How would you know if somebody you work with or even a friend is being abused? What should you look out for and how would you go about helping them?
Many times colleagues can be the ones to identify the signs of abuse as they have a different view of the other person’s life; they may even spot the signs more easily than somebody who is closer.
In both cases it is important to reach out to the person you think is being abused. You might be the only one who actually does something. Try and approach the individual in a non-judgmental and caring way. Sometimes just listening to a person can be extremely helpful. If it is a colleague at work you may want to consider raising the issue with the company’s human resources department.
Often people think of abuse as something physical, but it encompasses a lot more than this one thing. Abuse happens to both women and men, young and old. Many don’t speak about it, but it can even happen between family members, an adult child who is abusive towards their parents.
There are actually a few different types of ways that abuse can manifest:
The physical and sexual abuse
Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse
Exerting control and coercion over another person
Economic / financial abuse, which can fall under control. This is where the abuser limits the resources available, forcing the victim to rely on them for finances.
The following signs displayed by the victim might indicate that abuse is occurring:
The person may start to wear clothing that they didn’t before, to cover up their bodies. Or have injuries that don’t quite match up with their explanation.
The abused person may withdraw from all social activities, cancel plans or make excuses for not attending meetings.
You may even be a witness to the abuse, where the abuser belittles and verbally assaults the person.
If your friend or colleague asks you to keep certain normal things secret, afraid of what their abuser might say or do.
If your work colleague’s work performance starts to suffer, poor concentration, handing in inconsistent or incomplete work and making a significant amount of errors.
Some abusers may even visit the partner at work, causing unpleasant scenes
If the spouse or abuser asks you questions about their partners whereabouts and activities
If the abused person is very reluctant to leave work
Signs of anxiety, not eating properly or becoming very jumpy and significantly less confident
The abused person may show signs in their body language – bent shoulders, doesn’t look anybody in the eye, avoiding conversations and choosing to sit alone.
“You can recognise survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren’t alone.” Jeanne Mcelvaney
What can you do about the abuse for a friend or colleague?
As mentioned before, offer your help and try to talk to your friend or colleague about it. If they do decide to talk, just listen. Try to provide information where they can get help; be careful if you give advice, sometimes your opinion might not be the best way. Offer your support more and show them your concern, let them know you’re there for them.
Some other ways to help:
It may come to a point where reporting the problem to authorities is the best option. Talking to management in a company or going to the police.
Gather information on how you can offer help and where to get help if you need it
Offer a safe place for them to come if they need to get away from their abuser
Call Lifeline for 24 hour support and telephone counselling: 011 422 4242 OR 0861 322 322
Here are some more important organisations you can contact for help.
The hashtag #MeToo is giving people a platform to speak out on sexual harassment and assault in the wake of several allegations made against Harvey Weinstein. However, it was not only women who shared their experiences, men also took part in the powerful social media campaign. That is why I am heartened to see so many men responding #MeToo. I believe, an extremely brave display of both vulnerability and solidarity with women who have suffered in silence for far too long.
In our patriarchal culture, men’s and boy’s self-expression is extremely limited. They are not allowed to express fear; they are not allowed to express pain; they are not allowed to express vulnerability.
‘Boys don’t cry’ and other damaging conventions we are teaching our sons
All parents have the privilege of bringing up the next generation of boys and girls; it is often a difficult and challenging endeavour, but ultimately the most rewarding. Many parents read books or get advice from their parents about how they should bring up their kids. Can some of this advice from generations past, have a negative influence? Are there damaging conventions we are teaching our sons? Many children are taught from a very young age what to think, feel and do in various situations.
‘Boys don’t cry’
Many boys from a very young age are taught to ‘man up’ or are told to stop crying. Some may disagree, but this can be extremely harmful to the child, preventing them from expressing their natural emotional reactions. That in some way by not showing any emotion, you are preserving your masculinity.
By pushing down or ignoring emotions and embracing the typical male stereotype of a ‘strong male’ could be affecting the mind and body, putting themselves at risk for certain mental, social and health conditions. Boys too have emotions; they too require empathy and encouragement so that they are able to deal with situations positively and constructively. By telling a boy not to cry or show vulnerability, you are negatively affecting his understanding and the need for relationship. This could result in isolation, which could produce anxiety and depression, later on in life.
Sadly, these man rules, even apply with sexual abuse. As a result, males tend to keep their sexual abuse secret and living in denial about what happened. So instead of talking about their trauma, they take it to the grave or delay disclosure, often for years on end. The man rules tell us that guys are not allowed to be abused, and if they are abused, they are not allowed to admit it, and if they do admit it, they can expect to encounter no empathy and no support.
