Youth highly affected by gender-based violence

The Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre team held their annual 16 Days of Activism campaign, in Town Centre CBD on Thursday November 25.

The Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre held their commemoration of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, in Town Centre CBD on Thursday November 25.

The organisation started the launch with a march from the Beaconvale Frail Care Centre and walked the streets of Beacon Valley.

Master of ceremonies, Dietmar Lentjies in theTown Centre on Thursday November 25, raising awareness on gender-based violence with the Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre.

The group stopped at Mizpah Educare Centre in Beacon Valley. The children sang a song about being conscious of how special their bodies are and that no person should invade their space or touch their bodies. The event closed off at the podium in the Town Centre.

The group stopped at Mizpah Educare Centre in Beacon Valley. The children sang a song about being conscious of how special their bodies are and that no person should invade their space or touch their bodies.

Director of the Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre in Beacon Valley, Rochelle Philander, said referrals to their services have increased considerably, specifically, cases of teenagers engaging in sexual relationships.

“Across our work of origin, social workers render counselling services to teenagers identified and referred with this behaviour to almost 20% of their caseload, which is approximately 35 to 40 cases per case manager. In particular many of these teenage girls are engaging in sexual activities with older men,” she said.

Ms Philander said worryingly cases of incest have been on the rise.

Community leader and walking bus member, Tina McDonald, at the walk on Thursday November 25 with her placard.

“Cases of incest have always been on the increase, however I’m of the opinion that Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated horrific occurrences. Biological family members, namely, biological fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, step-father, siblings as well as the boyfriends or partners of mothers are sexually abusing women and children,” she said.

“We find families wanting to withdraw cases as most times the suspect is the breadwinner or the carer is financially dependent on the alleged perpetrator,” Ms Philander said.

Another very disturbing reason, she said, is that families would rather hide the matter due to shame and embarrassment instead of reporting or encouraging children to speak out. She said 80% of cases of this nature are registered in their individual therapeutic programme.

Safeline have been doing telephonic counselling with clients during the Covid-19 pandemic but since lockdown levels have been eased they are back to conducting face-to-face counselling, she said.

The Safeline team walking down Imperial Street with their placards saying no to gender-based violence.

“Covid-19 has been really challenging for our women and children. We know some of our clients’ home environments are of such a nature that privacy and confidentiality are not always possible to uphold. It is especially challenging for those families who are backyard dwellers or live in very confined spaces within their homes. Hence telephonic counselling can be a challenging process at times,” she said.

Another issue of concern is the referrals of children who are identified with problem sexual behaviour.

Ms Philander said Safeline has always received referrals from teachers regarding this type of child. However, during the pandemic it has been assessed that more and more children as young as 4 have been presenting with this type of behaviour. She said the Safeline team have been counselling children as young as 7 who are sexually molesting other children as young as 4.

“The root cause of this behaviour is not always due to the fact that the child has experienced sexual abuse – children in our communities suffer trauma of various natures: gang violence, domestic violence, substance abuse,” she said.

Covid-19 has also robbed many families from loved ones.

“Our communities are suffering emotional and mental trauma. Families are encouraged to empower themselves in identifying when a child presents with this behaviour and then to support the child in the necessary steps for counselling and in severe cases to report the incidents to the Department of Social Development,” said Ms Philander.

“As communities, we need to stand together to disclose and report any form of abuse identified in our communities. The more parents and guardians come forward and report sexual offences, the greater the fight against gender-based violence,” she said.

Due to Covid-19, life at schools has changed somewhat. Teachers have a more challenging job in terms of completing the academic curriculum.

“This in my opinion has affected the youth. Part-time schooling has created enormous challenges in terms of the child’s life-skill development.

“More conversations are needed between young people and adults during this Covid-19 period focusing on healthy relationships and boundaries. This conversation should take place within the child’s home environment as well as within the pupil’s academic environment,” said Ms Philander.

Gender-based violence activist, Shaundré Lottering of Warriors for Change non-profit company, said they are running their Break the Silence campaign.

Shaundré was brutally gang-raped in 2011.

Gender-based violence activist, Shaundré Lottering of Warriors for Change non-profit company.

She was in a rehabilitation centre for being addicted to drugs; it was at that centre when she broke her silence and shared her story in 2015, she said.

“When I broke my silence, it felt like a weight was lifted. I still live in fear of telling my story. Police refused to take my case at a police station as it is gang-related. There is no justice for us, however, there is recovery and healing but people need to learn to speak out,” said Ms Lottering.

Portland poet Lindsay “Maam Madamme” Hendricks rendered poems Masters Plan, Devious and Cape Flats all speaking to social ills and messages of motivation.

Portland poet Lindsay “Maam Madamme” renders poems speaking to social ills and messages of motivation.

“The words are not for me, it’s for the community. I’ll be collaborating with Safeline for the duration of the 16 Days campaign. I will be creating 16 poems for 16 Days of Activism. I see how hard this team works, we should continue to support them,” she said.

Beacon Valley resident Samuel Lotterens said violence against women and children is unacceptable. The systems of SAPS need to be improved to help those in need.

“SAPS are not fully trained to handle these cases yet. I want them to improve this service to fight gender-based violence,” he said.

Mitchell’s Plain SAPS spokesperson, Captain Ian Williams, said this year Mitchell’s Plain SAPS’ 16 Days of Activism campaign includes all local stakeholders, emphasising the message that services are available to assist victims.

Safeline is based in Beacon Valley and at Beaconvale Frail Care Centre. They allow walk-ins at their offices. For more information, follow their Facebook page, call their toll-free number 0800 035 553 or visit their office at 32 Glider Street, Beacon Valley.