The first results of our biggest Female Nation Survey ever are in and the findings are sobering. 

W24 recently conducted our sixth and biggest Female Nation Survey ever, with just under 16 000 South African women polled. In our She Says Survey, we asked local women to tell us about their lives: everything from their living arrangements to their spending habits; from their greatest hopes to their most secret fears. 

More than half of the total female respondents surveyed chose to identify with the statement: I am a positive person.

The entries streamed in from across all provinces, races, income brackets and ages, although only women over the age of 18 were allowed to enter and the number of respondents over 65 was slightly too low to be statistically significant. About 500 men also partook as did another 171 people who identified as non-binary. 

READ MORE: Less than half of SA women are happy with their sex lives

Here's what else we discovered.

More than half of the total female respondents surveyed chose to identify with the statement: I am a positive person, even though 41% admitted to often feeling anxious and more than 1 in 4 said they are often scared. 

And it looks like they have good reason to be scared and anxious. Of the 16 000 women polled, 1 in 5 have been sexually abused or raped and 1 in 4 have been hit by a man. 

Violence breeds violence it seems as there is a positive correlation and a statistically significant relationship between being hit by a man and being hit by a woman.

This means, of those who have been hit by a man, 15% have been hit by a woman, compared with a total sample percentage of 6%. So if you have been hit by a man, your chances are more than double to have been hit by a woman too. 

Overall though, being hit by a man is far more likely (1 in 4), with just 1 in 17 saying that they’ve been hit by a woman, and only 4% saying that they’ve been hit by both.

There is also a positive correlation and a statistically significant relationship between having experienced sexual abuse or rape, and having been hit by a man. Of those who have been hit by a man, 39% have experienced sexual abuse or rape, compared with a total sample percentage of 20%. Again, nearly double as high.

We have a president who was accused of rape. What message does that send out to young women?

READ MORE: 10 things men should do to make life better for women

Could this be why only a meagre 5% of the women polled said they have faith in the SAPS and an even more shockingly low 3% said they have faith in government? Let’s put that another way to make sense of how low those numbers are: if you were in a room with 32 other women, only 1 of you would have faith in government. 

W24 spoke to student activist, co-founder of Siyakhuluma_Mzansi, and YouTuber, Busi Mjiyakho about this low level of trust in government.

“I personally believe that women have so little faith in the government and the SAPS because the government has prioritised corruption over addressing issues such as inequality, rape culture and education. We have a president who was accused of rape. What message does that send out to young women?”

“I have little faith in SAPS because their response time is usually at least 45 minutes, even in emergency situations, but when we are protesting for our constitutional right to education, they are always there, ready at the blink of an eye, with riot gear. 

“I have also experienced cat calling, sexually suggestive behaviour and creepiness from police officers who were on duty in uniform. I have very little reason to trust SAPS. They are supposed to serve society's interests and protect us, yet they take orders from a government that imitates the apartheid state. 

“It is hard to feel safe when you do not know who you would call if you needed help. Who can protect you from a police officer who is on duty? It is hard to put your faith in a government that is dead set on accumulating wealth for a select few instead of tackling inequality and redistributing wealth, to ensure that we have a prosperous future.”

A surprising and heartening 1 in 3 women overall said they have faith in South Africa’s future and their future in it.

If we compare these numbers to the results of the smaller, male control group we see that the trust in government and SAPS rises, even as the rape and violence experienced decreases. The percentage is almost doubled in male respondents who say they have faith in the SAPS at a still low 9% and more than doubled who have faith in government at 7%.

It’s interesting to note that while the trust in government and police is doubled among men, the instances of rape and abuse is halved as 1 in 10 men polled have been sexually abused or raped compared to 1 in 5 among women. It’s impossible to draw anything stronger than a correlation between these two sets of data, but it is a statistically significant correlation nevertheless.  

Anneke Scheepers, lecturer, columnist and communications practitioner elaborates. “The lack of trust between women and those who are meant to protect them, exists for good reason. Government and the SAPS are unable to protect women. It’s an indictment on the state.”

READ MORE: #MeToo: Women reveal sexual harassment stories with in wake of Harvey Weinstein scandal

And yet, despite these horrifyingly high numbers of abuse across gender, both sexually and physically and the horrifyingly low numbers of trust, a surprising and heartening 1 in 3 women overall said they have faith in South Africa’s future and their future in it. If we break it down by age groups, this number is highest among women 18-22 at 40% and lowest in women 61-65 at 20%.