Boys need the comfort of their parents (not just their mothers, but also fathers) just as much as girls do. The home should be a safe place where there is emotional freedom and not a place where a person is shamed for showing their feelings. Bottling up all the emotion can later manifest in other forms of expression, including anger, violence and even substance abuse. Teaching people at a young age about emotional development and allowing them to express themselves naturally is important.
When Oprah Winfrey took the stage at the 75th Golden Globes to accept the Cecil B. DeMille award, she delivered an inspiring, powerful speech about the importance of speaking out against harassment and assault.
The Time’s Up’s mission statement includes several answers to the question of “What You Can Do”:
Check out our #KnowYourRights campaign and see what you can do as a survivor of sexual harassment and abuse.
Are there other damaging conventions about boys out there?
“Boys will be Boys”
Boys are active and boisterous and in some cases this statement is true, but sometimes the phrase is used to make excuses for the child’s bad behaviour. An example would be:
Hitting or pushing another child
Being destructive and breaking things
This type of behaviour should not just be ignored.
When boys hit girls, it means they like them
No form of hitting, hurting or even teasing somebody to gain their attention, is acceptable behaviour. In no way, is this how you show somebody that you like them. This is a selfish way to gain attention as they put their own desire for attention before the feelings of the person they are hurting.
You should never ask for help
Boys, who become men and have been brought up with strong masculinity principles, find it a lot more difficult to ask for help. It might just be stubbornness in some that don’t ask for help, but others may see it as a weakness.
Should Boys be in the kitchen?
Gender stereotyping is deeply ingrained into our society. Many still see cooking or cleaning the house as a woman’s job. But with the increase of both parents having to work, household responsibilities should be shared equally. Boys should be taught from a young age that their responsibilities include changing diapers as well as work. Knowing how to cook and to sew a button is not a bad thing, it’s just a skill you can learn to help you be more independent.
Teaching boys at a young age and building up their emotional intelligence, can help the child grow up to lead a happier and balanced life. There have been studies that actually prove that people who are more in touch with their emotions can form stronger and closer bonds with people. This in turn helps them to become emotionally and physically healthier. These skills should be learned at home, but if this is not possible there should be more empowerment programmes and role models available to help them become the men they want to be.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think Margaret Mead”
Could you assist us with any of the following please? We need these items for the daily running of our shelter.
Email: Charlene – email@example.com
We also need milk, coffee, creamer, tea, cool drinks, cereal, , peanut butter, jam, sugar, salt, pepper, loaves of bread, and pasta. We can also accept some quantities of perishable goods such as polonies, viennas, cheese and eggs are items we could use as well.
Cleaning needs include bleach, laundry & dish detergent, soap, window cleaner, trash bags, food storage bags and containers, brooms, mops, dust pans, dish rags and towels.
Office needs include copy paper, envelopes, postage stamps, file folders, sheet covers, and computer items such as memory cards, flash drives, highlighters, pens, pencils, paper clips, rubber bands and tape.
More and more qualified youths are looking for jobs but have no luck finding any because of their lack of confidence or experience, or because they do not know where to find the right business opportunities.
The Safe House is in need to of businesses to help our unskilled residents a career kick-start by helping them present themselves better and achieve their goals.
Being informed is the key to success, so skilled volunteers need to share practical advice about employment; lifestyle and fashion tips for the young person who has just started working or is looking for a job.
The volunteers must share practical information on internships, learnerships, bursaries, apprenticeships and small-business programmes and events organised by government departments and agencies, companies and corporate foundations.
You’ll also find features about the work lives of young people from different industries, to illustrate how they overcame obstacles in their own lives to pursue their dreams.
Work and learn from a skilled professional
If you are truly inspired to teach your skills to unskilled women, why not apply to become an Skills training Volunteer Apprentice?
We can can only accept volunteers willing to commit to at least 1 month of full time involvement.
Suitable candidates will be trained in the art of Urban Harvesting via first hand experience, and then excellent candidates will be offered the opportunity to grow the Urban Harvest brand nationwide.
Send me a message to tell me why you are a suitable Urban Harvest Volunteer Apprentice; firstname.lastname@example.org
We would just like to thank each and every one that made the festive season such a blessed and wonderful time for our women! Thank you to all the donations that we reserved and for each and every one of you that opened your hands and loving hearts!
We would like to thank Blaauwklipen and all the generous stalls and clients that made this a Christmas our women and Children will never forget!
Thank you to our volunteers for all your love, support, creativity and skills that you come to share with our women in 2018…
There are some pictures to show what we did in the holidays:
From swimming at a volunteer’s house, to swimming in the river. Decorating the tree and making gifts for the Blaauwklipen Christmas Stall. We also went to the Animal Welfare and played with the animals.
