Not-So-Happy Holidays?

How You Can Support Survivors Of GVBF This Festive Season

The festive season is often associated with joy and celebration, but it’s important to remember that for some individuals, particularly survivors of domestic abuse, this time of year can be challenging. 

As we navigate the holiday season in our faith communities, it’s crucial to create safe spaces that
offer support and comfort to survivors of domestic violence.

In this blog, you’ll learn

  • How To Identify If Someone Is In An Abusive Relationship
  • How To Create Safer Spaces For Survivors

What is Domestic Violence?

Most people think that domestic violence is about one partner beating the other or threats of beatings or evening killing. Briefly, domestic violence takes on many forms, but the following are some of the types of violence in intimate relationships that can play out in abusive homes: 

  • Control and domination – Excessive control over the movements of a partner, even sometimes to the point of cutting her off from her family and friends (either by force or by causing divisions through devious means). 
  • Jealousy and unfounded suspicions that the partner is having affairs – even beating her if any other man pays attention to her.
  • Forced sexual activity – marital rape.
  • Physical violence – slapping, pushing, punching, kicking, using weapons, or threats of violence. 
  • Verbal and emotional abuse – blaming the victim for what is happening, insults, degrading remarks or repeating how lucky she is that she has him as ‘no one else would want you’. This form of abuse can easily paralyse a partner’s confidence and make it seem to be impossible to leave the relationship.
  • Financial abuse – withholding money for necessary purchases (even for the children sometimes), making her beg for money or demanding ‘favours’ for money, demanding for her salary to be given to him and controlling all household finances. 
  • Spiritual abuse- mis-use of sacred texts to force a woman into submission or justify the abuse she is experiencing. This can be the most devastating, as it isolates a woman from her God and paralyses her with guilt and fear. 

These behaviours may be there from the start, but most often they appear gradually over months or years, which makes it easy to normalise. 

DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS BELOW OR EXPLAIN THEM AWAY. It is part of your pastoral duty to keep a watchful though supportive eye.

What are some of the outward signs of an Abusive Relationship?

If you meet a couple together where the husband or male partner is very domineering, and especially if he jokingly or otherwise insults his partner or makes remarks that degrade women in general. He is likely to have control issues and may even have misogynist (‘woman-hating’) tendencies. Such a man often has a history of childhood abuse and may be highliy underconfident below that tough exterior.


If you are concerned about the damage he might cause to your faith community or to your personal safety, seek professional help from an organisation like FAMSA, or a professional social worker. 

It is also important to observe behavioural changes in a person who may be a victim or survivor of domestic abuse, such as withdrawal from social activities, unexplained injuries, sudden changes in mood or behaviour, pushing loved-ones away, frequent fearfulness, or attempts to cover injuries with unconvincing explanations.

It is essential to approach the situation delicately and offer support without victim-blaming or siding with the alleged abuser, or putting pressure on the survivor in anyway. 

Just be there for her as described below, and help her rediscover her sense of self and the courage to make a change. Be clear that any form of violence or abuse is crossing an unacceptable boundary. Below are some suggestions for steps you can take.

NEVER INVITE A COUPLE TO COUNSELLING if you suspect the relationship is violent. It can trigger the abuser and put the victim in serious danger after your meeting.  

“We can’t be brave in the big world without at least one small safe space to work through our fears and falls.”

Brene Brown


By the end of this blog, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of how to cultivate empathy, understanding, and compassion, making a positive impact on survivors’ lives during this festive season.

What Can I Do to Create Safer Spaces for Survivors?

Creating safer spaces for survivors involves fostering environments free from judgment, ensuring confidentiality, providing emotional support, and offering resources without imposing or pressuring survivors. It’s about establishing trust, respecting their choices, and prioritizing their safety and well-being above all else

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of how to cultivate empathy, understanding, and compassion, making a positive impact on survivors’ lives during this festive season.

It’s important to approach these steps with humility, empathy, and a commitment to learning.

Addressing GBV in a church setting takes time, education, and a willingness to stand up against injustice.

  1. Listen and Learn: Start by actively listening to survivors’ stories without judgement. Seek resources, online courses, or workshops to understand GBV better.
  2. Create a Safe Environment: Ensure your church is a safe and welcoming space. Offer confidentiality and privacy for individuals seeking help or support.
  3. Awareness Campaigns: Use church platforms (bulletins, websites, sermons) to raise awareness about GBV. Share statistics, helpline numbers, and resources for survivors.
  4. Training Sessions: Host training sessions or invite professionals to educate church members on recognising signs of abuse and how to respond appropriately.
  5. Develop Church Policies and Practical Guidelines for Addressing Abuse if it takes place in the faith institution or outside: Establish clear policies against GBV within the church. Train leaders and volunteers on how to handle disclosures or suspicions of abuse.
  6. Pastoral Support: Train pastors and leaders in trauma-informed pastoral care. Equip them with resources and empathy to support survivors effectively.
  7. Partnerships: Collaborate with local shelters, NGOs, or counselling centres. Create partnerships to provide immediate and long-term support to survivors.
  8. Accessible Resources: Ensure easily accessible information and resources are available within the church premises or online for those seeking help.
  9. Promote Gender Equality: Teach biblical principles of respect, equality, and love. Challenge harmful traditional gender roles through teachings, studies of the Sacred Texts and discussions.
  10. Advocate in the Community: Participate in community events or campaigns against GBV. Engage in discussions with other churches and community leaders.
  11. Regular Check-ins: Periodically revisit these topics in sermons or discussions to keep the conversation ongoing within the church community.



