Category Archive: Abusive Relationships

Netflix “Unbelievable”…is all too believable

“Shows with traumatic plotlines are shifting the national debate”

The Netflix mini-series, Unbelievable, may be an American production, but its story is resonating with women all over the world. Conversation has turned to a discussion of Unbelievable in  Cape Town and Johannesburg bars and coffee shops more than once recently. What is your view of dramatising rape stories? Since the #metoo movement began, it has become much more acceptable to bring accounts of sexual abuse and assault out into the open. It’s unsurprising the media has followed suit. At SD Law, we agree with the author of the article below, that…

“…programmes on what consent looks like, on the impact of harassment in public places, the way it forces women to avoid the dark, or take the longer route home…”

are vital to bringing the subject of sexual harassment of women out of the shadows and tackling it head-on. Our government – and everyone in a position of educating or influencing men – needs to do much, much more if South African women are to feel safe. It requires…

“elected leaders understanding their responsibilities, with thoughtful interventions in schools, the welfare system, hospitals. With compulsory sex education that means porn isn’t a child’s default teacher on what sex is, who sex is for…”

We think author Eva Wiseman makes some salient points. Read on and decide for yourself.

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TV shows and books dealing with rape and sexual assault make for upsetting and unsettling viewing and reading, but at least the grim stories are propelling us towards the possibility of social change.

We are nearing the finale of season three, when the storyline twists and characters evolve and we are invited to question all we thought we knew. In the same way that it’s harder to care about statistics (like the proportion of rapes being prosecuted in England and Wales dropping to just 1.7%) than stories (like the new book by Chanel Miller, a blistering account of her sexual assault), perhaps it is easier to think of rape in these terms. As a horror show, unfolding.

Yesterday over lunch I read the news that, as Carl Beech was jailed after fabricating claims of historical rape, a former High Court judge concluded that the “instruction to believe a victim’s account should cease.” “Sure,” I said aloud, darkly over tea. This came after the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW) pointed out that, judging by the woefully low rate of prosecutions, rape appears to have been decriminalised, an idea that continues to roll around my mind like a marble. Along with the ancient image of a thong.

Where once victims were humiliated in court by defence barristers holding up the underwear they wore on the night of the attack, today they are presented with old text messages or photos, which do the same job as the asking-for-it underwear, but in higher resolution. I spent my journey home reading Miller’s book and that night lay in bed watching Unbelievable, the Netflix true-crime drama based on a teenager whose rape was discounted by detectives. I slept, not well.

Both Miller’s book, Know My Name, and Netflix’s Unbelievable shine a torch on the reality of sexual assault today, at a time when rape charges, prosecutions and convictions in England and Wales are at their lowest levels in more than a decade. Until recently, Miller was known as “Emily Doe”, the pseudonym of the “Brock Turner sexual assault victim”. Her case first became famous because of widespread public criticism of the judgment. Despite there being witnesses to the assault, as Miller lay unconscious behind some bins after a frat party at Stanford University and despite Turner being convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault, he was sentenced to only six months in prison, of which he served three. The judge said he feared a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, a “promising athlete”. And second, because of Miller’s powerful, detailed, victim statement. “I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me.” There are echoes of Miller’s experience in Unbelievable, as there are, inevitably, in all accounts of violence against women. The series opens with Marie’s rape and unravels from there, as minor inconsistencies in the victim’s story lead police to charge her with false reporting, before it becomes clear that the rapist has attacked again.

I’m often left hoppy and bitter when rape is a theme in my nightly telly, another body, another drink. But lately that agitation has moved upwards, to a place where I can recognise it as energy. As something useful, even positive. Horror stories rarely have happy endings, but it does feel, doesn’t it, that a change is due. As grim and worrying as the figures are, the swell of social change, and the new clarity of storytelling, must, surely, drag the rest of the world along with it.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/13/traumatic-plotlines-are-shifting-national-debate-rape-sexual-assault

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We believe you

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article or Netflix Unbelievable, family attorneys SD Law have deep experience of helping women escape abusive relationships. If you have suffered sexual assault, and have been too scared to bring charges, we will support you through the process and help keep you safe. If you experience intimate partner violence, we can serve a protection order on your partner and  help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we will always believe you. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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Alcohol fuels gender-based violence

When men feel both entitled and inadequate, and when their personalities are brittle and impulsive, then alcohol pushes them over the edge.

Alcohol is a key factor in violence against women. More needs to be done to control the availability of cheap booze in residential areas, says David Harrison of DG Murray Trust in Cape Town.

At SD Law, one aspect of our business is liquor licensing, and we unreservedly support responsible drinking and responsible marketing and promotion of alcohol. We have assisted women clients to escape abusive relationships and have seen first-hand the destructive effect of alcohol and the role it plays in violence against women by men. We share and support the views expressed in this article, written by the CEO of DG Murray Trust in Cape Town, David Harrison.

