The fight against Gender-Based Violence is gaining more ground with each passing day and new laws and systems are being put up to support victims and persecute offenders. (Domestic Violence act)
However, due to the nature of the violence and the stigma within society, many gender based violence incidents go unreported. Many of the victims fear being ostracized and the consequences that arise from the miscarriage of justice.
But with the changes in the law and viral campaigns such as the online #MeToo Hashtag, reported cases increasing in number and the silence against this age-old practice is dying down.
We too can help others in society break the silence by being able to identify the signs early enough and offering a helping hand. (Counselling, reporting )
There are many platforms and initiatives whose aim is to sensitize people on the tell-tale sign of gender-based violence. Here are some of the identified signs of GBV.
- Physical Signs
Ranging from highly visible injuries to slight skin discoloration, physical signs are strong indicators of violence and often act as confirmation of GBV. Here are a few to look out for:
- Visible bruises, scratches or marks
- Self-destructive behaviours such as cutting
- Pain or itching in the genital area
- Symptoms associated with a venereal disease, such as sores
- Signs of pregnancy, nausea, lack of energy, increased appetite, protruding stomach
- Broken bones
- Multiple bruises that are all in different stages of healing
- Discomfort / difficulty in walking or sitting
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Behavioral Signs
The behavioural signs are a little bit harder to identify despite being the most common signs. They may require a little more concentration / study and information about the suspected victims. Non the less, they are noticeable. Listed below are a few to observe;
- Unexplained, vague or suspicious medical complaints
- Unusual psycho-social symptoms such as acting infantile, insecure, scared
- Inability to concentrate or focus on a specific task
- Depression, withdrawal or suicidal tendencies
- Sudden or extreme shifts of moods or emotions; increased irritability, anger or rage
- Fear of returning home from school or work
- Exaggerated startled response
- Sudden change in how one carries oneself or how she/he walks
- Excessive crying
When it comes to identifying a possible child GBV victim, look out for the following behavioural signs;
- Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed or other sleep disturbances
- Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
- A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behaviour
- A fear of certain places, people, or activities, especially being alone with certain people. Children should not be forced to give affection to an adult or teenager if they do not want to do so. Watch out for signs that your child maybe avoiding someone and listen carefully when he/she tells you how he/she feels about a particular person.
- Lack of trust in adults or over familiarity with adults
- Running away from home
- Display of sexual knowledge beyond the child’s age
- Overly-sexualized behaviour
- Unusual interest in genitalia, children or animals
- Fear of medical examinations
- Small children can’t find the words to talk about, for example, sexual acts, but they may show them in their play or in their drawings
- A child who has done well in school starts to get behind in her/his schoolwork
- A child drops out of school
- They may start to use drugs and alcohol
Behavioural signs are plenty in number and may require a combination of two or more different signs to help an observer conclude that one is a victim of gender based violence.
With societies being able to identify the subtle indicators of this type of violence, victims stand a greater chance of being rescued and rehabilitated from the effects such violence can bring. This will bring victory one step closer in the fight against GBV.