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8 steps victims of gender-based violence can take when under threat

These emergency contacts can help you break the chain of abuse

The National Shelter Movement of SA can help you find your nearest shelter.
The National Shelter Movement of SA can help you find your nearest shelter.
Image: 123RF/Artit Oubkaew

The abuse of SA women, children and the LGBTQI+ community continues as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic. Tragically, incidences of gender-based violence (GBV) have escalated alarmingly, due to imposed lockdowns that are meant to control the spread of the virus — prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to refer to GBV as a second pandemic.

While the government is in the throes of processing three bills aimed at fighting GBV, namely the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, Criminal Law (sexual offences and related matters) Amendment Act, and Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the National Shelter Movement of SA, a beneficiary of the Solidarity Fund’s GBV response programme, gives advice on steps victims of GBV can take when under threat.

Step 1 — Be prepared

Have emergency numbers saved in your phone or written on a piece of paper. Important numbers include:

National GBV Command Centre: Call 080-042-8428. If you are unable to speak, you can send a “Please Call Me” to *120*7867# or SMS “help” to 31531.

Rape Crisis: This organisation gives you access to the Thuthuzela Care Centres, led by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Afrikaans: +27 (0) 21-633-9229
isiXhosa: + 27 (0) 21-361-9085
English: +27 (0) 21-447-9762
WhatsApp: +27 (0) 83-222-5164

The National Shelter Movement of SA can also help you find a shelter nearest to where you are, as well as medical assistance.

Step 2: Reach out

You can reach out to people you trust and create a WhatsApp group in case of emergencies. Give the group a “safe” name, so that it does not raise suspicion should the abuser access your phone. If you send a help text, make sure to delete it afterwards.

Step 3: Signal for help

It is always a good idea to tell a neighbour or someone who lives close to you about your domestic conditions and the threat of GBV you live under. Talk to them about developing a signal that will alert them should you be in distress or need immediate help. Signals could include tying a piece of material around a fence or a tree, or flashing a light in one of the rooms. If you have children old enough to understand, discuss this plan with them too.

Step 4: Delete searches or requests for help

Delete your internet browsing history and texts sent asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately, in case the abuser hits redial.

Step 5: Plan to leave 

Pack a bag for you (and the children for those who are in this situation with children). Include documents such as your ID, passport, birth certificates, marriage certificate, protection order and so on. Other items such as chronic medication, money and other necessities should also be included in the emergency bag. Keep the bag safe and easily accessible.

Step 6: Legally speaking 

Have photographs of your documents on your phone. Keep a record of the abuse, noting dates, events and threats made, as well as pictures of physical abuse that will serve as evidence.

Step 7: Leave

Wait until the abuser is preoccupied, sleeping or away from the home. If they are around, make an excuse to go out immediately. Only do this if it’s safe to do so.

Step 8: Stay safe

Get in touch with the police to officially start the legal process. While this is still in process, applying for a protection order is necessary to prevent the perpetrator from having access to you. Shelters and GBV organisations are equipped to assist with this.

This article was paid for by the Solidarity Fund.