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Silent Cry for Help: The Signs of Domestic Abuse

Mental Health • by Paul De Beyer • 02 November 2021

On average, 137 women around the world are killed by a member of their own family. Every single day.

In South Africa, a woman is murdered every three hours.

Over half of the women in South Africa have experienced some form of gender-based violence.

There is, without a doubt, an epidemic of violence across the globe, and in South Africa in particular. Domestic abuse, specifically the abuse of women and minors, is so prevalent that it almost seems normal.

It should never be normal.

But how can you spot the signs of domestic abuse and, ultimately, stop this ever-growing problem?

Physical Signs

The easiest signs of domestic abuse are the physical ones. These are fairly self-explanatory but should not be confused with legitimate accidents. Victims of abuse will generally have injuries often, and incomplete or inaccurate explanations for their injuries.

Common injuries include:

Victims of physical abuse will often try to hide their injuries, and this can also be a sign that someone is a victim. For example, someone wearing long-sleeved shirts on hot days or sunglasses inside.

Behaviour Changes

Sometimes the signs aren’t as clear as physical injuries, but rather in the behaviour of the person. Someone who might have been outgoing and happy could become reclusive and quiet.

Some signs to look out for include:

Emotional Signs

Domestic abuse doesn’t always need to be physical. Psychological or verbal abuse can have as strong an impact on the well-being of a victim, forcing them to feel like they simply can’t escape their abuser.

Emotional signs of abuse might include:

These symptoms aren’t unique to domestic abuse and may be caused by other factors. It’s important to approach any situation where mental health is concerned with caution and, where possible, with professional help.

Controlling Behaviour

Whether the abuse is physical, verbal or psychological, it ultimately results in the control of one person over another. The abuser becomes the dominant force, while the abused is steadily controlled in all aspects of their life.

Signs that someone is under the control of another could include:

If you’re a victim of any form of abuse and need help, please know that there is help available.

Here’s how to get help:

GetSavvi Health members

Can use our Member Wellness Programme for counselling, support, awareness and advice on a range of topics.

Non-GetSavvi Health members

Can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). It is Africa's largest mental health support and advocacy group. Or simply contact Lifeline South Africa for free national counselling on 0861 32 23 22.


Recognising the signs of domestic abuse
Recognising domestic abuse
Signs of domestic abuse
What Are the Signs of Domestic Abuse?
Recognising the warning signs of domestic violence
Top Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse
Facts and figures: Global domestic violence numbers

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