The Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) continues to provide support for victims of abuse during the lockdown.
“While our country is in a period of lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, for some, isolating at home presents additional risks.
Sadly, women and children who suffer at the hands of an abuser are required to stay at home and are unable to safely call for help undetected,” said Minister Sharna Fernandez.
Minister Fernandez continued that “during the first two weeks of the national lockdown, there have been 12 more cases referred to the provincial department, by the national call centre, compared to the total number of cases referred to us during the first three months of the year. This is a serious cause for concern.”
Between the 1st of January and the 26th of March 2020, the national call centre referred 29 cases of gender-based violence to the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape.
Between the 27th of March and the 14th of April 2020, the national call centre referred 41 cases to the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape.
DSD continues to offer trauma counselling services for women and children, aimed at treating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional blunting and desensitisation to violence.
What other support is available to victims of abuse through the Department of Social Development:
The department's Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP), renders services to victims of crime and violence, through the provision of shelter services and psychosocial support.
- Four shelters have been identified as Stage 1 shelters to admit at-risk victims of crime and violence. This will happen following a referral from a social worker with safety risk assessment, or a SAPS referral.
- After the initial 14 days, clients will be transferred from a Stage 1 shelter to a Stage 2 shelter with the assistance of SAPS.
Stage 2 shelter accommodation
- After the initial 14 days, victims will be transferred to a stage 2 shelter.
- Stage 2 shelters may not admit new intakes directly except new victims who are referred by stage 1 shelters and have completed their 14-day stay.
- The Provincial Department of Health assists with medical screening and medical needs of victims.
Funded Social Service organisations
- All social workers of funded social service organisations are on stand-by to provide psychosocial support services to victims of crime and violence.
- Psychosocial support continues at Thuthuzela Care Centres.
How women and children can stay safe during the lockdown:
The Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WSM) has provided the following advice for developing a personalised and practical safety plan.
While every situation is unique, these steps are meant to help you think of actions that work for your own situation:
- Be prepared: Have emergency helpline numbers/numbers of organisations at hand (such as those listed below).
- Reaching out: Do you have a friend, colleague, family member or local organization that you trust and can call on for support/help? If so, make contact with that trusted person/organisation and let them know that you may need help during this time. Secure their support to do so. If they are not comfortable, reach out to others. Delete the WhatsApp/SMS if the abuser regularly accesses or has access to your phone.
- Signaling for help: Create a code word with your trust person/group so that people are aware when you are needing help. If you have children, and they are old enough to understand, discuss this plan with them too.
- Planning to leave: Pack a bag. If you have children, include items for them too. Items to pack include your documents (ID, Passport, Children’s Birth Certificates, marriage certificate, protection order etc), medication, spare cellphone if you have one, money/bank cards, change of clothing, toiletries, small toys/teddy bear for children and anything else that is important to you.
- Legally speaking: Ensure that you have copies or have taken photographs on your phone of any important documents in case you are not able to get hold of the documents before you leave. This includes a protection order if you have one.
- Leaving: Know ahead of time where you want to go to. This could be to a friend or family member’s house (but, let them know beforehand, if possible), a shelter, a hospital or a police station. Police officers can refer you to shelter too. If you cannot leave on your own, please contact any of the help numbers for assistance.
- Staying safe: Apply for a protection order if you don’t have one already. Shelters can assist as well as organisations like Mosaic. Magistrates courts also remain open during this time
Should you suspect any incidences of abuse and/or human trafficking, you may also report it by contacting:
- Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement: 082 903 8739
- Gender-Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428
- Email: SD.CustomerCare@westerncape.gov.za
- Police: 10111
- Childline: 0861 322 322
- South African National Human Trafficking Hotline: 0800 222 777
- Child Welfare SA: 0861 424 453