Genevieve Burrow, PsySSA Student Division

South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence (GBV). Local reports indicate that one in five women are physically and/or sexually abused, although this figure rises to one in three in poorer-income homes (Aitken and Munro, 2018. However, these figures are likely much higher as many cases are not reported. Women who experience mental health challenges as a result of GBV are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or completed suicide (Aitken and Munro, 2018).

GBV refers to psychological, physical or sexual harm committed against an individual against their will. GBV stems from societies or environments that promote gender inequality, where masculinity is perceived as superior to femininity, and where patriarchy is encouraged.There are a multitude of mental health conditions that may affect abused women, including depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder (Mngoma, Fergus, Jeeves and Jolly, 2016). These conditions significantly increase the risk of attempted or completed suicide amongst women. Studies have shown that psychological violence is as detrimental to mental health as other forms of violence, thus equally increasing the prediction of PTSD mental health disorders (Lagdon, Armour and Stringer, 2014).

Several organisations offer support and counselling for women who have been affected by GBV. The South African Government provides the following resources:

People Opposed to Woman Abuse (POWA)

Powa provides counselling, both over the phone and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.

Families South Africa (FAMSA)

Famsa provides counselling and education to help improve marriages and families. It helps in cases of domestic violence and trauma, divorces and mediation. There are 27 offices across the country.

The Trauma Centre

The Trauma Centre provides trauma counselling and violence prevention services for people affected by violence

Thuthuzela Care Centres

Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) are one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution. The website also provides access to information on gender-based violence.


  • Aitken, R. and Munro, V. (2018). Domestic abuse and suicide: Exploring the links with Refuge’s client base and work force. [online] Available at: (accessed on 6 October 2019).
  • (2019). Where can I find an organisation that offers assistance to victims of violence? | South African Government. Available at: (accessed on 9 October 2019).
  • Lagdon, S., Armour, C. and Stringer, M. (2014). Adult experience of mental health outcomes as a result of intimate partner violence victimisation: a systematic review. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Available at: http://Adult experience of mental health outcomes as a result of intimate partner violence victimisation: a systematic review (accessed on 7 October 2019).
  • Mngoma, N., Fergus, S., Jeeves, A. and Jolly, R. (2016). Psychosocial risk and protective factors associated with perpetration of gender-based violence in a community sample of men in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. South African Medical Journal. Available at: (accessed on 6 October 2019).
  • Parekh, R. (2017). American Psychiatric Association. Available at: (accessed 8 October 2019).
Share This