Mercilene is a Public Health Researcher whose main research interests are women’s health. Her career peak has been managing a SADC regional research project on Violence against Women (VAW) under the banner of Gender Links, a regional organisation championing women’s rights. Machisa joined Gender Links in 2010 and managed and analysed the data from the household prevalence and attitudes surveys in South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Zambia, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. Currently Machisa is leading a South African national research study on the prosecution and adjudication of rape cases within the criminal justice system.
Apart from managing research she is a strong advocate for women’s rights. Mercilene also contributes to formulation of policies relating to the advancement of women’s rights including significant inputs to National Action Plans to address gender violence within the SADC Region and has served on methodological working groups at the African continent level. She is also active in the academia and provides voluntary statistical consultations and co-supervision of postgraduate (Masters) students in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Witwatersrand.
Mercilene is pursuing interdisciplinary doctoral studies in Public Health with the University of Witwatersrand. Her doctoral studies include the nexus of GBV experiences by women, perpetration by men and the role of poor mental health. Currently she holds an M.Sc. in Medicine specialising in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the University of Witwatersrand and a First Class B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe.
Addressing Child Abuse is Key to Preventing Gender Violence and Poor Mental Health
History of child abuse or witnessing intra-parent abuse coupled with adult victimisation by intimate partners are significant risk factors for poor mental health (1-12). The relationship on the role of poor mental health as an effect modifier for the relationship between child abuse, IPV or rape victimisation and perpetration has however been little researched in South Africa. The aim of the project is to determine the relationship between child abuse (exposure), adult revictimisation or perpetration and poor mental health (outcomes) while controlling for potential confounding factors. We conducted a secondary analysis of data collected in a population based household survey employing a two stage proportionate sampling in Gauteng province of South Africa. Two structured questionnaires were used which contained adaptations of the Childhood trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Scale (PTSD), Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CESD) and Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scales. Interviews were conducted in privacy with 511 women and 487 men who voluntarily consented to participating. Twenty six percent of women and 21% men reported child sexual abuse. Sexual touching (17%) was most common among women; while sex with a woman more than 5 years older was common for men (14%). Seventy three percent of women and 87% men reported child physical abuse. Physical beating at home was most common (63% women and 73% men. Child physical and sexual abuse was associated with physical and sexual IPV revictimisation experiences by women [(OR: 1.5 95%CI (1.18; 1.91)] and physical IPV perpetration by men [OR: 1.4 95%CI (1.03: 1,08)]. Experience of child sexual and physical abuse was associated with depression [OR: 1.5 95% CI (1.08; 1.95)] and PTSD [OR: 1.9; 95%CI (1.13; 3.16)] among women. There is an overlap in experiences of child physical and sexual abuse. Child physical and sexual abuse is a precursor to adult female revictimisation, male perpetration of GBV and poor mental health. Preventing child abuse is thus a critical arena for action in reducing gender based violence. In particular a shift in parenting approaches from punitive and physical approaches may be key to addressing adult violence revictimisation or perpetration.