  1. Allow the survivor to approach you: Listen attentively to their needs and concerns.
  2. Ask how you can offer immediate support: Some survivors may require urgent medical care or basic necessities like clothing.
  3. Check for comfort: Inquire if the survivor feels comfortable speaking in your current location. Respect their need for privacy and confidentiality.
  4. Provide practical support: Offer water, a private place to sit, or any immediate necessities the survivor may require.
  5. Ask for their preference: If needed, let the survivor choose someone they feel comfortable with to provide support or translation.
  6. Maintain confidentiality: Treat any shared information with the utmost confidentiality. Seek permission to consult a specialist or colleague without disclosing the survivor’s identity.
  7. Clarify confidentiality limits: If applicable, explain any limitations on your confidentiality and manage the survivor’s expectations accordingly.
  8. Clarify your role: Set clear expectations about your role and avoid overstepping boundaries.
  9. Prioritise listening: Listen attentively and speak less. Offer comfort and reinforce that the survivor is not at fault.


  1. Ignore someone seeking help. If someone shares discomfort or experiences violence, acknowledge them and offer support.
  2. Avoid being intrusive or pushy. Respect their boundaries and avoid pressuring them into accepting help.
  3. Stay calm. Avoid overreacting, as it might unsettle the survivor. Maintain a composed and supportive demeanour.
  4. Refrain from pressuring for details. Do not insist on knowing specifics or the perpetrator’s identity. Focus on providing necessary support and information on available services.
  5. Avoid direct questions about violence: Refrain from asking direct questions about experiencing violence, assault, or abuse. Instead, focus on listening and providing assistance based on their comfort level.
  6. Avoid documentation: Refrain from writing, taking photos, or recording conversations. Avoid disclosing details to others, including the media.
  7. Avoid probing questions: Refrain from asking detailed questions about the incident. Instead, focus on offering support and asking how you can help.
  8. Avoid comparisons: Don’t compare the survivor’s experience to others’ or downplay the significance of their situation. Validate their feelings without judgement or comparison.
  9. Do not doubt or contradict: Respect the survivor’s account without doubting or contradicting it. Your role is to listen without judgment and provide information on available services.

Examples of what to say…

  • “You seem to be in a lot of pain right now; would you like to go to the
  • health clinic?”
  • “Does this place feel OK for you? Is there another place where you would
  • feel better? Do you feel comfortable having a conversation here?”
  • “Would you like some water? Please feel free to have a seat.”
  • “How can I support you?”
  • Everything that we talk about together stays between us. I will not share
  • anything without your permission.”
  • “I will try to support you as much as I can, but I am not a counsellor.
  • I can share any information that I have on support available to you.”
  • “Please share with me whatever you want to share. You do not need to tell me about your experience in order for me to provide you with information on support available to you.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
  • “What happened was not your fault.”

Survivor-Centered Approach

In addressing gender-based violence, a survivor-centered approach is paramount.

This approach revolves around fundamental principles: respect, safety, confidentiality, non-discrimination, and informed guidance. It prioritises the survivor’s autonomy, ensuring that their choices, rights, and dignity are respected. Maintaining confidentiality is crucial, allowing survivors to decide whom they confide in. Additionally, providing access to available health services is essential, emphasising the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies through timely medical care.

  1. Respect: Make sure that the survivor’s choices, wishes, rights, and dignity serve as your guide in all of your actions.
  2. Safety: Prioritise the survivor’s safety as the primary concern in all actions and decisions.
  3. Confidentiality: Uphold the survivor’s right to choose whom they share their story with. Maintain confidentiality by not disclosing any information without their consent.
  4. Non-discrimination: Provide equal and fair treatment to anyone seeking support, irrespective of their background or identity.
  5. Health Services Information: If available, offer information about accessible health services. Clearly explain what services are available and let the survivor decide if they wish to access them. Timely medical care within specific hours can prevent the transmission of STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

Not turning a blind eye to domestic violence during the festive season is critical and could be life-saving. Supporting survivors of domestic abuse during the holiday season is crucial. By following the above tips, faith communities can create safe havens for survivors, offering the support and comfort they need during this not-so-merry festive season. 

Let’s stand together as a community, extending kindness and empathy to those in need and embodying the true spirit of compassion and support 


PLease put in the reference you have used here or right at the bottom maybe rather

Read our statement of commitment here

REMEMBER: if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, support is available.


For general information contact: 

(012) 460 0733, 012 460 0738, 012 346 3058


Phone: 011 892 3829

​076 535 1701


Suicide Crisis Helpline
0800 567 567

Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Helpline
0800 12 13 14
SMS 32312

Cipla Mental Health Helpline
0800 456 789
SMS 31393

NPOwer SA Helpline
0800 515 515
SMS 43010

Healthcare Workers Care Network Helpline
0800 21 21 21
SMS 43001

UFS #Fair Kitchens Chefs Helpline
0800 006 333


Dr Reddy’s Mental Health Helpline
0800 21 22 23

Adcock Ingram Depression & Anxiety Helpline
0800 70 80 90

ADHD Helpline
0800 55 44 33

Pharma Dynamics Police & Trauma Helpline
0800 20 50 26


011 234 4837


8AM – 5PM

Cipla Mental Health
076 882 2775

Maybelline BraveTogether
087 163 2030

Ke Moja Substance Abuse
087 163 2025

Have Hope Chat Line

Look for a branch near you or contact their helpline

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428, or send a ‘Please Call Me’ to *120*7867# or SMS ‘help’ to 31531.

Happy Holidays!