Breaking the abuse cycle

17 February 2020 | Opinion

Valentine's Day has come and gone, amid candlelit dinners, roses, chocolates and other tokens of love.

However, the sad reality is the Namibia continues to face an epidemic of rape and other gender-based violence (GBV) crimes.

Every week, the police crime report makes for horrific reading, as incidents of sexual assault, serious assault and partner killings rear their ugly heads. It is safe to say that women and children are under attack in the Land of the Brave and prognosis gets worse and worse every single week.

Last week we reported that early and unintended pregnancies (EUP) remain a huge challenge for Namibia, with a pregnancy and childbearing prevalence of 19% among girls aged 15 to 19.

At least 40% of pregnancies in this age group were a result of non-consensual sex (rape or statutory rape). The factors contributing to the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Namibia include traditional norms, low levels of education, limited information about and access to contraceptives, and sexual abuse because of physical and financial vulnerability.

This financial vulnerability also remains one of the key reasons why those involved in abusive relationships find it so hard to walk away.

Generational abuse also remains a major problem in Namibia. This is defined as a repeating pattern in a family that has passed down dysfunctional domestic abuse through generations. A child growing up with domestic abuse doesn't understand that this is abnormal.

The correlation between a child being in an abusive upbringing and then becoming the abuser or victim as an adult is high. The developmental progression of a child abused or experiencing domestic abuse often causes antisocial behaviour and violent episodes. A son who is verbally or physically abused by his father will treat his children in a similar way. When a daughter hears her father verbally abuse her mother, she will believe that this is normal in any relationship. Clearly a holistic approach is needed to break this cycle, and this should go far beyond simple policing.

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