October 23, 2022

Respite and Empowerment for Victims of GBV

Respite and Empowerment for Victims of GBV

Community Chest Durban supports Phoenix Child Welfare and one of its undertakings is a shelter for abused women and children. Fadeela Deedat from Community Chest spoke to director Aroona Chetty to get a better understanding of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the challenges they currently face.

1.  What are some of the statistics regarding GBV?

Between 2020 and 2021, 2 655 women were murdered in South Africa. That is 7 women murdered every day and 1 murder every 3 hours. This is an increase of 4.2% in crime against women.

Research shows that 1 in 4 women will be physically and verbally abused by her partner during her lifetime.

2.  What is Sahara Shelter and what services do you offer?

The Sahara Shelter operates under the same values of the SA Constitution – equality, human dignity, human rights, and freedom. Based in Phoenix, the Sahara Shelter is an initiative of Phoenix Child Welfare and was established in September 1994 based on the needs of the community.

This healing centre is a registered NPO and is open24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was set up with the financial assistance of the Community Chest and the fundraising efforts of Phoenix Child Welfare and continues to be supported by both.

At present the shelter can accommodate 22 women and children and admission to the shelter is via SAPS and Welfare Services. We offer the following services:

  • A safe place to stay, food, clothing, and toiletries as most of the women and children arrive with nothing.
  • Supportive counseling by an on-site social worker.
  • Intake and care plan was drawn up together with the client.
  • Education on Women’s Rights and responsibilities.
  • Reunification services with their families.
  • Obtaining a Protection Order and referrals to hospitals, clinics, the Department of Justice, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), and other services.
  • Skills training and empowerment workshops which can be used in the future to generate an income and become financially independent. Some of the skills offered are cooking baking, beadwork, candle making, sewing, computer skills, etc.
  • Transport children to school so that there is no disruption to their schooling
  • Training of volunteers to assist in skills development.

3.  Educate us on some of the Facts about Gender-based violence?

Domestic violence is physical or emotional abuse directed at partners, siblings, children, or elders.

  • Whether a man supports you financially, he does not have the right to abuse or control you.
  • It is very important to report any form of GBV to get help. Do not suffer in silence.
  • You cannot take responsibility for someone else’s behaviour. All women and men have equal rights.
  • No child needs to grow up in a violent and abusive environment.

4.  There are so many women and children experiencing violence, yet they are afraid to talk about it. Why?

Fear is the number one reason why victims do not speak about it but there are many more reasons – loyalty, embarrassment, self-blame… I just want to highlight that if you're dealing with the violence in your home, remember you're not alone. Abusive behavior affects every neighborhood, ethnic background, and economic class. No family is immune, but no family should be traumatised by violence.

Violence in the home harms members of the family as well as the community. Children are especially vulnerable. When they see violent behavior between family members, or when they're abused themselves, they may grow up to be abusive to their partners or children. As parents it's our responsibility to prevent family violence and this cycle of abuse.

5.  What are the different barriers to disclosure?

  • Fear of being removed from their home.
  • Rejection by the rest of the family or the abuser.
  • Fear of the police –would they be justified in reporting it?
  • Attachment to the abuser and not wanting them criticised.
  • Admitting that a family is dysfunctional or engaging in inappropriate behaviour.
  • Language barrier or mental instability makes a victim unable to tell her story.
  • Low self-esteem and they feel like they are to blame for the abuse or neglect.
  • Acceptance of abuse as normal because of a lifetime of exposure to abuse or violence.
  • Social isolation in that the victims have no access to or contact with the outside world.

