign aims to raise awareness of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and children and to rid society of abuse permanently. The campaign becomes a hive of activity against GBV, promises are made, officials become visible, their calls against GBV become amplified as they pledge their support to the cause. But once the campaign ends, it becomes side-lined, many return to their usual business and commitments are left to die a slow death.
Save for a few activists and supporting organizations, the victims and the vulnerable are the only ones who are left to continue with the cause, until the next year or until a gruesome or high profile case of GBV or femicide receives media and/or community attention.
The successful eradication of this “pandemic” requires continuous action as opposed to the current trend of intermittent or sporadic interventions. In order for campaigns to have a far reaching effect, all parties involved needs to have a long term view and investment to the cause. Further, it needs to be part of each country’s national response. The parties involved need to play a part in ensuring that campaigns stay visible and active throughout the year, for the successful eradication of GBV.
The other fundamental aspect to this cause lies in understanding of the drivers of GBV, as a means towards effectively combating it. The inequality that exist between men and women, and the strongly patriarchal social norms are some of the drivers of GBV. It is therefore important to unpack the dynamics that are at play.
There have been many interventions, policies and programmes to address the ongoing “secondary pandemic” and many have failed. Professor Isike, from the University of Pretoria, suggests that in order to combat male violence against women, there needs to be a change in thought patterns that drive GBV and Femicide. Several studies have tried to explain the causes of gender based violence in South Africa, and many of these fall under four categories:
With the abundance of research aimed at understanding the driving factors of and combating GBV, there seems to be a gap in regard to the relevant parties being held accountable for their respective roles, either in regard to the committing of GBV offences or the perpetuation thereof. Perpetrators need to be accountable for their actions and they need to look within themselves, with a view of understanding the triggers as opposed to the focus being only directed to the acts of violence and harassment.
Most of the initiatives are aimed at the victims, with the view to proactively capacitating them with self-defence techniques; awareness initiatives to enable them to identify and avoid potentially risky/ harmful situations or avoiding becoming a victim of abuse. While many are good, regrettably, some lean towards “victim blaming”. Other initiatives are aimed at helping the victims to heal and recover from the effects of the abuse, this may at times require safe spaces to retreat, where urgency for personal development is prioritised and afforded.
The willingness by the victims to participate in such activities as well as the actual actions taken to protect and heal themselves, although hard and painful, can have a beneficial medium to long term effects on the individual.
Many of the support services provided are victim centric, including the criminal justice services. While these are good and no doubt required, there is a notable need to shift some of the focus from the victim to the perpetrator. There is a need for increased campaigns aimed at perpetrator identification, accountability and rehabilitation with a view to preventing new and repeat occurrences of GBV. Perpetrator awareness and prevention initiatives can go a long way towards preventing and eradicating this scourge.
The leadership across all spheres; cultural, political, traditional, religious etc., need to ensure that:
MISA, together with employers who are committed to addressing and ending this scourge, are taking the lead in addressing the prevalence of gender-based violence and harassment within the world of work and in particular within the motor industry.
Through the establishment of the Industry Equality and Diversity Forum (IEDF) are promoting equality and diversity within the motor industry, towards the establishment of decent and safe working environments.
If you are interested in playing a pivotal role in addressing the prevalence of violence and harassment in our industry, please contact Thandeka.Phiri@ms.org.za in order to work with us in the betterment of our industry.