South Africa: Mental Health 'Cannot Be Ignored' When Addressing Violence Against Women and Children

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Emerging research on violence against women and children finds that mental illness is common in women who've experienced intimate partner violence as well as men who've experienced childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

"Mental health is important with regard to thinking about interpersonal violence and risk factors," said Mercilene Machisa, a researcher at the South African Medical Research Council during a webinar on the intersections between violence against women and children on Tuesday.

The importance of mental health was highlighted in a survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council and Gender Links in 2011 with a sample size of about 900 women and men.

"Mental health is an underlying issue [in this country] and we need to take it seriously. In some countries, children being raped is rare, here it's a norm. We need to think about what's happening to perpetrators and why they can do this without feeling remorse," said Shaanaz Matthews, director of the Children's Institute.

Research has found that 19.8% of adolescents in South Africa reported some form of sexual abuse (boys 20%, girls 19%) over their lifetime -- 11.7% reported having been forced to have sex.

According to Machisa and Lehlogonolo Makola, a researcher...

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