Not every home is considered to be a place of safety

By Orange the World 

Not every home is considered to be a place of safety- that of security. 

For some women and children who are victims of gender-based violence and child abuse, home is the exact opposite. It is a place where fear lingers, and where the pain is most felt. 

For these women and children, the presidential directive of a countrywide three week lockdown, enforced to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), is a prolonged nightmare.

Zintle Olayi member of #TheTotalShutdown Intersectional Women’s movement against gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide, said victims of domestic violence would be stuck with their abusers for 21 days with no way out and nowhere to go- with the likelihood of an increased amount of violence occurring in the homespace. 

Olayi said contributing factors to increased GBV in the home during this time include: “Being stuck in one place with people causes a lot of discomfort and irritability. Excessive use of alcohol could also contribute to the increased acts of GBV. Frustration and boredom could also increase the act of GBV. Lack of personal space and lack of alone time would also be a factor.”

“I don’t think that there are any tangible solutions to this problem other than removing the perpetrator from that situation and leaving the victim or survivor in peace in their home. I think that it is unfair that in most cases it’s the victim or survivor who is removed from their home and not the perpetrator,” Zintle Olay elaborated further.

Professor Floretta Boonzaier, in the Psychology Department at the University of Cape Town said: “We know that women are most at risk from violence in their homes – intimate partner violence is an issue that is hugely silenced in our context as we often place focus on women violence might be subjected to outside the homes. Intimate partner violence is also quite normalised as men feel it their right to control women partners through various means – including violence. 

For many women who are abused (in many different ways) by their male partners the lockdown will be a nightmare as it will pose a situation in which women will not be able to leave their homes for some reprieve from the violence – as in going to a friend or family member.”

Boonzaier urged neighbors and community members to be more vigilant of these cases and alert to the fact that women might be more vulnerable to GBV at this time and should make a note of the helplines that have been published as well as calling the police when necessary.

Head of the Gender Unit in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University, Professor Juliana Claassens said: “The lockdown most certainly will create a pressure cooker situation in which tensions that already have been festering, may erupt due to the fact that people are cooped up in close quarters. Within such a situation where people are angry and frustrated, it is vital that women know where to get help.

However, victims are not always in the position to report domestic abuse. It is thus also up to the community, to family, to neighbours to speak up and get help.’’ She went on to say;

‘‘These are unprecedented times and there are some difficult days ahead. We are all in this together, and we need to work hard at protecting those most vulnerable among us.”

SHELTERS FOR VICTIMS OF ABUSE REMAIN OPEN

Professor Catherine Ward of the Psychology Department at the University of Cape Town said women and children at home with their abusers are at high risk in this period.  

However she added that interventions and organizations serving victims of GBV continue to serve during this time and are available, should anyone reach out to them for help. 

The Department of Social Development said that services to victims of crime and violence is an essential service and therefore the department along with civic organisations, would continue to provide interventional services in the form of shelter and psychosocial support. 

To access these services, contact the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428. The call centre is operational 24/7 or alternatively, contact their local offices or SAPS. 

The department’s Sharna Fernandez said: “The Department’s local offices remain open, and social workers are available to assist with emergency statutory services which includes victim empowerment, children at high risk, child justice and probation services, services to persons with disabilities, as well as older persons at high risk.”

Police minister Bheki Cele said the police’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit is ready to assist anyone who falls victim to GBV. Cele said during the first week of the 21-day lockdown, police have already received over 87 000 GBV related complaints.

The numbers are as follow:

GBV command centre:  0800 428 428 or *120*7867# (free) Urgent victim response line: 0800 150 150