Victims of GBV need support and protection, not ridicule

Victims of GBV are not to blame for what has happened to them. [iStockphoto]

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a scourge that continues to plague our society, with women being the most affected.

It is disheartening to note that even in the 21st century, women who report cases of GBV are often stigmatised and subjected to further trauma.

What is even more saddening is that in most cases, the stigma and fear do not come from strangers, but from the victims' in-laws. It is time for society to wake up and stand with these women, supporting them as they pursue justice and healing.

In many cultures, the in-laws are an integral part of the family unit. While this can be beneficial, it can also be problematic when it comes to issues of GBV. In-laws may feel a sense of loyalty to their son or brother and may not want to believe that he is capable of such heinous acts. This can lead to victim-blaming and stigmatisation of the woman who reports the crime.

Unfortunately, this behaviour is not limited to certain cultures or communities. It is a widespread problem that affects women from all walks of life. Many women are hesitant to report GBV because they fear the stigma and judgment that they will face particularly from their in-laws. This can be incredibly isolating and can prevent victims from accessing the support and justice they need.

Emotional manipulation

Stigma and fear can take many forms. In some cases, in-laws may use emotional manipulation to make the victim feel guilty for reporting the abuse. They may also threaten to cut off contact with the victim or take away custody of any children involved. In extreme cases, they may even threaten physical violence.

This behaviour must stop. We cannot continue to perpetuate a cycle of violence and victim-blaming. Instead, we must come together as a society to support and empower women who report GBV. This starts with challenging the attitudes and beliefs that lead to stigma and fear.

It is important to remember that victims of GBV are not to blame for what has happened to them. It is the perpetrator who is responsible for their actions, and they must be held accountable for their behaviour. We must work to shift the focus from victim-blaming to holding perpetrators accountable.

As a society, we also need to prioritise the support and protection of victims. This means providing victims with safe places to stay, access to counselling and medical services, and legal support. We must work to ensure that victims are not further traumatised by the reporting process.

To achieve this, we need to invest in training of law enforcement officers, healthcare providers, and legal professionals on how to support and respond to victims of GBV. We must also work to challenge the social norms that contribute to victim-blaming and stigmatisation.  It is time to give victims a voice and the support they need to heal and move forward.

-Ms Mutai is a media and communication consultant