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logises, will not occur again is very prevalent in our community today, especial ly among the 19 to 35 year category. It appears that society tends to sanction s uch a notion that is, that one tries everything at least once in their lives or that everyone deserves a second chance. While this kind of thinking may lead to some fun, the chance of a life time or an opportunity for someone to right a wro ng it can be detrimental in the area of abusive behaviour. For instance, women w ho are abused tend to hold on to the notion that it will get better over time. U nfortunately, men who abuse tend to do so for life, unless treatment is received and the abuse tends to escalate over time. So for the physically abused especia lly, ‘Just this one time’ could be the last time… There are other dangers to contend with with regard to an individual who abuses. HIV/AIDS, STD’s, physical and emotional damage, disrupted family relationships, e motional scarring for children exposed to abuse etc. So ‘just this once’ could end u p being a life sentence, so to speak. There are many psychological and emotional reasons why men abuse. However, if we consider environment, for example, as one of the pertinent factors then we need to look at the current environment within which one lives as this is likely to contribute to ones level of anxiety. South Africa is still a country in transition. The current state of the economy and t he stresses or adaptation to new and unfamiliar environments results in an incre ase in stress and anxiety. Men who abuse have learnt to cope with strain, stress and anxiety in a manner that is harmful to others as well as themselves inevita bly harming others. As a result, these men abuse those who are closest and most vulnerable to themselves. In addition, they choose targets that are dependent up on them as these individuals are least likely to fight back. Hence, remaining wi th a man who is abusive means that one is opening ones self up to re-exposure to abuse on a regular basis and once again, it is never just this one time ... Women tend to rationalise taking their husbands back. For example, ‘he won’t do it a gain/it was only once’, ‘I really love him and I’m sure we can work it out’, ‘I know he lo ves me enough to overcome this’, etc. It is important to note that men who abuse, especially physically do not usually abuse others outside the home such a co-workers etc, in many instances they app ear to be pillars within the community. As a result women in such situations not only require the strength to stand up against their oppressor but also the stre ngth to stand up against the community within which they live, their friends and in many instances their families. They rationalise, saying everyone has problem s or my mom/aunt/gran suffered worse so maybe I shouldn’t complain and so forth. C ommunity encourages such thinking by saying at least he provides for you, or he loves the children so much or you have such a beautiful home. So women in these situations find no real support outside the home and begin to feel defeated, loo king at their situation as the best they can do given the circumstances, and so they return or remain within an abusive relationship. Unfortunately, men who abu se physically usually end up killing. In many relationships, women are not in a position of power due to concern for t heir children, finance, the acquisition of skills and so forth. As a result, the y are not empowered enough to leave a relationship easily. In addition, society pressures women to maintain their marital relationship no matter what. Women do not have places of shelter made available to them and their children. Even in we althy homes or upper socio-economic communities, lack of emotional, social and f inancial support is the main factors that prevent women from leaving abusive rel ationships. There are many forms of abuse such as physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and fi nancial to list a few. Abuse affects women by robbing them of self confidence, l owering their self esteem and literally stripping them of respect, dignity and a
utonomy. Psychiatric conditions such as depression, Posttraumatic stress, Genera lised Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Personality Disorders to name but a few are co mmon symptoms of abuse. The family is also affected in varies ways, depending on the age of the children, if any, the exposure to abuse and the kinds of abuse i nflicted, whether the abuse was inflicted by a parent, known individual (that is a family member or friend) or stranger. Suffice to say, there will be a negativ e psychological responses to abuse, regardless of which kind of abuse is perpetr ated which will result in family disruptions such as withdrawal, arguments or di scipline problems. It is important to get assistance as soon as possible in orde r to alleviate the symptoms of abuse. Sherona Rawat Clinical Psychologist Comment provided for Cosmopolitan Magazine, March 2010.