Breakthrough for causalities of abuse

Date: January 1, 1970
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The article describes a new initiative by People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) in South Africa that will provide transitional housing for women who have left abusing relationships and are ready to take a step toward independence. The article is the centre of a full page spread around women abuse that includes statistics and personal stories.

This article may be used to:
  • highlight challenges facing survivors of abuse;
  • illustrate how imagery can be used to tell a story;
  • highlight rape and HIV/AIDS statistics; and
  • provide an example of journalism that highlights positive initiatives supporting women as well as relevant context and background information.

Trainer’s notes

This article, and accompanying pieces, provide a good example of gender aware journalism that provides a fresh and positive look at surviving abuse, and also gives appropriate context, background and statistics. The article profiles a new initiative supporting women who have left abusive situations, and in doing so both raises awareness about a prominent women’s organisation and illustrates that women who have been abused can heal, rebuild their lives and become independent again.
The article sources several prominent, strong women who are referenced by their positions (rather than their looks, age or domestic abilities) and can be seen as role models for other women, both in the NGO sector and in business.
The images used in the article are also strong and respectful. One features two women with their mouths taped shut; one has a single tear running down her face. The image is symbolic of the impact that abuse can have on women – silenced and unable to break free. It also represents the fact that abuse is still not a widely talked about issue; it is something that most women are forced to suffer in silence. It could be argued that the image treats women as victims and is disempowering. However the fact that they are not identified as survivors of abuse, and given that the content of the article is very positive, it can fairly safely be read as a symbolic representation of the impact of abuse. The other image shows the director of People Opposing Women Abuse. She is pictured looking directly into the camera with an expression of calm confidence, and wearing business attire. This is a very positive image, and a good contrast to the first.
The additional pieces – statistics and the personal story – give context to the story. Often, statistics are thrown in as filler or afterthought, or are completely absent. In this case, the way they are highlighted brings home the extent of the problem of abuse, particulary sexual violence, as well as its impact on women’s health. The personal story is told respectfully as the women is allowed to tell it in her own voice and words. This also adds a personal touch to the article, provides a living example of the impact of abuse, and complements the symbolism of the main image.
Discussion questions
  • What characteristics make this article, and the accompanying pieces on the page, an example of positive journalism?
  • Discuss the image used. What is the first thing that catches your eye? What kind of impact does it have? Is it an appropriate image for this kind of story? Does it treat abused women as victims, or does it symbolise the realities of abuse? 
Training exercises
  • Based on the statistics provided in the article write a commentary piece on the incidences of rape and HIV/AIDS in South Africa.
  • In groups discuss why women are likely to go back to their abusers.
  • Contact a counsellor and discuss the gender based intervention programmes they have, ask the counsellor whether these programmes are effective or not and the areas which need to be improved.

Download : Breakingthrough Sowetan Dec 11 2008 ,p26 a

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