Domestic Violence during Childhood

Witnessing domestic violence during childhood sets men on a path to violent crime

Men in Cape Town who witness abuse of their mothers when they are children are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for possession of a weapon (gun) and nearly twice as likely to be involved in fights at work or in the community as other men.

This is one of the key findings from a study, funded by the Department of Arts Culture Science and Technology (DACST), among working men in Cape Town by the MRC Gender & Health group. They are also two and a half times as likely to beat one of their own partners. “These findings show that the problems of gender-based violence and violent crime are intimately linked in our society” says Dr. Naeemah Abrahams.

“Prevention of intimate partner violence needs to be viewed by the Government and society as important in its own right as well as an important part of our efforts to combat other forms of violent crime”, she said.

She said that this is the first major study of men use of violence against intimate partners in South Africa. Nearly a quarter of the 1368 men interviewed (23.5%) reported that they witnessed their mother being abused by their father or her boyfriend when they were a child. “It seems likely that by witnessing the behaviour of their parents, boys take messages about the acceptability of violence in solving conflict and achieving goals. This sets up a cycle of violence,” she said.

“It is critically important that we develop ways to interrupt the cycle by decreasing intimate partner violence, and thus children’s chances of witnessing it, and by early identification of boys that require help in developing non-violent conflict skills. Equally important are interventions at places of work,” Dr. Abrahams said. She further stated that a recent study showed that workplace violence cost South Africa about R40 billion per year. “The workplace thus provides excellent opportunities to identify men at risk for using violent means of conflict against partners and other and provides chances for work place interventions,” said Dr. Abrahams For more information contact: Dr Naeemah Abrahams

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