Comparison of trauma on survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence in Limpopo

  • M Davhana-Maselesele
  • S Madu
  • GE Wyatt
  • JK Williams
  • L Makhado
  • LH Wong


Background: Gender-based violence is a challenge in South Africa, despite available interventions. Caring for the survivors of both forms of violence is critical for ensuring their speedy recovery.
Objectives: To compare the effects of trauma on female survivors of sexual assault versus those experienced by survivors of physical assault by their intimate partners.
Method: A quantitative cross-sectional comparative study design was used to compare 30 sexually-assaulted women and 30 physically-assaulted women regarding depressive symptoms, posttraumatic stress disorder and coping styles three months after the incident. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the survivors of both types of assault and the Beck Depression Inventory posttraumatic stress disorder checklist and Brief COPE Inventory were administered in order to obtain quantitative data. Both parametric and non-parametric statistics were employed. Ethical measures were adhered to throughout the research process.
Results: A significantly-higher proportion of sexually-assaulted women disclosed the incident to family (p = 0.021). The majority of sexually- (90%) and physically- (86%) assaulted women were likely to recall the incident. Sexually-assaulted women had a significantly-higher mean
for avoidance/numbness (p < 0.001) and physical-assaulted women in arousal (p > 0.051). About 41% of sexually-assaulted participants reported severe depression. Findings confirmed that sexual assault is more personal whilst physical assault is more interpersonal. If  physically assaulted women were removed from the perpetrators they recovered faster than sexually assaulted women. Their stay with the perpetrators may perpetuate the violence.
Conclusion: The need for counselling and support for the survivors of both traumas was recommended. All stakeholders should be educated to provide support to survivors of both traumas.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848