What to do the first time he hits you

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2015

You’ve been dating a guy for a while and you think this relationship has potential. He’s good looking, charming and intelligent. Sure, he’s a bit possessive and he has a temper, but nobody’s perfect, right? Then, one night, after he’s had a couple of drinks, an argument takes a nasty turn. He gets a scary look in his eyes, and just like that, he slaps you so hard you see stars.

These kinds of scenarios play out in thousands of households around South Africa every year. The latest crime statistics from the South African government say that between 2012 and 2013, an average of 511 serious assaults were reported to the police every day – and a large number of cases of domestic violence go unreported.

Avoid getting trapped in an abusive relationship by taking action the first time your partner assaults you. Remember, your safety is in your hands.

Women who have been hit should be aware of the following:

Accept that he will hit you again unless you take action

“If he hits you once, chances are he will do it again,” says Jeanette Sera, a social worker at People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA). “Physical abuse can be fatal,” says Jeanette. “It can start with a slap, but it can also cause extensive injuries or even death.”

She says that women find it difficult to leave their abusive partners because they still love them and they hope it will never happen again. “But something needs to happen, whether it is counselling or even opening a case of assault. It is important for him to know that what he did is wrong.”

He can only change if he gets proper help
Many abusers are extremely apologetic the morning after. But a simple apology is not enough. Abusers don’t hit women by accident - the tendency to do so is a part of their make-up. “Unless he is willing to go for therapy to deal with his attitude towards women and relationships, be willing to genuinely look at himself and challenge himself, there is no chance for change,” says Jeanette. She adds, “Therapy is not a once-off activity.”

You need emotional support
It’s important to accept that what has happened to you is not a dirty secret, but something for which you need the support of friends and family. Talk about it with the people who are closest to you, and they will help you take the next steps. It’s also vital to get the help of a therapist or counsellor.

“You need to get emotional support in the form of counselling to make sense of what has happened,” says Jeanette. “In addition to being physically hurt, you will be dealing with disillusionment, betrayal and the loss of trust.”  

You can make sure that you are safe
It’s obviously important that you act with caution, because your partner has already proven that he has a violent temper. If you believe that you are in danger in any way, you need protect yourself by involving the authorities.

“You can seek out a free place of safety for abused women, you can apply for a protection order at a magistrate’s office and you can open a case of assault with the police,” says Jeanette. 

If you have been the victim of domestic violence and you’re uncertain of the next steps, in need of help or feeling alone, you can contact POWA  for support and advice.

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