Giving a Royal voice to gender – based violence and sexual violence

This is a guest blog written by Dr Kathryn Hinsliff-Smith who is a Senior Research Fellow at De Montfort University in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. The blog discusses the important focussed work Kathryn has been involved in with colleagues on raising the profile of gender – based violence within South Africa, which has received Royal approval. Should you wish to contact Kathryn about her work you are welcome to do either via twitter #@HinsliffK  or via email at

During September 2019 it was impossible to miss the news that British Royalty were visiting Southern Africa including South Africa (see BBC Whether a Royal follower or not it was during their time in Cape Town that Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, engaged with a local NGOs (see who provide programmes for young people and victims of sexual violence and rape. As anticipated the international press reported every word and recorded many pictures of the Duke and Duchess visiting and talking about the rise in sexual violence in South Africa.

As a Senior Research Fellow academic at De Montfort University I am aware of the consequences of domestic violence having been involved in research and developing evidence-based healthcare interventions since 2012.

The statistics speak for themselves. Gender based violence (GBV) – which includes sexual violence (SV) – is a significant global public health and societal problem. It has also been recognised as a global human rights issue by the World Health Organisation. Global estimates indicate that 1 in 3 women experience physical/sexual violence in their lifetime. GBV/SV exerts a detrimental impact not only on the lives and health of women, but also those who witness abuse – especially children. GBV/SV has been identified as a large – scale problem in South Africa with recorded estimates that a woman is raped every seventeen seconds. While up to one half of all women have experienced a lifetime history of GBV/SV from a partner.

The impact of GBV/SV on the physical and psychological well being of those who experience abuse is wide ranging. It includes the immediate physical effects for example, physical injury as well as longer term chronic ill health as a result, acute and enduring psychological trauma, mental ill-health, substance and alcohol misuse, self-harm and suicide alongside secondary physiological health issues such as gynaecological, sexual health and gastro-intestinal health problems. For those who experience sexual violence this may include significant harms such as unwanted pregnancy and as such health care professionals (HCPs) are well placed to respond to those affected by GBV/SV.

Whilst South Africa is not the only country to experience forms of gender based violence, including sexual violence, it is clear from the report published in 2002 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that actions are still required if the continuing rise in violence, including sexual violence is to be addressed.

In July 2019 I was privileged to visit Pretoria in South Africa along with academic colleagues from The University of Nottingham.

Please see picture from left to right my colleagues on our project which include Associate Professor Julie McGarry (Julie’s contact details are supplied at the foot of this post)  Gill Langmack  whom can be contacted via twitter at #@gill_langmack,  Dr Heike Bartel and myself (front right).

As part of a prestigious Global Challenges Research Fund we secured a research grant to develop digital resources to support healthcare professionals providing care to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence. You can read about this on this link

Working with women survivors of sexual violence supported by a local NGO (, healthcare students and academics from Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) ( was a true privilege. During our visit we began to understand the issues of sexual violence for survivors but also the issues that healthcare care professionals and local authorities face in order to provide the right support, at the right time. What was abundantly clear is that sexual violence needs to be everyone one’s concern. This was echoed when the Deputy Minister of Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa Professor Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize ( attended our programme and gave an impassioned speech about the rights of women and children and the need for greater understanding of approaches to support victims.

We are delighted that in some way this new digital resource, to be launched in December 2019, will raise the profile of the issues around gender based violence and sexual violence. Further details can be located on the project From Silence 2 Voice

I would welcome contact about this blog/our work on the contact details supplied earlier.

You might also wish to contact Kathryn’s colleague Julie McGarry who was also instrumental in the project. Julie is Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, School of Health Sciences and is the Safeguarding Research Lead – Sexual Safety for Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Julie can also be contacted  via twitter at #@DrJulieMcGarry or via email at