Jozi FM DJ Donald Sebolai who is still on the run, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Rachel Dolly Tshabala. Ironically Sebolai’s radio show focused on issues that affect women and children, such a domestic abuse and violence.
Now Rachel Tshabalala has joined the ranks of the many of women who are killed by their partners on a daily basis in South Africa.
In many cases women stay in abusive relationships because they either don’t have a job or they depend on their man to provide shelter or other resources.
But Tshabalala had a job – she worked full time as a receptionist at Wits University and was studying part time towards a degree in psychology. She was one of the many women, who can afford to live on their own and support themselves, but choose to stay in an abusive relationship. We spoke to a couple of experts to find out what’s behind this disturbing trend.
Clinical psychologist Dr Ian Opperman says that relationships are more about emotion than intellect. For this reason an intelligent, educated woman will stay in an abusive relationship, despite being equipped with all the knowledge she needs to protect herself and the awareness that she should not be staying with her partner.
Opperman says patients often tell him that they know they should leave their husband or partner, but that they don’t have the strength to do it because they love them. Some are even scared that they will not find another partner if they leave the one they have. The attitude seems to be that an abusive partner is better than no partner at all.
Because many abusive men appear to be quite normal and may actually have many positive qualities, the women in their lives often feel that they can ‘put up with’ the abuse.
“The abuser is not always abusive – they can be very charming, and when they beg for forgiveness the woman thinks that there is hope for them to change,” says Opperman.
He adds that another reason an independent woman will stay in an abusive relationship is related to their past. Some of these women grow up in households where their father abused their mother and this leads them to think that being abused is the norm.
Men have been taught to be dominant and women have been taught to be submissive. This is what needs to change in our societies
Gender equality activist and media liaison for Sonke Gender Network, Mbuyiselo Botha, is quick to point out that society and what young children are taught when they are growing up is the part of the reason behind the abuse and why women stay in abusive relationships.
“Men have been taught to be dominant and women have been taught to be submissive. This is what needs to change in our societies,” he said.
“Boys grow up being told that they should be providers and if they are not, then they are less of a man. This is part of the reason some man feel insecure in relationships, where their partners earn more than them or are not entirely dependent on them,” he says. Unfortunately, the only way many of these men can feel “manly” is to be violent with their woman.
“In cases where women are married, they tend to stick it out in relationships regardless of the circumstances as they feel that they will be blamed if they leave their husbands,” he says.
The Huffington Post reported that on Valentine’s Day last year, model Reeva Steenkamp was just one of three women killed by their partners in South Africa.
The study the publication referenced also highlighted the fact that South Africa rated highest in the world for violence against women. It also revealed that in the country women were killed by their intimate partner every eight hours.
Botha says South Africa still has a long way to go towards ending this scourge of domestic abuse, and that children of both genders need to be taught about equality at a very young age.
Frequently women ignore the signs that lead to abuse, even when they can see them. Some end up dead because of this.
Dr Opperman says there is a thin and dotted line between a normal and an abusive guy. Verbal abuse is one signs you can’t ignore. Another red flag is if your man can’t regulate his own emotions or control his anger.
Some men will even boast about being abusive to their previous partners, and a history of abuse is something no woman should ever ignore.
“If you are in a relationship you shouldn’t fear your partner. You should be able to sit down with him and discuss any issues that affect the relationship. The minute you fear him you should know that that relationship is not good for you, that it’s dysfunctional,” Opperman says.