Help just a call away for vic­tims of vi­o­lence

Vuk'uzenzele - - Social Development Month - More Mat­shediso

Af­ter re­al­is­ing that peo­ple of­ten feel more at ease to talk about painful sit­u­a­tions in a non-face-to-face set­ting, the Depart­ment of So­cial Devel­op­ment opened a Gen­der-Based Vi­o­lence (GBV) Com­mand Cen­tre.

The com­mand cen­tre opened its doors in Novem­ber 2013 and op­er­ates 24 hours a day and op­er­a­tional all year long help­ing those who are af­fected by gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

In an in­ter­view with Vuk’uzen­zele, the cen­tre man­ager No­math­emba Malvern said the cen­tre ap­pointed a group of pro­fes­sional so­cial work­ers who were trained to as­sist call­ers in need of psy­choso­cial sup­port ser­vices.

Among other ser­vices, the com­mand cen­tre pro­vides im­me­di­ate psy­choso­cial sup­port ser­vices, in­clud­ing counselling and trauma de­brief­ing tele­phon­i­cally.

“We do not of­fer face-to-face counselling ser­vices,” she said.

Hav­ing worked as a So­cial worker for about 30 years, Malvern said ex­pe­ri­ence has taught her that some­times peo­ple find it eas­ier to talk about their sit­u­a­tions when they are not in a face-to-face set­ting.

“When they have to talk faceto-face, they have el­e­ments of fear, em­bar­rass­ment, and self­blame, whereas they are freer over the phone and are able to

open up,” she ex­plained.

More men ask­ing for help

Malvern said it is not only woman who call to ask for help.

“Since last year, we have no­ticed that men are also start­ing to ask for help, and this in­cludes both vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors. The most un­for­tu­nate part of it is that some­times the youth call the cen­tre and prank us. This is un­for­tu­nate be­cause we have to take ev­ery case se­ri­ously be­cause we will not know when they re­ally need help,” she said.

Ini­tially, the cen­tre dealt with cases such as rape and phys­i­cal, emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse, but with the re­cent spate of vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren in the coun­try, more peo­ple have come for­ward to ask for help from the cen­tre.

Over and above cases of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, the cen­tre has re­cently found it­self deal­ing with cases that are not re­lated to GBV, and this has led to more than 1 500 calls be­ing at­tended to per week.

So­cial work­ers at the cen­tre work on 12-hour ro­ta­tional shifts, in a group of 12 so­cial work­ers and two su­per­vi­sors per shift.

Com­mon cases they deal with in­clude do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, rape, abused chil­dren, child ne­glect, sex­ual ha­rass­ment, forced mar­riages, aban­doned chil­dren, forced pros­ti­tu­tion and abor­tion, hu­man traf­fick­ing, ex­ploita­tion of do­mes­tic work­ers, abuse of el­derly, in­cest cases, xeno­pho­bic at­tacks and LGBT (les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der) re­lated is­sues.

Malvern said vic­tims can get up to three ses­sions each. Af­ter that they are re­ferred to a lo­cal so­cial worker near them, any­where in South Africa.

Vic­tims who are des­per­ate for help

In cases of emer­gency where the caller is not safe and is des­per­ate for help, the cen­tre con­nects them to a po­lice sta­tion through 10111, or di­rectly to the near­est po­lice sta­tion, said Malvern.

“All calls are lo­cated, so as soon as a per­son calls we are able to see their ex­act lo­ca­tion at the time of the call and that is what guides us to lo­cate the near­est po­lice sta­tion,” she ex­plained.

“We have given our­selves a time frame of 30 min­utes to check progress af­ter link­ing the vic­tim to a po­lice sta­tion. We first call the vic­tim to check if they re­ceived the nec­es­sary at­ten­tion from the po­lice, and then we call the po­lice sta­tion to check if a ve­hi­cle has been re­leased to help the said vic­tim,” she said.

Malvern said so­cial work­ers at the cen­tre are also able to make re­fer­rals for fur­ther in­ter­ac­tion and in­ter­ven­tion, and re­fer vic­tims to places of safety and shel­ters if nec­es­sary. This is done to help vic­tims avoid ad­di­tional ex­po­sure to vi­o­lence.

“Since last year, we have no­ticed that men are also start­ing to ask for help, and this in­cludes both vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors.”

No­math­emba Malvern leads the team of so­cial work­ers help­ing vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence through the GBV Com­mand Cen­tre.

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