Women's group saves lives in memory of Valencia Farmer

2015-10-05 11:08
Sylvia Farmer holds a photo of her late daughter Valencia who was murdered in 1999.

Sylvia Farmer holds a photo of her late daughter Valencia who was murdered in 1999. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - The brutal gang-rape and murder of Valencia Farmer 16 years ago is still spoken of with horror in Eerste River.

But a group of women aim to make the slain teenager’s name one which is synonymous with survival and strength for other victims of violence.

Farmer was repeatedly stabbed and her throat was slit in June 1999. She was raped in an abandoned house in Eucalyptus Street. Despite this, she managed to crawl into the street where a neighbour found her.

She later died in Tygerberg Hospital, but was able to identify her attackers.

The murder had a profound effect on Joan Mouton, founder and project co-ordinator of Community Women Action (CWA) - a women's group that was set up in response to Farmer's murder.

Had to do something

Mouton, who is a former nursing sister and church deacon, said she was prompted to set up the organisation because the incident had left her "horrified".

“To think such violence could take place in the community in which I lived horrified me,” she said.

“I knew I had to do something to at least try to make sure that something like this never happened again.”


The shipping container from which the CWA used to work. (Photo supplied)

In 16 years, the organisation went from a handful of housewives feeding the hungry out of a church vestry, then a shipping container and now an accredited skills development and training facility with a special focus on women and youth empowerment.

“I dream of a society where mothers don’t have to rely on partners to survive," said Mouton.

"Women are not weaker than men. We are stronger than you can imagine.”

A thankless job

Mouton closes her eyes when she recalls some of the worst cases of abuse she has heard.

“Nobody is exempt,” she explained.  

“I have seen elderly women who are suffering at the hands of their partners of over 30 years. I have also seen young children who have been through terrible things no one should have to experience.”

CWA refers their clients to government departments or organisations equipped to deal with the individual’s case.

“But we don’t just send them off and cut all ties,” Mouton said.

“When you see someone grow after coming to you for help with tears in their eyes, battered and bruised, a bond is formed that is difficult to break. This is a thankless job, and one of the best thank you’s you can get is to see that the broken person who came here years ago has blossomed into a stronger human being.”

Survivors

The women behind the organisation are “normal people just like you and me”, CWA vice chairperson Violet Mnyimba pointed out.

“But our hearts beat for this community. We see what is wrong and do our best to make it right. Our volunteers may not be skilled, but they are making profound changes to uplift those in need of help,” she said.

Most of the people giving their time to the organisation were once victims themselves, Mnyimba continued.


The facility from which the organisation now works. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

“Every week we have people coming back to our doors who are no longer in need of help. It is amazing to watch them connect with others who are in similar situations to the ones they have endured. They understand what the person is going through.

“It is a blessing to see how they have grown. They are no longer victims. They have become survivors.”

Meanwhile, a man arrested last month for his alleged role in Valencia’s murder will appear in the Blue Down’s Magistrate’s Court on October 16.

Elmario Maasdorp was arrested after a breakthrough in the case, which has already seen three men convicted.

Glenville Faro and Franklyn Roberts received two life sentences each. They failed to get parole this year and will apply again early next year.

Russel van Wyk, who was 16 when he was sentenced in March 2001, was sentenced to 23 years in jail. Both of his parole applications, in 2013 and 2014, were rejected.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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