Are you in an abusive relationship? Know the signs, and where to go for help

Gender specialist Nonhlanhla Sibanda-Moyo from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said: 'It is important to note that violence is a choice that abusers make!'


JOHANNESBURG – Gender-based abuse is once again in the spotlight due to the on-and-off assault case of Gqom queen Bongekile Simelane and Mandla Maphumolo,

It's not clear whether Simelane, also known as Babes Wodumo, had dropped charges against boyfriend Maphululo, known as Mampintsha, following an Instagram live that showed him beating her in March.

The case has been a back and forth of blame games, cases opened and contradictory media posts.

On 8 March, Simelane took to social media saying Maphumulo was using her account without permission.

“He posts to his account then logs into mine log to comment. That’s another type of abuse, which we will report to the investigating officer handling our case that is currently before the courts.
Mampintsha PLEASE stay away from me. Let us fight abuse. Together we can.”

This was one of the few times that Simelane seemed to plant the seed of hope in other women going through a similar situation.

In an earlier post, she posted a picture of her with Karabo Mokoena – the woman who was killed and burnt by her boyfriend Sandile Mantsoe in 2017 – saying she could’ve been next.

However, the public has been left confused after the duo released a new music video in early May which seemed to recreate the alleged beating.

All of these posts and back and forth between the couple once again bring up the question of why women don’t leave abusive relationships and what actions can be taken by those close to the couple.

EWN unpacks the issue of gender-based abuse with Nomkhosi Xulu from People Opposing Women Abuse and gender specialist Nonhlanhla Sibanda-Moyo from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

The most important thing they highlighted was to look out for the red flag; be alert to any signs that your partner may be an abuser.

Xulu and Sibanda-Moyo gave the following as the most common signs of an abusive partner:

- Quick involvement: the partner may come on very strong or seems anxious to solidify the relationship;

- Inconsistent: the abusive partner would say one thing and do the opposite, often at your expense;

- Manipulative: “sweet talks” you into doing things you would prefer not to do and discourage you from doing things you wish to do;

- Isolator: would like to cut you off from your family and friends (whom he “dislikes”) and suggests that you quit your job and social organisations if the relationship is to continue;

- Jealous/possessive: checks up on you out of “concern” but in reality does not trust you; makes unfounded accusations; interrogates you to satisfy his groundless suspicions;

- Control freak: attempts to question and control your activities, decisions, purchases, personal and social affairs out of “concern” for your safety and well-being.

These signs may not all be clear at once, a certain incident may trigger your partner to ‘control’ you while others may trigger them to be manipulative towards you. It is, therefore, advisable to pay attention and know what to do should you find yourself in an abusive relationship.

Xulu warned that: “They [abusers] have a personality that draws people in because of their level of charm, this is part of their art to deceive and manipulate.”

She said that personalities made it difficult for those outside the relationship to believe that the person could be capable of abuse, resulting in phrases such as ‘but he’s so nice’ when the victim narrates his abusive ways.

Sibanda-Moyo added that: “Unfortunately, most abusers are able to mask these tendencies in dating. By the time many people notice the obvious red flags, they're already attached to an abuser, which makes it much harder for them to leave the relationship.”

In a case of physical abuse – which often starts off as emotional abuse – Xulu said victims tended to justify or hide their bruises.

“When the victim asked [how she got the bruise], she will justify and give false explanations, for example, ‘I fell or bumped into some object'.”

But these excuses and lies only last for so long before the abuse gets out of hand, which then raises the question of ‘why didn’t she leave him?”

“Sometimes victims stay because they hope that things will get better with time. Sometimes they fear to leave because they have been threatened that they going to get killed. At times, it’s due to lack of knowledge and information on how to go about reporting the case or getting out of the abusive relationship,” Xulu explained.

Some abuse cases end in death. An Africa Check article quoted a 2009 autopsy data report which showed that “police could identify the perpetrator in 1,792 of an estimated 2,363 cases. Of the cases where a perpetrator had been identified, more than half of the murders (57.1%) were by an intimate partner.”

“It is important to note that violence is a choice that abusers make!” - Sibanda-Moyo emphasised.

Useful numbers for abuse victims:

SAPS Emergency Services: 10111

People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa)
Powa provides counselling, both telephonically and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.
Phone number: 011 642 434/6

Stop Gender Violence
Stop Gender Violence offers crisis counselling for women who have been raped or abused. It also gives advice and support to people who wish to help women who are in need of help and gives legal and other options available.
Toll-free helpline: 0800 150 150

Childline South Africa
This non-profit organisation helps abused children and their families. It deals with issues such as physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, behavioural problems and trafficking, and gives legal advice.
Toll-free helpline: 0800 055 555

Family and Marriage Association of SA, or 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.
Phone number: 011 975 7106/7

Tears Foundation
Founded in 2012, this non-profit organisation provides a database of medical, legal and psychological services available in South Africa to help those who have been raped or survived sexual abuse.

To access the database via USSD: 1347355#
Phone number: 010 590 5920

The Trauma Centre
The centre believes violence is predictable and preventable. “The Trauma Centre contributes towards violence prevention through advocacy, capacity building, research and the provision of mental health services for survivors,” reads its website. It also provides counselling to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.
Phone number: 021 465 7373