One victim is too many. protect our women and children
Violence committed by intimate partners is one of the most common forms of violence against women and children. For the period September 2019 - September 2020, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital has seen 66 confirmed and another 146 suspected cases of non-accidental injuries. As we commemorate the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, which started on 25 November 2020, we need to look at the role of society in these atrocities.
“We see far too many cases of non-accidental injuries come through our doors. A large number of child abuse cases that present to our hospital are linked to gender-based violence and intimate partner violence within their households,” says Dr Anita Parbhoo, Medical Manager, from the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
“S”*, a 5-year-old girl, was referred to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital after she was found alone in her house when the neighbour had heard her crying. After forcing open a window, the neighbour found “S” laying on the floor, her speech not clear and she appeared drowsy. The neighbour called an ambulance which arrived shortly. At hospital, “S” was screened, tested and checked. The toxicology screen revealed that she was positive for methamphetamines, she had multiple bruising of different ages all over her body, she was underweight for her age, her teeth were rotten, her immunisations were not up to date, and she had three old rib fractures and one new skull fracture.
Over a number of interviews with a social worker, the patient disclosed the history of drug use in their house by her parents and how her father physically abused her by smacking her with his hand and pushing her against the wall and punching her on her chest. She revealed that her mother hit her head against the wall when she did not want to beg for food in the area where they lived. She also described how she was locked in the house after her parents smoked drugs or left her alone when they went out with friends.
While the mother was arrested, the father’s whereabouts remain unknown. The parents had a history of domestic violence where the father physically abuse the mother if she did not find money for drugs. The maternal grandparents both died when the mother was young, and she was placed in foster care as no family was able to care for her. While in foster care, at the age of 16, she was raped by an unknown male.
“S” was removed from her parents’ care and placed in a Child and Youth Care Facility. She has made a full recovery and has received counselling.
Stories like these are far too common. Intimate partner violence can affect women and children from all walks of life. As society, we need to step up our vigilance, we all need to raise our voices and report the perpetrators of violence and abuse (who are often men) and break the cycle of abuse. Please report all instances of abuse whenever they occur, even if it’s suspected, to your nearest South African Police Service station.
*The name of “S” has been withheld to protect her identity.
For help or advice, you can contact:
GBV emergency line: 0800 428 428
GBV “Please call me”: *120*7867
Childline SA: 0800 055 555