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Covid-19 | Organisations helping the abused struggle to reach survivors

Members of organisations dealing with GBV said the lockdown has built a wall between survivors and the organisations that can assist them. File image.
Members of organisations dealing with GBV said the lockdown has built a wall between survivors and the organisations that can assist them. File image.
Image: Alon Skuy

Organisations dealing with gender-based violence (GBV) have said they are being forced to find new ways to respond to complaints during lockdown.

Siyabulela Monakali, Ilitha Labantu's spokesperson, said lockdown has placed them in a peculiar position due to the limitations as many survivors are not able to receive adequate support.

He said the government, in its introduction of lockdown regulations, did not properly think through the consequences for victims and survivors who are forced to stay at home with their abusers.

“In many cases, it is the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector that addresses these matters, and in doing so require a network of partners like the courts (for protection orders), the police, other NGOs, essential services providers and so on.

“If this chain is interrupted it becomes problematic because we do not operate alone. It is a network of services,” Monakali said.

He said they were aware the lockdown is “filled with heightened stress and anxiety, particularly in the household environment in which we all find ourselves. However, regardless of the difficulty this period may present,  no one has any right to misuse their powers and inflict pain on others".

Since lockdown, his organisation received about 24 new cases.

"Our social workers have had to come up with creative ways to deal with clients through telephonic counselling and the use of Whatsapp," he said.

Bafana Khumalo, co-founder and acting co-director of Sonke Gender Justice, said a lot was needed to properly respond to survivors.

“In my experience, not a lot is done when survivors call the police. We are usually the first people they call, but now we have no capacity to receive calls and place survivors at centres.

“This opens up a conversation about removing the perpetrator instead of the abused person having to find a refuge. Shelters are not a good place for children. What if the person running away is a parent with children?” Khumalo said.

Jeanette Sera, social worker at People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa), emphasised that their shelters remain open during lockdown.

“If a woman needs a place of safety during this time, we can accommodate them. Even though us not being an essential service has reduced our ability to respond, we rely on police to take the women out,” she said.

Since the commencement of the emergency lockdown, she said she had received only one request from a woman seeking a place of safety.

“Not a lot of people have asked for placement. Maybe it’s not safe to risk it since they are stuck together for the remainder of the period.” Sera said.

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