Change the world


It is often said that to understand someone else’s pain, one should “walk a mile in their shoes”. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, according to Nelson Mandela University’s Dr Luise Amadihla. The 39-year-old psychology student, who this month was awarded her PhD during the institution’s autumn graduation season, says that second-hand trauma is real, and needs to be understood.


Supervisor Professor Magnolia Ngcobo-Sithole and Dr Luise Amadihla

In essence, Dr Amadihla’s thesis, ‘Exploring the views of selected unafflicted women from Walvis Bay and Windhoek, Namibia, regarding intimate Partner Killing and its effect on their well-being’, argues that one does not need to directly experience an actual traumatic event, or painful experience, to be traumatised by it.

Focused on these women from Namibia, the purpose of the study was to explore intimate partner killing and its effect on the well-being of selected, unafflicted women - those who have not personally experienced Gender-Based Violence (GBV), but instead came to hear about it through second-hand accounts, such as the media.

Through in-depth interviews, these participants recounted distressing experiences of intimate partner killing within their communities and explained the phobia attached to this killing and its link with GBV.

A grim reality

“In 2005, in my first year at university, through the media, I heard about a musician killing his girlfriend, and then himself,” Dr Amadihla said. “All around me, incidents of intimate partner killings were on the rise. When I was growing up, tragedy and death didn’t feel as common as it does now.

“I wondered if the media understood the trauma that women experienced after hearing the broadcast of these ‘passion killing’ stories. The fear that I experienced when I realised that love could kill you, gave me the idea for my thesis. I wanted the world to understand that passion killing affects more than just the victims.

“I prayed that God would send me the most suitable supervisor and I received an answer to prayer, in Professor Magnolia Ngcobo-Sithole, who specialises in GBV research.”

The research study revealed that intimate partner killing incidents are characterised by elements that induce stress-related disorders among unafflicted women, manifesting in profound emotional and psychological distress.

In the data collected from participants, in both genders, cheating, poverty, jealousy, alcohol and substance abuse, were triggers, with reports of men murdering their intimate partners. 

Other factors impacting the prevalence of GBV included: male financial dependence on females; men providing financial incentives to females; male short-temperedness; male emotional and mental distress; male immaturity and low self-esteem; lack of respect for females; males’ inability to disconnect from females, and females ‘showing off’ their new partners.

The study concluded that in the case of women experiencing second-hand trauma relating to intimate partner killings, this lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress resulting from the need to be hyper-vigilant. Participants reported that they often felt compelled to be extra careful so that they did not offend their intimate partners, thus becoming victims of intimate partner killings themselves.

“Women worried about their safety as Namibian citizens, as they felt that the communities in which they live were no longer safe, and that policymakers were not doing enough to protect them from perpetrators of GBV,” explained Dr Amadihla.

Research participants expressed that the law regarding intimate partner killing perpetrators should be reviewed, suggesting maximum penalties and/or life imprisonment, which could sow fear in communities, and hopefully stop men from committing these killings. Other suggestions to help victims of GBV, included a safe haven for victims and a 24/7 telephone helpline at police stations, dedicated to domestic violence issues.

A long and winding road

For Dr Amadihla, the road to graduation has been a winding one, with several challenges overcome since first registering for her PhD in 2019.

In the past five years, she has, studied throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, had a baby, married and maintained her focus to complete the PhD in good time.

“In order to concentrate and complete my thesis, my two-year-old daughter Bonita, who was only eight months old at the time, went to live with my parents over 800km away; this was a sacrifice that I needed to make for her future and for us as a family.”

Last year, she was dealt a near devastating blow when one of the three thesis examiners failed her on technical edits, which contributed to her missing the cut-off date to graduate and resulting in a requirement to resubmit her thesis.

However, this month, she finally ticked ‘doctoral graduate’ off her bucket list. This year continues to be a celebratory one for the academic and her family, as she plans to celebrate her “white wedding”, in Uupale, her home village, this July.

Then, in October, she is set to cross the graduation stage again, this time to receive her Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education at Namibia’s International University of Management, where she’s worked as a lecturer since 2015.

For all your graduation content across your social media platforms, please use #MandelaUniGrad24. We would love to collate, share and celebrate this amazing achievement with you on official University platforms.

Contact information
Ms Lyndall Sa Joe-Derrocks
Publications Practitioner
Tel: 27 41 504 2159