Original Research - Special Collection: Social Memory Studies

The spiritual experiences of women victims of gender-based violence: A case study of Thohoyandou

Christina Landman, Lufuluvhi M. Mudimeli
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 3 | a7528 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i3.7528 | © 2022 Christina Landman, Lufuluvhi M. Mudimeli | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 March 2022 | Published: 27 June 2022

About the author(s)

Christina Landman, College of Human Sciences, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Lufuluvhi M. Mudimeli, Department of Human Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, University of Venda, Venda, South Africa


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Abstract

This article reports on interviews conducted with 11 women at the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), a centre located in Sibasa, Thohoyandou, in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The centre provides support and advocacy to female survivors of domestic violence. The participants were victims of gender-based violence and the study aimed at exploring the spiritual experiences of women assaulted by their partners. Interviews were conducted over 4 days and were held on the TVEP premises. This article discusses how women of faith found meaning and support through their religious beliefs when experiencing violence in intimate spaces. Furthermore, the article drew insights from spiritual perceptions held by women that make them feel safer and assist them to find ways to cope with violence in intimate relationships. However, the study found that women prayed for divine intervention and change in their families and for God to help their husbands by removing all evil spirits from their lives. It was found that apart from prayer, the women do not have any other spiritual resources to combat gender-based violence. The authors suggest the deconstruction of harmful religious discourses (such as ‘God has made man to rule over woman’) towards healing religious discourses (such as ‘all people are equal in God’s eyes’) as a type of ‘intervention’ in the lives of the interviewees.

Contribution: The article contributes towards understanding the harmful impact of religious discourses on the lives of women who are vulnerable towards domestic violence. Religious discourses that are either harmful or healing are here identified through the stories of women who have been violated in their intimate relationships, thus contributing to the body of knowledge in gender studies and to religious and social sciences in general.


Keywords

religious and/or spiritual causes of gender-based violence; Thohoyandou victim empowerment programme; spirituality and/or religion and violence; rural women in the church; stories of abused women

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