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The Facts

Where can I get help?

If you are a rape survivor go to the nearest Thuthuzela Care Centre or a clinic within 3 days of the rape. A doctor will give you a medical examination and an investigating officer will ask you what happened and write down your statement.

You will be given treatment and medication for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV and AIDS immediately. The staff will make arrangements for follow-up visits. Remember that you need medical and legal help even if the rape happened a while ago.

Ask your local health care worker where you can get professional help and support. You should know that the law protects you, the police have a duty to help you and that there are people and organisations who understand what you are going through and can help. 


GBV is against the law. The law is designed to protect you. Depending on the kind of violence committed (rape, domestic violence, not paying maintenance, etc.) there are exact laws and actions to help and protect you that you have a right to use.

South African Police Services (SAPS)

Police have a duty to protect you. You can report a case of GBV to the police and it is their responsibility to assist you and tell you what your rights are, what you can expect to happen and what the course of action will be to support you.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

There are a number of NGOs (Link to Contact menu) that give free support, counselling and advice services. They understand and care about what you are going through and how you are feeling. They can also help to explain to you what you should do and who you should contact for immediate help.


See list of Centres here.

Is it my fault/what if people don’t believe me?

You should know that if you experience GBV it is not your fault, it can never be your fault. Nothing you do, gives another human being, the right to harm or hurt you. Any person who commits GBV is wrong and has committed a crime, even if it is a family member, a friend or someone you know. It is your human right to be free of violence. You need to tell someone you trust what is happening and get help and support.

Are there different kinds of GBV?

Sexual abuse

This is when a person does things that you do not give them permission to do like; showing you their genital organs or asking you to show them yours, forcing you to have sex with them (rape), touching your sexual organs, exploiting you – for example making you have sex with them or others for money or forcing you to watch them or others having sex. Incest, bestiality, sexual assault, sexual grooming, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and any other degrading or offensive sexual activity is also sexual abuse.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when someone pushes, bites, slaps, beats, burns, chokes, kicks or stabs you.   It is also physical abuse if a person neglects you by not feeding you or giving you medicine or the medical care you need, is rough with you or holds you captive.

Emotional and psychological abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone yells, screams, calls you names, insults you, stalks you, threatens to kill you or other people you care about, humiliates or criticises you, is extremely jealous or suspicious, harasses you or your children, family members, friends or pets, isolates you from neighbours, friends or family, or deprives you of love and affection.

Economic abuse

This can be when a person you live with or in a relationship with takes your money or controls how you spend your money, stops you from working, tells you where you can and can’t work and what kind of jobs you should and shouldn’t do, refuses to provide money for household expenses, does not pay maintenance or takes advantage of you to make money.

How bad is it/how often does it happen?

Levels of GBV in South Africa are shockingly high. A study carried out in 4 provinces in South Africa between 2010 and 2012 by an organisation called Gender Links revealed that an average of 52.1 % of women had experienced some form of gender based violence both inside and outside their personal relationships. What is even more frightening is that not all cases of GBV are reported because victims of GBV have fear of revenge, threats and shame and doubts of being believed by their families and their communities. So, the real percentage of GBV incidences is probably higher than most reports suggest.

Who is most at risk of GBV?

Women and girls are more at risk than men or boys because of their low social status and the power imbalance between men and women. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals and Intersex people – LGBTIs are also at risk of GBV because of their sexual orientation. Because society presumes that all people are heterosexual, LGBTIs are discriminated against because they do not fit into this mould. This makes LGBTIs at risk of hate crimes and GBV.

There are many debates about what causes gender-based violence. A common and shared cause amongst most experts is the long and on-going power imbalance between men and women in society.  The argument says that as long as women are less valued than men in their families, communities and society, they will continue to be discriminated against and acts of violence against them will be allowed and not seen as unjust.

What does GBV do to you?

Everybody reacts differently to GBV. Whatever you are feeling is real. There is no right and wrong way to feel. Some of the things you may experience are a fear of people, a sense of hopelessness, loss of control over your life, fear of the person who violated you, lack of self-confidence, difficulty in doing simple every-day chores, anxiety and nightmares, troubles with sex and intimacy, guilt, shame, self-blame and anger.

What can I do?

The first thing is to remember that it is not your fault. Being assaulted or abused does not make you a bad person.

You need to spend time and talk to people you trust about what happened. Take it easy and do things slowly. If you are having nightmares, tell people you trust about the nightmares. Nightmares are a normal reaction, they will disappear with healing. It’s very important that you talking about the abuse and don’t keep it a secret. Choose to tell people who you know are concerned and know how to listen and support you.

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What if we knew why abuse happens?

Dec 17, 2015

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The facts

Find out more about GBV, rape, and how you get out of an abusive relationship.