oa Curationis - Self-concepts and demographic characteristics of battered women in Gauteng, South Africa : research article

Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8577
  • E-ISSN: 2223-6279



In South Africa, studies have shown that one in every four women are abused or battered. Put graphically, 25% of women in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) are assaulted by their boyfriend/partner or husband and a woman suffer battering on average of 39 times before she seeks outside help. Woman battering can leave women abused, distressed, create fear, limits behaviour, cause psychological damage and physical harms and very often breaks down self-esteem and leaves the individual self-incompetent. Hence the need to understand how women who have been abused rate their pre and post abuse self-concepts, how their demographic characteristics influence their self-concepts and also understand their attitude towards their abuser.

Through in-depth interviews using a questionnaire, data were collected from 150 randomly selected abused women attending a respite centre located in Johannesburg. Age of women ranged from 16 years to 49 years with a mean age of 32.2 (SD=8.27). Abuse or being battered in this study is defined as "women who have been emotionally abused or physically beaten by husband/boyfriend with blows, slapped, kicked and have experienced these over three times in a single relationship".
The study was anchored on a three research questions. Results showed that before abuse, women rated themselves positively (X bar = 82.4) and negatively after abuse (X bar = 69.9). The study showed a huge drop in self-concept change (X bar = 23.9) after abuse. At a pre-abuse level, women generally rated themselves positively on almost all dimensions and negatively after abuse on almost all bi-polar items. The study also found that demographics of abused women such as marital status (C2 (1, N = 149) =7.30, P<.01), educational level (C2 (1, N = 149) = 15.89, P <.001), duration of abuse (C2 (1, N = 149)=12.71, P<,002), and nature of abuse (C2 (1, N = 149) =4.502, P<.05) do influence self-concepts of abused women. Age of women was not significant. Finally, results also indicate that majority of the women have negative attitude towards their abuser (C2 (1, N = 149) =4.051, P&lt; .05). The abuser was described negatively as cold, slow, passive, weak, sick, tense, unpredictable, sad, dangerous, ignorant and bad. Surprisingly, the abuser was also described as rich, wise, clean and valuable.
These findings have significant practical implications for intimate partner violence or Gender-based violence and the health and psychological outcomes for battered women. The study also suggests the need for more research in this direction and a need for culturally relevant programmes to help women in abusive relationships and in addition help the abusers deal with myths that have cultural relevance to factors maintaining battering.

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