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Women's Mental Health: Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse

VOA: South African Protest

As part of our blog series about women’s mental health for the upcoming conference on the 9th of October, UN House Scotland and Soroptimist International have turned their focus towards issues of sexual and domestic violence in relation to women’s mental health.

Sexual violence (SV) and domestic abuse have consistently been one of the most difficult societal issues to address and eliminate. Due to cultures of patriarchy and male dominance, women have been ostracized for speaking out against these forms abuse until the rise of the Me Too Movement. The Me Too Movement has given voice to the survivors that have endured physical and psychological trauma. The Movement has underlined the strong connection between mental health and abuse. BMC Public Health has found that there are strong associations between adult SV victimisation and poor mental health and these effects include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). BMC has also found that sexual violence is more likely committed by perpetrators that the victim already knows or had contact with.

For decades, the long-lasting effects of sexual violence and abuse have been too taboo to discuss; however, there has been a recent push to recognize survivors and those who have lost their lives to this violence. Thousands of women took to the streets in Cape Town this September as a form of remembrance and protest against the rising number of violent female deaths. The protests in South Africa have represented resistance against the current systems of governance and the rampant of societal corruption. The catalyst for these protest was the recent death of 19-year-old college student, Uyinene Mrwetyana. According to the Guardian, Uyinene was one of many young women to face sexual violence. There are over 137 sexual offenses committed a day in South Africa.

In response to the people’s protests, the South African government has declared a state of emergency--the government had hoped to stifle the people’s resistance against the systems of corruption. The aftershocks of this wide-scale abuse have had many tangible effects on women’s mental health in South Africa--both for the survivors and the relatives of those deceased. The resulting culture of fear for women in South Africa has inhibited their daily lives and their ability to function within society.

There are many countries that now are attacking the systems of abuse and sexual violence in order to create safe spaces for survivors and their families. This year’s conference on women’s mental health seeks to combat the stigmatization surrounding mental health and address the various forms of violence that many women encounter.

We hope you will join us next week to discuss issues like these and others during the Women’s Mental Health Conference in Glasgow. To sign up for the event click here and if you are looking for additional details on the event there is a copy of the delegate pack here.

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