First published in the Daily Maverick, 02 October 2019

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The suggestion seems almost insensitive, but the fastest way to reduce gender-based violence (GBV) is not in changing men’s attitudes, but in limiting their access to alcohol.

Buried in the president’s recent address to Parliament on GBV was one fairly bland sentence, that “drug and alcohol abuse fuels the gender-based violence pandemic”.

Imagine he had then paused and said: “Now let us all understand what that means. It’s like taking a hose of petrol and spraying it on the fire. It causes an inferno that will keep on exploding until the fuel supply is turned off. Yes, we must get to the source of the fire and help its victims in the meantime, but our most urgent priority is to cut off its fuel supply. And if we succeed in reducing the abuse of alcohol and drugs, we will also dramatically reduce the number of murders and assault, HIV infections and traffic accidents.”

If the president had taken his one-liner to its ultimate conclusion, he would have realised just how inadequate – almost trivial – his proposed response was, namely that “the Department of Social Development has therefore been tasked with increasing the visibility of substance abuse awareness and education and prioritising funding for more treatment facilities”.

Government awareness campaigns are no match for the liquor industry, which keeps finding ways to intensify its own marketing and subverts that of the state. Far more effective is the restriction on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion, which the World Health Organisation promotes as impactful and cost-effective measures to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

If government is serious about reducing gender-based violence, it needs to stop vacillating about its proposed ban on alcohol advertising. Reducing alcohol harm will not destroy the liquor industry, but ensure that it becomes a commercial sector worth having. At the moment, it is not. The reality is that the societal cost of alcohol abuse, estimated at up to 12% of GDP, far outweighs the economic benefits of the industry.

As for funding more treatment facilities, that’s certainly needed in a country where services for drug and alcohol dependence are inadequate, but it won’t make a dent in levels of gender-based violence, which is more associated with binge-drinking than clinical alcoholism.

Binge-drinking is the strongest proximate risk factor for violence against women and children, and about a quarter of South African drinkers drink in heavy, episodic ways (more than five units at one time). According to Statistics South Africa, either the perpetrator or the victim were reported to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 72% of sexual violence incidents taking place outdoors and 23.3% of incidents taking place at home.

Some argue that alcohol abuse is just the symptom of the same set of social and environmental factors that lead to male aggression, but meta-analyses of the link between alcohol and GBV show small but significant independent effects that can be devastating in the context of social and economic marginalisation. In other words, when men feel both entitled and inadequate, and when their personalities are brittle and impulsive, then alcohol pushes them over the edge.

This means that even as we try to change the cultural and economic factors that drive GBV, we must also tackle the immediate causes that propel the nation beyond the tipping point of unbridled violence and aggression. The global evidence shows that short-term interventions to shift cultures of patriarchy have little effect because gender norms are already fixed by early adolescence. Embedding gender-transformative norms requires a prolonged inter-generational project, aimed at shaping new identities for young children and teenagers. In the next year, we won’t radically transform gender attitudes, but we can intensify the intolerance of GBV and improve the policing and justice systems, which many victims currently experience as indifferent and uncaring.

We can also crimp the flow of fuel to the fire. Pricing is probably the most effective way of reducing binge-drinking, with poorer households and young people most responsive to price changes. In this regard, minimum unit pricing may be easier to implement in the short term than changes in tax and excise, and is likely to have greatest impact in reducing binge drinking. The alcohol industry targets poorer communities with low-cost, high-alcohol content products, with almost half of heavy drinkers consuming alcohol costing less than 50% of the median price.

Strategies to reduce the availability of alcohol in residential areas (through conditional licensing linked to shorter opening hours, reduced density of outlets and monitoring sources of supply of alcohol) have been shown to reduce consumption. At local level, active community mobilisation, such as the monitoring of bar service practices (to combat serving inebriated customers and selling liquor for consumption off licensed premises) are also effective strategies to reduce crime and violence.

GBV is one of the most searing of South Africa’s complex challenges. We tend to become bogged down by omnibus solutions to them all. Certainly their resolution requires multifaceted responses, but it is only too easy for us to lose the wood for the trees and end up doing nothing effectively. In the case of gender-based violence, that wood – alcohol and drug abuse – is the fuel to the fire, just as the president said.

