Mental health effects of domestic violence experienced by women in a low socio-economic area in Gauteng, South Africa

26 Nov 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2001:1) views domestic violence as the world's most prevalent form of human rights violation with devastating effects on both the physical and mental well-being of these victims, mostly women. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the mental health effects of domestic violence as experienced by women utilising a mobile primary healthcare (PHC) clinic in a low socio-economic area in Gauteng, South Africa. A qualitative, contextual, explorative and descriptive research design was followed. The study was conducted in a mobile PHC in a low socio-economic area in Gauteng. Participants were selected purposefully from the women attending this clinic. Data were collected by conducting ten semi-structured interviews when data saturation occurred. The transcribed interviews and field notes were analysed using Tesch's method of qualitative data analysis. Women exposed to domestic violence related the mental health effects in terms of physical, psychological, spiritual, and social experiences. They described the physical pain and related symptoms as well as the emotional hurt, anxiety and sadness. The violation they experienced was reflected in social isolation and distrust towards men. Although the hopelessness of their situation was evident, participants displayed certain coping mechanisms.