SEXUAL AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (SGBV)

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THE MENTAL HEALTH EFFECTS

The World Health Organisation has recognized SGBV as a significant public health issue. SGBV includes acts that inflict physical, mental and sexual harm on an individual. Globally, one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence. Roughly 20 percent of women have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18 while just 7 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime, which has resulted in degradation to their mental health.

SGBV has prolonged impact on not only physical but mental health of survivors who are at increased risk of depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The link between violence and mental health is found to be stronger in women. Studies have shown that women who have experienced physical violence have significantly high incidences of major depression, substance abuse and are suicidal. Most women feel embarrassed and shameful after such experiences, deterring victims from seeking help.

There is an exponential rise in mental illness resulting from such SGBV yet, mental health services are not readily made available for survivors and, where available, they are rarely integrated into the primary health care system.
The importance of mental health interventions aids in mitigating the effect of sexual and gender based violence. Interventions including counselling and therapeutic or rehabilitative services for survivors and affected family members. This has been shown to reduce the psychological impact of such violent acts and risk of re-occurrence.

Not properly addressing the connection between mental health resulting from sexual and gender based violence means that the women are often misdiagnosed or unable to access the support they need to heal. As established, SGBV have immediate and long-term global impact on the health and welfare of women and children, with ripple effects in the community. Contemporary violence prevention interventions are known to address the mental health. Critical support needs to be strengthened for women experiencing this, both to prevent and address violence. This includes long-term counselling, child support, legal assistance and employment opportunities. Providing women with comprehensive mental health services would allow them take back control of their lives, bodies and sexuality.

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