Over 200 domestic abuse cases a month

Left: The Mitchells Plain Network Opposing Abuse team, from left, are Techiah September, Mareldia Sonday, Dilsha Ishmail, Shahida Abrahams and Maria Marthinus.

To commemorate the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, Mitchell’s Plain Network Opposing Abuse held its annual inter-cultural White Prayer Day at the Beaconvale Frail Care community centre on Wednesday November 23.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign started on Friday November 25 and runs until Saturday December 10.

The network, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, works with trauma victims and aims to empower victims of abuse.

This year they have worked with 4 000 people, excluding awareness and door-to-door campaigns.

The organisation’s lay counsellors provide crisis intervention and debriefing at the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court and assist with applications for Protection Orders and Peace Orders. An experienced social worker at the office also provides trauma counselling and formal debriefing.

Operations manager at the network, Mareldia Sonday, said women should not wait for the 16 Days of Activism campaign take ownership of their well-being and they should not be concerned with what other people think or say.

“We must be truthful and forgive ourselves first because the truth and forgiveness set us free. If we accept the abuse, what are we teaching our children? They will grow up to believe that is the way to go. We need to break the barriers in order for all to enjoy the benefits that life has to offer.

“By allowing the abuse, we deny ourselves and our children a better life.”

She said most of the cases the network dealt with involved women and children, including one case involving a five-year-old girl who was abused and had to go to hospital.

“The girl was so neglected that her Alice band (was attached) to her scalp. She had a five-hour operation to remove it and as a result, had a permanent ‘Alice band scar’. She was granted a bursary for school and documentation was sorted out.

“Another was a 16-year-old who was axed by her stepdad just because he couldn’t get into her panties,” said Ms Sonday.

Her concern is that abuse and violent crimes take place in the presence of the children who are “silent witnesses”.

“Never stop believing and dreaming because it is in the biggest dreams that we can build a brighter tomorrow. Say ‘no’ to abuse. The start to a better future begins with one step in the right direction. Nobody can do it for you. Climbing a mountain is never easy but the view from up there is always spectacular. If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” she said.

An Eastridge woman who had been abused during her 25-year marriage and had been to the network for help, said it was important to stand up against abuse as it could affect you and your children.

She said her husband cheated on her and when he drank alcohol, he verbally, emotionally and mentally abused her.

“He swore at me, (accused me of) cheating when he was the one cheating. He lied, told me I am mad and that I am sleeping around. I couldn’t understand why he treated me like I was nothing, when I cooked, cleaned and looked well after his children.

“Knowing that he was the breadwinner, I knew I couldn’t live with him and decided to take control of my life and take action. I empowered myself at the network, it was a hard period but I came out stronger and a better person,” she said.

According to Mitchell’s Plain police statistics, the station dealt with 230 to 300 reported domestic violence cases a month.

Support co-ordinator Sergeant Miriam Booysen, said they had a dedicated team to assist women and children who were or had been abuse.

“Tafelsig is one of the areas where there is a high volume of domestic violence. It is concerning and the contributing factors are substance abuse, alcohol, unemployment and poverty.

“We encourage people to report cases of abuse, and not withdraw the cases. The cycle of abuse needs to stop,” she said.

Domestic Violence and Victim Support co-ordinator Patrick Mavume said they had a number of programmes running during the 16 Days of Activism campaign. They will be having knock and drops, road blocks and follow-up visits.

At a press conference hosted by Save the Children South Africa, it was revealed that violence against children in South Africa cost the country R238.58 billion last year. A recent study commissioned by the children’s rights organisation found that the long-term effects of emotional, physical and sexual abuse had a direct impact on the country’s economy.

Gugu Ndebele, chief executive officer of Save the Children said infringing on the rights of children had become too costly for the country to ignore. “We were adamant that these findings should be a catalyst for change. This study provided the research we needed to develop high-impact programmes that will drastically reduce violence against children,” said Mr Ndebele.

MEC for Social Development Albert Fritz said the department had prioritised the development and protection of the province’s 1.7 million children and 2.1 million women beyond the 16-day commemorative period.

He said through the Children and Families programme and the Victim Empowerment sub-programme (VEP), the department provided key services to women and children at risk 365 days a year.

Mr Fritz said they receive a combined budget of R654.2 million which was R14 million more from the previous year. “The budget has allowed the department to initiate innovative projects and expand services across the province,” he said.

During this year’s campaign, Mr Fritz will embark on numerous events to mark the 16 days of Activism. There will be events in Mitchell’s Plain with a focus on the role of men and fathers.

Residents can report any cases of abuse of women and children by approaching our social workers at regional or local offices, or by contacting the DSD hotline on 0800 220 250.