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If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article…

SD Law is a firm of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive relationships. We can serve a protection order on a violent partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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Parental Alienation and the Child

Deliberate parental alienation harms the child more than the parent

When divorcing or divorced parents engage in tactics that give rise to parental alienation, the individual who suffers the most is the child. It may be tempting for an aggrieved parent suffering through an acrimonious divorce to want to portray the other parent in the worst possible light. Hurt and anger can cause a parent to denigrate the partner in front of the child, causing parental alienation or its more severe sibling, Parental Alienation Syndrome. If one parent feels isolated and betrayed, it’s a natural response to want the child or children “on side”. However, whether the other parent deserves the label of villain or not, this behaviour is extremely harmful to the mental health of the child.

A parent-child pair experiencing parental alienation can rebuild a trusting relationship. It takes time and patience but is important for mental wellbeing.

No one is innocent – except the child

According to Cafcass, the UK’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, parental alienation is rarely one-directional, i.e. aimed at one parent by the other. More commonly, it is a complex set of behaviours that may impact on every transaction within the family. The post-separation environment is a high-conflict zone. Rarely is one parent entirely the victim and the other solely the perpetrator of emotional punishment. When parents are at war, the child becomes collateral damage.

Impact of parental alienation on a child

Parental alienation is emotional child abuse and should be treated as seriously as any other form of abuse. Despite this, it is often not recognised or acknowledged in child custody disputes. The alienated child often feels insecure, anxious and overwhelmed, experiencing feelings of guilt and confusion.

The alienated child may be confused as to the adult-child role, particularly if they are older, i.e. pre-teen or teenage. Triangulation, the emotional manipulation of the child to create an emotional partner, is a common feature of parental alienation. In this scenario the child feels responsible and obliged to step in and protect and care for the victim-parent. The child is robbed of the ability to form trust (the cornerstone of relationships) in intimate relationships and lacks confidence in forming and maintaining healthy relationships. The child may also display clinging behaviour and separation anxiety. They may develop anxiety and have poor peer relationships and other mental health issues. The alienated child suffers from a loss of a sense of self and is placed within a situation that is emotionally beyond their coping ability.

Anyone working with the child or the family should be alert to these symptoms and prepared to step in.

What can be done?

As per the philosophy behind the Children’s Act, the interests of the alienated child must come first. Whether parent, grandparent, caregiver or professional mediator, anyone playing a role in the child’s life must view every family interaction through the lens of the child. The focus should be firmly on the alienated child and the factors that have contributed to the alienation. Then it is critical that steps are taken to rectify the situation. There is no evidence to show that waiting for alienation to resolve itself is effective, nor should children be allowed to decide which parent they should live with.

Rebuilding trust step by step

There are many instances of adults who were permanently alienated from one parent as children and have suffered life-long emotional consequences. To prevent this long-term outcome, there are ways to rebuild trust and re-establish a loving parental relationship. The child and alienated parent need to be assisted in the process of re-attachment, which must be sensitively phased and take account of the child’s developmental level, maturity and emotional resilience.

Here in South Africa and in other countries there are various psycho-educational and family therapy programmes that attempt to help severely alienated children of divorce rebuild the damaged relationship with the alienated parent. These programmes aim:

  • To initiate contact between the alienated parent and child
  • To provide psycho-educational training to the parents
  • To develop child-focused parental involvement
  • To re-establish reality and correct distorted perceptions of the self, both by the child and by the parents
  • To relieve the burden on the child and distance them from the conflict of loyalties between the parents
  • To rebuild the fractured emotional relationship by creating new shared experiences in a structured, safe and relaxed environment
  • To restore communication
  • To improve conflict management and family dynamics

Through these programmes children re-learn a healthy and balanced view of both parents and gradually renewed and happy parent-child relationships can develop. But it takes time. However hard it may be, the alienated parent must be patient.

Is this you?

Have you experienced parental alienation? Are you estranged from your child or is your contact with your child traumatic due to symptoms of parental alienation? Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. is an established Cape Town family lawyer with extensive expertise in divorce and family law. We will ensure your legal rights are upheld and can link you to the appropriate support that will enable you to restore your relationship with your child.

Cape Town Attorneys and Lawyers,  Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. has a reputation for empathy and professionalism, with a personal touch. We will listen to you and help you find a solution that is in the best interests of all parties – most importantly the child.

Call Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Read what satisfied clients have to say about Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc.

 

Further reading:

 

 

REEVA STEENKAMP FOUNDATION ENDORSEMENT 
“On behalf of all abused woman and children The Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation would like to thank Simon Dippenaar from SD Law South Africa for going beyond and assisting our client with a very difficult case.
Family Law requires a very special person, just being a good lawyer is not enough.”

 

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Suffer the little children – Narcissist Behaviour

Narcissist relationship with SD Law

 

A while ago we wrote about narcissistic relationships. We were shocked and humbled by the response. It seems there are many people in our fair city who are suffering abuse at the hands of partners – male and female – and many were unaware that the behaviour they were experiencing constituted abuse.

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