Do not accept abuse, say ‘no’

2016-11-22 06:00
Photo: supplied Hillcrest resident Julie Muir Vivier started the Anti-Abuse and Empowerment Trust to help those in need.

Photo: supplied Hillcrest resident Julie Muir Vivier started the Anti-Abuse and Empowerment Trust to help those in need.

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THE 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international awareness-raising campaign.

It takes place every year from 25 November to 10 December, however for Hillcrest resident Julie Muir Vivier, it is a time when she uses her experience of being in an abusive relationship to help change the lives of those in her community.

Vivier started the Anti-Abuse and Empowerment Trust to help those in need. She says that having spent many years in an abusive relationship, coupled with extensive social and economic development experience, and knowledge on the topic, the natural progression was to dedicate herself to helping women and share knowledge of gender-based violence (GBV).

“Globally, society has a rather set view of GBV – women are the victims and it is violent, physical abuse. This is indeed correct, albeit only a portion of the extent and types of abuse.

“Understanding abuse in its not-so-broad context can change perspectives, the perspectives that lead to a far greater awareness of behavioural types, methodologies and actions – and that abuse is inflicted on all groups of society, male and female, adults and children.

“According to KPMG, gender-based violence costs South Africa between R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion each year – a wasted fortune, which could be best used to fund education, health, among a myriad other essential services,” she said.

Vivier explains what GBV is.

“While sexual and physical abuse are the most apparent – due to ‘evidence’ that it has taken place – there are 10 other areas of abuse, while largely unseen, are equally, if not more so, damaging to the victim - psychological, mental, verbal, spiritual, negative use of children, social abuse, cultural, emotional, intellectual, financial and abuse of pets and property.

“Often abusers use one or more of the 12, however, a lack of understanding or knowledge of the lesser identified abuses, allows it to continue. This may be a questionable statement by those who have been fortunate not to have experienced abusive behaviour, but it is very real to the victims.

“Techniques used in these abuses range from the sublime to the ridiculous – often unbelievable to the outsiders, leading to disbelief that abuse is taking place.

“Gaslighting, love-bombing and devaluation, triangulation, projection, smear campaigns, covert and overt threats, destructive conditioning and hoovering are only some of the tactics and methods used to entice and keep victims in these relationships, often for very long periods of time. “Sadly, these are effective ploys and even the strongest of people can be caught before they have realised what has happened.

“As these actions are not easily recognised, understood, or acknowledged, abuse may continue for years leaving victims in a position filled with cognitive dissonance, Stockholm Syndrome, and severely lacking in self-esteem, compounded by the intense sense of fear and possibly financially strapped.

“It is at this point that well-meaning society, may contribute as enablers to the abuse. While statements of ‘why not just leave’ may come with good intentions, the pressure statements like these place on victims is often counterproductive.

“The victim may be in no rational or even sane place emotionally, to make informed, solid and concrete plans to leave. The ever-present terror is stronger than most logical solutions. Pressure from third parties – particularly on social media – is often unintentionally heartless, lacking in sensitivity and misunderstanding of the state of mind.”

Vivier said that society can play an important part in the management of abuse.

“Be supportive and considerate, allow people to speak out without fearing reprisal and embarrassment, become aware of abusive behaviour, report abuse and most of all, be conscious of your own spoken words and actions.

“For victims, know there are others who have and are experiencing what you are going through and you are not alone. Know there are solutions and constructive help is available, understand that fear is a perception and can be overcome by taking back your power, believe there is a better, happier life, albeit at times difficult, and most of all, know it is your basic human right to be safe.

“To the abusers - we all have choices to behave or not to behave in a certain manner, regardless of whatever has been experienced in a lifetime. Help is available for those who want it.

“Abuse can no longer be deemed purely as a women’s issue due to its extent across the country. It effects everyone, directly and indirectly, be it at home, school, work, within the family, and possibly with yourself. If everyone plays a small part, it could save another person, who may have been facing that one fatal moment,” she said.

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