‘One-stop centre’ for abused

2015-09-01 06:00
Western Cape minister for social development Albert Fritz (left) and Shaheema McLeod, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre, blow out the candles to signify the centre’s 16th anniversary. They also celebrated the launch of the Centre’s Khuseleka m

Western Cape minister for social development Albert Fritz (left) and Shaheema McLeod, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre, blow out the candles to signify the centre’s 16th anniversary. They also celebrated the launch of the Centre’s Khuseleka m

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Putting a stop to the cycle of abuse has been made easier after the launch of the Khuseleka victim empowerment model at the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Athlone.

The model is the first of its kind in the province.

The launch coincided with national Women’s Month and at the same time the month in which the Saartjie Baartman Centre celebrated its 16th anniversary.

The name “Khuseleka” is derived from the Zulu word which means “to be protected”.

Western Cape minister of social development Albert Fritz launched the facility along with other stakeholders, which included police, the Hawks, National Prosecuting Authority, Sassa, Business Against Crime, the Western Cape departments of community safety, education and health as well as the national departments of justice, correctional services and home affairs.

His department has allocated R3.28m to the Khuseleka model for the key objective of providing a 24-hour place of refuge for victims of crime.

“It is a place where women can come who are abused. It is a refuge for women, where she doesn’t know what else to do and she wants to commit suicide. She doesn’t need to commit suicide; she can come here and get every kind of service here and be channelled to other services and that is the important part about this launch,” said Fritz.

One of the centre’s success stories, Rachel Peterson, shared her trials and tribulations with those present at the launch.

“I did not even know about abuse – for me it was growing up with my grandmother and it was like you were the best wife if your husband hit you. If he hits you, he loves you (we were taught),” she said.

Peterson was born and grew up in Kensington before becoming pregnant with her first child while in her final year of school. She then moved to Valhalla Park before getting married, where the cycle of abuse first began to rear its ugly head.

“Many times a challenge in my abused life was when I got to the police station and they would send me back. They would tell me that it was my husband (and not a stranger), that I must go back and I just went back, because they are the police and to me they were right, because I didn’t know my rights. If I knew that time what I know now, maybe I would have only been in an abusive situation for one day!”

Peterson said her children had carried her through the ordeal. She was placed in a safe place and was later employed at the Saartjie Baartman Centre.

Fritz said the Centre had a very special role to play and was a landmark sight for victims of abuse. He envisioned more centres of its nature to be established throughout the Western Cape.

“At the moment we are paying about R43m for all our victim empowerment centres and shelters in about eight samples, but we will continue to fund this in a very proactive and substantial way,” he said.

Fritz stressed that government needed to increase its involvement with these organisations.

“For a long time I have believed that many NGOs, many a time, do render a better service than government and I think the time has really come to look at the model.”

He highlighted the procedural delays NGOs faced when applying to government departments for funding and explained his department was researching a model where social workers working for NGOs got remunerated as their counterparts working in government.

Shaheema McLeod, the Centre’s director, recognised the significance of the launch, while also thanking all the stakeholders.

“As NGOs we have worked together to fight the scourge of violence that plagues our country. With this collaboration, we have the ability to work as a collective to strengthen the referrals protocols with the government departments and eventually through the inclusion of the victim empowerment programme and older person’s abuse register, we will be able to ensure that victims of crime will get the services they need.”

Manenberg police spokesperson Lieutenant Ian Bennett welcomed the launch of the model and explained domestic violence was having a negative effect on communities.

He also said victims had an active role to play in order for the law to run its course effectively.

“The law can’t enforce the protection order without the victim coming forward. The victim must be totally strong so that the law can take its course. It is like a full tank of petrol – it means nothing if you don’t start the car.”

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