6.  There are many forms of violence, can you tell us about the different types?

There are many forms of violence, namely…

  • Physical - inflict physical injury
    Examples: grabbing, pinching, slapping, hitting, biting, arm-twisting, kicking, punching, hitting with blunt objects, stabbing, shooting. Withholding access to resources necessary to maintain health example: medication, medical care, wheelchair, food or fluids, sleep, and hygienic assistance. Forcing alcohol or other drug use.
  • Sexual – rape or any sexual contact without consent
    Examples: marital rape, acquaintance rape, forced sex after a physical beating, attacks. Dowry-related violence, female genital mutilation, and other traditional practices harmful to women. Trafficking in women and forced prostitution
  • Psychological - instilling or attempting to instill fear
    Examples: threatening physical harm to self, and others, threatening to harm and/or kidnap children, blackmail, harassment, destruction of pets and property, mind games, stalking.

    Isolating victim from friends, family, school, and/or work, for example, withholding access to phone and/or transportation, undermining victim's personal relationships, harassing others, constant ‘checking up’, use of unfounded accusations.
  • Emotional - Undermining the victim’s sense of worth.
    Examples: constant criticism, belittling the victim's abilities and competency, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, inducing guilt, and repeatedly making and breaking promises.
  • Economical – The perpetrator attempts to make the victim financially dependent
    Examples: maintaining total control over financial resources including the victim's earned income or resources like Grants received through social security, withholding money and/or access to money, forbidding attendance at school, forbidding employment, on-the-job harassment, requiring accountability and justification for all money spent.

7.  Why do you think that so many people who witness violence and abuse refuse to get involved?

  • They do not want to interfere in what they consider to be a family matter.
  • They simply do not want to get involved.
  •  The reluctant to be drawn into a case where they may be called to be a witness.
  • They may believe that the police can or will do nothing.
  • They are afraid of the abuser and the fear and retaliation after reporting the abuse.
  • They may also feel that they will make the situation worse.
  • They may not trust the legal system to work in their favour in solving the abusive situation.
  • Fear of accusing the suspected abuser and later being sued.
  • They are concerned about breaching confidentiality and trust.

8.  What can we do?

  • Challenge gender stereotypes and roles, e.g., women belong in the kitchen and home.
  • Normalise speaking out about violence against women and children.
  • Share helpful information and support causes near you
  • Challenge sexist jokes and remarks about women. Challenge and denounce cultural practices that perpetuate gender inequalities.
  • Do not engage in abusive activities. Do not become an abuser. Break the cycle.
  • Seek personal help to change harmful behaviours such as alcohol and substance abuse.
  • Teach children to value gender equality.
  • Protect children from exposure to violence and harmful content on the internet and social media, including pornography, and sexual solicitation.
  • Facilitate the removal of the victim to a hospital in case of injury or to a shelter.

9.  What does the law say?

Act Section 25 states that any person who suspects that a person is been abused should report it to a Social Worker. I think reporting is very important and nowadays it can be reported anonymously.

10. What can people do if a person is unwilling to accept help?

  • Offer continued support and provide assistance.
  • Advise them that legal intervention may be necessary where a criminal offense was committed, or the victim’s life is in danger.
  • Encourage them to keep records and write down all details of the abuse. Report it to the police station in the form of an affidavit without opening a case if they don’t want to do so.
  • Encourage them to have a bag packed and ready with necessities and even some money so that if the need arises for them to flee from the abuser, then they will be able to do so asap and find help.

11. What can we do to help a victim who is willing to be helped?

  • Establish the needs of the client.
  • Provide them with information about abuse and arrange counseling where possible
  • Arrange support services e.g., meals on wheels, assistance with shopping, and transport.
  • Encourage activities and contact outside the home situation.
  • Educate them on legal steps that can be taken and encourage them to open a case.

To conclude, I would like to leave this message for the victims of domestic violence…

Your life matters

You can’t change the way someone treats you, but you can change the way you react to it. Dig deep inside for the inner strength to break free from this abuse. You deserve better. You don’t always need a plan, but you do need courage and to trust in yourself. You can do this. Break the cycle, speak up and get help. Become a survivor.

Community Chest Durban supports Phoenix Child Welfare and one of its undertakings is a shelter for abused women and children. Fadeela Deedat from Community Chest spoke to director Aroona Chetty to get a better understanding of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the challenges they currently face.

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