Abstract for: A Systems Approach for a Systemic Problem: Modeling Intimate Partner Violence in South Africa

Despite South Africa’s passage of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) in 1998, the country’s rates of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)—particularly in its townships—remain among the highest in the world. The persistence of IPV in spite of the legislation, which expanded the legal definition of and protections from IPV, may be attributable to the complex nature of IPV. IPV is a multiscale, dynamic problem driven by the interplay of factors at societal, community, relationship, and individual levels. This paper provides an overview of the nature and consequences of IPV, contextualizes the problem of IPV in South Africa using different theoretical lenses, and explores the dynamics of IPV in South Africa from a systems perspective. Recognizing that exposure to IPV often begins in childhood, a system dynamics model is developed using stocks to distinguish age cohorts of women and whether they were experiencing IPV. This study demonstrates the value of using systems approaches to explore IPV as an inherently systemic problem. Collectively, these components of the project highlight the importance of, hope for, and challenges facing the study of this global public health epidemic.