Fear of increased domestic violence

There are fears that cases of domestic violence will increase during the 21-day lockdown.

Dr Zubeda Dangor, head of the executive of the National Shelter Movement NSM and director of the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development, says an unfortunate consequence of the severe Covid-19 measures which had been implemented from midnight on Thursday, is an anticipated increase of gender-based violence rates during this time.

“While the lockdown is a much-needed and proven intervention, it is important that the most vulnerable of our society are not left to fend for themselves.”

Bernadine Bachar, chairperson of the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement and director of the largest shelter in the province, Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, says that shelters have put measures in place to ensure shelter residents’ safety as far as possible.

Ms Bachar adds: “All shelter staff in the Western Cape will also be required to follow the Covid-19 measures, as laid out by the Department of Health, as strictly as possible. Staff are required to wear protective gear, perform ongoing health monitoring, and refer to the Department of Health for health assessment of residents, among other measures.

“But, there are challenges in procuring protective gear. We appeal to the public and corporate sector to please assist their local shelters. Shelters will require collaborative partnerships to ensure victim support services continue during lockdown so any donations are welcome.”

The LifeLine SA Stop Gender Violence National Helpline is available on 0800 150 150. Women in danger can also contact the national Department of Social Development’s Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428. The Call Centre operates 24/7 and is operated by qualified social workers who are responsible for taking calls and making call referrals.

Should you be unable to make a call, dial *120*7867# to contact the centre via a USSD, “Please Call Me” service.

The centre can also be reached via a Skype line, by adding ‘Helpme GBV’ to your Skype contacts. This is particularly useful for members of the deaf community.

Social workers in the Command Centre can also be reached by sending an SMS with the word “Help” to 31531. The centre will be particularly useful during this period of isolation, since they are able to refer calls directly to SAPS (10111) and field social workers, who will respond to victims of gender-based violence. For more details, go to http://gbv.org.za/about-us/.

For anyone wanting more information specifically regarding shelter services for abused women and children, or to request assistance with referrals, or to offer support in any way, you can also contact the provincial representatives of the National Shelter Movement, Bernadine Bachar on 082 903 8739 or Joy Lange on 071 906 3949.