‘6 months to stop abuse’

2017-12-05 06:00
Lucy Jamieson and Dorothea Gertse were amongst the panellist. PHOTO: aishah cassiem

Lucy Jamieson and Dorothea Gertse were amongst the panellist. PHOTO: aishah cassiem

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A panel discussion on gender-based violence was held at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Manenberg on Wednesday morning.

It formed part of the centre’s focus on the 16 Days of Activism campaign.

Lucy Jamieson, a senior researcher of UCT’s Children’s Institute, and Dorothea Gertse, head social worker and shelter manager of the Manenberg-based centre, were amongst the panellists. Both called for better methods for early intervention, quicker responses to reports of abuse and stronger partnerships between the organisations involved in child protection.

“Many children in our country experience complex, continuous traumatic stress without adequate support systems to aid recovery. Intergenerational trauma, where parents have themselves been victims of violence, neglect or abuse, reduces the chances of creating an environment that is conducive to recovery for both mother and child,” said Jamieson.

“A study released earlier in the week by the Children’s Institute found that when it comes to violence within the home, the child protection system in South Africa is failing. Practitioners fail to identify children at risk and manage cases poorly. Too few children and families have access to therapeutic care and support.”

Gertse highlighted delays in responding to reports of child abuse.

“It can take up to six months before the authorities intervene and many tragic things can happen in that period. Many of the belief structures around sex, power and relationships must be undone. There needs to be zero tolerance. We work with over 400 women and children every month and the persecutors are often in the family or known to them,” she said.

“Mothers are often victims of abuse themselves, and struggle to protect their children in violence-riddled communities. We see the violent interaction among peers, how they want to hit and threaten each other. They see what their parents are doing.”

Gertse said some women and children were fortunate enough to get to the centre for intervention, but there were many others who did not have access to intervention.

“Even when it comes to perpetrators, there’s no intervention. There will be a case reported and an investigation will follow, but no prosecution. The perpetrator will just go back to doing what they do,” she said.

“This is why women don’t go report and ask why they should, because nothing is done.”

She urged women to make use of civil services and introduced three victims of abuse who managed to turn their lives around through the centre.

“The police suggested I come to the centre for help after reporting my partner’s abuse. I am at the centre for six months and have learned a lot ever since,” said one abuse ­victim.

V For more information call the Saartjie Baartman Centre on 021 633 5287.

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