Gender-based violence still rampant during lockdown, NGOs say

Organisations that assist gender-based violence victims say they have seen a spike in the number of calls received since the lockdown started.
Organisations that assist gender-based violence victims say they have seen a spike in the number of calls received since the lockdown started.
Image: 123RF / nito500

The police may have reported a significant decrease in domestic violence-related crimes during the national lockdown, but activists and non-governmental organisations supporting victims of abuse are painting a worrying picture.

LifeLine, a non-profit organisation that provides telephonic crisis support to people in distress, including victims of gender-based violence, said it has seen a spike in the number of calls received since the lockdown started.

LifeLine manager Nomsa Papale said, however, some were also from people suffering from anxiety and depression.

"In the calendar year 2019 LifeLine received 81,431 calls, and to put the spike of the lockdown into perspective LifeLine has received 79,325 calls just in April of this year.

"In April last year, there were 4,254 calls, so the lockdown has put immense pressure into the system. "In some instances people call to get information about Covid-19 because they don't know what to do and where to go," she said.

Ngaa Murombedzi, of Women and Men Against Child Abuse, said it had seen an increase in the number of cases related to gender-based violence. "Our services are limited though, because we cannot activate teams to go to the victims' area and take them to places of safety.

"But in some instances, it's becoming a balancing act where victims are asking themselves if they will have a place to sleep and food to eat if they report their attackers."

Themba Masango, of #NotInMyName, an anti-gender--based violence organisation, said it had received about 370 calls from victims under attack from their partners since the lockdown began.

"Things are getting worse because people are highly stressed out right now because some of them are losing their jobs and there isn't enough money in the household to keep them afloat. So, things have gotten violent.

"We provide counselling to victims and try to take them to places of safety. But it's difficult now because most of them are either full or are closed.."

Beer brand, Carling Black Label, has created a WhatsApp line victims can send messages for help without calling and making their abusers aware.

Brand director Arne Rust said it gives victims of abuse, who could be men or women, a way to get counselling silently.

"It also puts men who are struggling. in touch with a mentor, someone to talk to, so that they can start on the journey to be champion men. "People can send the word BRAVE to 0800-150-150 and get in touch with the right organisation to get the help they need."

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