We had a wonderful Christmas with more gifts that we could ever asked for- THANK
YOU… and we had a wonderful Christmas meal! Thank you to everyone made a contribution to a blessed Christmas.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a
meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie
*Samatha was a victim of human trafficking when she was a teenager. She was a victim of child abuse. The man that abused her was a close and trusted family friend. Samantha was sold for profit into child sex trafficking. Trafficked by the trusted adult who used sexual, and psychological abuse to maintain control over Samantha, she found it very difficult to seek help. Today, Samantha is a survivor of human trafficking who shares her story of healing and how she copes with the lasting effects of her experience. Today, Samantha is a survivor of child abuse and sex trafficking.
*Samantha is her alias name.
Q: What has it been like speaking out as a survivor of trafficking?
A: It is hard to talk about being trafficked. I still get very emotional talking about my past. I have watched movies about human trafficking and the girls get shipped to another country. I was traffic in my own country and I did not even know I am traffic. I though as myself as only a prostitute. These days I speak to my therapist and share only parts of my past because it is not easy sharing my experiences.
Q: Will you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the man who trafficked you and why it was so hard to break free?
A: The man who trafficked me was like a father figure to me. He was a family friend and was always very kind. He was easy to talk to and I confided in him. I shared with him all my pain and fears and he listened to me and took care of me. I was diagnosed with mental illness and he would take me to appointments at the hospital.
My family was financially benefiting from me working as a sex worker and I felt obligated to keep working. I had one lady friend from church. I was allowed to attend church on Sundays. One Sunday I was crying the whole time and I shared with her that I am working as a sex worker. I was very afraid to talk to her because I knew if I share this to her, my family will not get their money. This is exactly why it was so hard to break free.
Q: Will you share with us some of the emotional and physical effects you’ve experienced as a result of your trauma?
A: I was a victim of child abuse. I live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); bipolar, major depression and borderline personality disorder. All of these are a direct result of the trauma I experienced.
Q: After you first escaped, how did you cope?
A: I am enslaved by the post-traumatic effects of my trauma. I did not cope well. I feel a tremendous amount of shame and guilt. I had a lot of sexual urges the first few weeks when I was in the place of safety. I was so used to having a lot of sex that I was craving it. Thankfully, over time and through my work in therapy, I recovered from those overwhelming form of urges.
Q: Will you tell us about your path toward recovery and what’s helped you?
A: My path forward started off very rocky. It took a life-changing turn after entering therapy with a therapist. Also, meeting other survivors of abuse has been very helpful. The new friendships and support has helped me immensely on my path toward healing.
Q: After someone hears you speak, what do you hope they learn?
A: I want them to know that there is help to overcome and grow past their trauma. I want them to learn that they have a lot of value and self-worth. You might feel worthless to one person, but you are priceless to another.
Safe House Stellenbosch is a Not for Profit place of safety for women and their children who escape domestic violence. We would benefit greatly from any contribution you could make. Make a donation. Volunteer.
This post is in Afrikaans, as it is the mother tongue of the writer. She talks about how she herself was a resident of Safe House, before transitioning into part time and then full time employment as a house mother at Safe House. Today she uses her own experience and life story to comfort and inspire the women in her care.
Ek en my man het saam groot geword, ons het op dieselfde dorp gebly. Hy het weggetrek van die dorp en ek het hom baie jare later weer ontmoet en ons het uitgegaan as boyfriend en girldriend.
Ons het ons eerste kind gehad en 7 jare later het ons getrou.
Hy het altyd nee gesê ask ek wil uitgaan. Hy het amper nooit toesteming gee dat ek uit moet gaan nie. In die begin het hy my altyd gevloek en later aan het hy my begin slaan.
Dit het baie jare geneem voordat ek vir myself sê, ‘tot hier toe en nie verder nie!’.
In 2009 het ek het my skoonsus gebel en sy het gese ek moet vir ACVV bel om my te help. Die ACVV het my nie nommer van die Safe House gegee en ek het onmiddelik gebel en met die maatskaplike werker van die Safe House gepraat. Dieselfde dag was ek opgeneem in die Safe House.
Ek het ook die polisie gekontak en hulle het my man gearesteer.
In die Safe House het ek so baie geleer soos hoe om boundaries te stel vir myself. Ek het n sterker mens geword in die Safe House en het ook Christelik gegroei. Dit was ‘n 2de kans in die lewe wat ek gekry het toe ek na die Safe House gaan bly het vir 7 maande.
My man het hulp gekry en het opgehou drink. Toe ek terug gaan huis toe, was allles anders. My kinders was oop daardie stadium in graad 8 en 5 gewees.
in 2012 het ek as naweek aflos huisma gewerk by die Safe House en in 2013 was ek voltyds aangestel as huismoeder.
Die beste ding om n huisma te wees is om n ma te wees vir die vrou wat nou bly in die Safe House. Ek is daar vir elkeen wat verwerp voel en skep n diep vriendskap met elkeen wat hier inloop. Dit betenken baie vir my om terug te ploeg in die vroue.