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How to get out of an abusive relationship

Stop GBV gender based violence abuse
Picture: Pexels

By: Poelano Malema

South Africa is observing 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children from 25 November to 10 December 2021.

According to the United Nations, 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime.

However, the sad reality is that scores of women stay in abusive relationships.

Gerrie Pretorius, the founder of Lifecounsel, explains the reasons for this. He says some women stay with the hope that things will change.

“The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time,” says Pretorius, who has worked as a counsellor for over seven years.

“People at times are hopeful that things will change and they hope the relationship will improve. The abusers usually manipulate or even threaten their partners into staying. They say things like ‘you will never find anyone else to love you’. ‘I will kill you if you leave me’. They might stay for the children, for financial reasons or because of low self-esteem… they feel that they deserve to be treated like that and that they don’t deserve better or are blinded behind their emotions and the fact that they love them,” he adds.

READ: Emotional abuse in children increased by over 100% during pandemic

The unfortunate part is, many of these women lose their lives due to abuse. In 2016, City Press reported that every six hours, a woman is killed by her current or former intimate partner.

How to get out of an abusive relationship

Abuse doesn’t have to take your life or destroy it.

“Deciding to leave is usually a very difficult step to take but is crucial. You must understand you cannot change the abuser’s behaviour. Understanding that you cannot help or change your partner is very important. The abuser needs to seek professional help to deal with the problem so the best thing to do is to walk away and remove yourself from the situation,” says Pretorius.

But how does one prepare mentally and emotionally for the change?

According to Pretorius, “understanding that your abuser’s behaviour is not your responsibility is important and you can walk away without feeling guilty. Through counselling we help people prepare themselves emotionally and cognitively to take the necessary first steps. One must keep perspective that things will be okay and one will find a new normal again. One step at a time.”

READ: MEC calls on communities to do more to end gender-based violence

Pretorius adds that victims should talk to someone or a professional about their situation.

“Talking about it is usually the first step in hearing yourself and better understanding your situation. At times you have to get the authorities involved like the police or getting a restraining order. Find support with family, church, friends or work friends, in case if you need a place to stay for some time to figure things out,” he concludes.

Remember to stick to your decision. Once you have made the decision to leave, don’t let your partner manipulate you into staying.

There are many organisations and support groups for abused victims such as Lifecounsel, POWA, ToughLove or TraumaSupportSA. Get in touch with them today if you need help.

READ: Thomas and Skhumba: What role do bystanders play in GBV

Image courtesy of Pexels/

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