But how do you guard yourself against victimising the victim while trying to help them?
Sonke Gender Justice, Policy Development and Advocacy Specialist Marike Keller how to best confront and deal with this situation.
“Listen. Avoid asking specific questions that sound judgemental such as: ‘Why did you wait so long to tell anyone?’” she says.
Although you may not directly be involved in gender-based abuse, it might happen that you know of someone who is abused, but fear being blamed for meddling in someone’s private life.
Keller warns against the assumption that all survivors are the same, in their experience or their reactions. “Believe what your friend is telling you. It takes a lot of courage for victims of violence to talk about their experiences. Don’t blame or judge. It is never the victim’s fault. Allow your friend to express their emotions,” she says.
The survivor could be dealing with delayed shock or feelings of denial. If your friend is depressed, encourage them to see a psychologist, counsellor or social worker.
READ MORE: The relationship between men and abuse
Asked if it is advisable to tell someone who has been abused to step out of a relationship and if that won’t have an impact on your relationship with the victim, she says it depends on the victim.
There is a possibility that the relationship with the victim might change.
“It depends on whether the victim is ready to hear and acknowledge that she is being abused and is open to receiving help and advice. It is important to address this issue sensitively, respectfully, be non-judgmental and not to pressure the victim to leave the relationship. Let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to leave the relationship,” she says.
This issue recently came to light when Metro FM’s Masechaba Ndlovu and co-host Mo Flava revealed details of Babes Wodumo’s alleged abuse at the hands of ex-boyfriend Mandla Maphumulo during The Drive show.
Ndlovu confronted the Ggom singer with the allegations during the interview, and Wodumo, whose real name is Bongekile Simelane, did not deny the claims.
Some listeners complained that Ndlovu had pressed Wodumo on a sensitive personal subject. Keller says while it is essential for the media to report on gender-based violence, it must be done in a way that is responsible.
“Survivors have the right to choose how and when they want to tell their story. While it is clear that Masechaba is a passionate and strong voice against gender-based violence (and we need those voices in South Africa), her approach in this instance – as well-intentioned as it was – did not place the survivor, Babes Wodumo, first,” she says.
READ MORE: Why women stay in abusive relationships
She insists they are many different ways with which to approach and encourage a victim to speak out. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach – each survivor’s process of dealing with and addressing trauma is different. It is important to acknowledge this difference and support the survivor in ways that they need. Allow the survivor to lead and direct you with what they want and need,” she says.
According to Keller, do not pressure or coerce them to speak out, but rather let them know that you are there to support them with anything that they need, as well as when they are ready to speak out. There is no agreed upon timeline or deadline of when it is necessary and acceptable to speak out – this is up to the survivor.