The scale of gender-based violence – including rape and physical assaults on women – in the Central Karoo is alarming, said Marinda Lottering, workshop-facilitator of 1000 Women Trust.
Lottering said she facilitated work shops and #HearMeToo-sessions in Beaufort-West and Laingsburg at the end of the first week in July and during the past three days.
In Beaufort-West, she spoke to community leaders, including members of the Department of Social Work as well as other stake-holders like the police in a board-room of the DSD. She separately addressed a number of women at a shelter in Beaufort-West. In all, 46 people attended the awareness sessions regarding gender-based violence, #HearMeToo-sessions and trauma training.
In Laingsburg, she spoke to 25 people, including community leaders and abused women.
“I did some ice breakers as an introduction to the sessions and asked them to identify themselves and then share why they were there.
“Many shared the accounts of how they were abused. Some also said they previously had suicidal thoughts. Some of the people acknowledged that they did not want to acknowledge to others that they were abused, because of their public profile.
“As an economically independent person, some never publicly sought assistance, until I visited the Central-Karoo as a 1000 Women Trust facilitator,” she said.
A common theme during the #HearMeToo-sessions was that community members complained bitterly that the South African Police Service did not assist them when they reported abuse or rape at the stations. Some of the police stations did not have trauma rooms for women who were subjected to abuse.
Asked whether the churches in the Central-Karoo offered support to NGOs and civil society to address gender-based violence, Lottering said: “No, when the church is approached because some of the members of the church board is implicated in gender-based violence, they try to cover up the offenses.
“And I spoke to other church members about it. Their reaction is that this problem (gender-based violence) has been with us since Biblical times, and that I won’t be able to change a thing.
“I have had more success outside the church in addressing gender-based violence, than inside the church.”
One of the most alarming aspect of the sessions in the Central-Karoo, is that even senior police officers do not understand the protection order and its essence.
“I had social workers complaining to me, that they have asked the police officers to issue protection orders to men who are abusing their wives, and these officers just refuse to do it.
“I have also spoken to police members who are not aware of what their role is when confronted with a woman who reported gender-based violence when she had a few drinks too many. Rather than sending her home, they must keep her there overnight and take her statement when she is fully sober again, but the police fail to understand this important procedure.”
Lottering said she received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both communities and was requested to return to the Central-Karoo during women’s month.
“All the people said that I succeeded in connecting with them, that I conveyed the trauma training message loud and clear and that I engaged with them in a way that allowed them to share their personal trauma openly and without fear. That is why the communities wanted me to return as a representative of 1000 Women Trust,” said Lottering.
The 1000 Women Trust is a registered trust focusing on fundraising and creating awareness for domestic and gender-based violence and abuse. We believe that if women have access to knowledge, skills and resources, they will find their own solutions to combat violence against women and girls.
The #HearMeToo-sessions all over South Africa is of vital importance and helps women to share their stories about abuse and gender-based violence.
Women who want to connect with 1000 Women Trust, can reach them on the website on www.1000women.co.za, or contact Tina Thiart, the trustee and co-founder of 1000 Women Trust, on Whatsapp on 073-2079079