Lawyers Against Abuse

South Africa is experiencing epidemic levels of gender-based violence, GBV, and victims and survivors of GBV are being grossly violated by the system designed to protect them. Lawyers Against Abuse, LvA works to create systemic change to prevent abuse, protect victims and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. To achieve this, LvA is on a mission to empower victims with direct legal representation; to encourage victims to claim their rights; to catalyse improved system response through targeted impact education; and to support and respect the rights of victims in the process.
May 23, 2016

Marching in Solidarity against Sexual Violence

Diepsloot marching against sexual violence
Diepsloot marching against sexual violence

On 22 April, LvA proudly joined a diverse group of civil society and community members for a march against sexual violence and substance abuse in Diepsloot. The march was the first of its kind in the community as it joined together local NGOs, government agencies, and police officials to raise awareness about gender-based violence (GBV). In all, over 70 stakeholders and 200 community members participated in the event. 

The march began in Ext. 1, one of the most informal and violent areas of Diepsloot, and culminated at a major taxi rank in Ext. 11, recently identified by the police as a “rape hotspot.” Here, LvA, along with our partner organisations, SADAG and Sonke Gender Justice, and the Diepsloot SAPS Station Commander shared information about available services for GBV victims, encouraging victims to report crimes and community members to speak out against sexual violence. 

Accompanied by police vehicles, LvA staff and other service providers were able to engage with community members without worrying about safety concerns. Still, despite the buffer of uniformed officers and police vehicles, marchers were still whistled at and catcalled, signifying the extreme levels of street harassment the women and girls of Diepsloot face every day. 

Reflecting on her experience, LvA staff attorney, Rethabile Mosese, shared the following:

It was heartening to march alongside other black women of this community, both young and old, lending my voice to their unrelenting strength and determination.Yet, as I climbed into my taxi at the end of the day and left the multitude of shacks haphazardly piled upon one another behind, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was encouraged by the SAPS commitment to fighting gender-based violence in Diepsloot and yet, wondered whether a rape survivor has ‘real’ access to these resources. Would a van be able to snake its way through these unmarked streets to find her? Would a van even be available to come at all? Would her neighbours come to her aid as she waits?”

These are just a few of the very real challenges victims of sexual violence face every day in Diepsloot. LvA works hard to ensure that she does not have to face these challenges alone. Won’t you join us? 

NGOs join together against sexual violence
NGOs join together against sexual violence

Links:

Feb 22, 2016

Knowledge is Power

LvA
LvA's first school workshop in Diepsloot

On a February morning, a class of 60 students in grade 8 piled into a small classroom at a Diepsloot high school for LvA’s first workshop on Managing Sexual Violence. As the students gradually quieted down, LvA shared a fictional story about a boy named Tebogo who was sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend whom they lived with. For many in the classroom, the story of sexual abuse by someone close to them hit home.

Diepsloot is known as one of the most violent communities within South Africa, with shockingly high levels of domestic and sexual violence. Since July 2014, LvA has been working in Diepsloot to address the high prevalence of domestic and sexual violence, mostly by working with individual victims and state actors. However, in late 2015, LvA began working in local schools to respond to the huge need to empower and educate younger generations on preventing, identifying, and reporting sexual violence and abuse.

Already in the month of February, LvA has conducted workshops for over 660 students to provide a broad understanding of gender-based violence and debunk misunderstandings and myths about sex, sexuality, and what constitutes appropriate behavior. As part of the workshop, students are invited to anonymously write questions on small cards for LvA to answer. While some students had questions about harassment or why abuse happens, most questions dealt with serious situations of abuse by family members and peers and where the student could go for help. As part of the workshop series, LvA’s facilitators explained to students how to handle these situations, acknowledging the often harsh realities in which they live. But most importantly, they informed students about LvA’s nearby Legal Services Centre, where they could always go for help if needed.

This first series of school workshops were a powerful confirmation of the prevalence of sexual violence and abuse in Diepsloot and is just the beginning of LvA’s work to engage more broadly with the community to end violence against women and children.

LvA will be conducting workshops at a primary school in Diepsloot during March and April, with three more schools scheduled for later this year. Based on lessons learned from our first series of workshops, LvA will conduct workshops with teachers, prior to engaging with students, to ensure teachers are prepared to properly respond to anticipated subsequent disclosures by students. With our workshops, we hope that sharing knowledge about sexual violence and abuse empowers students and their teachers to not only properly handle these situation, but to prevent them in the future. 

LvA
LvA's school workshop in Diepsloot

Links:

Dec 1, 2015

Four Years in the Making

LvA
LvA's Diepsloot Legal Services Centre

Ever since its founding in 2011, LvA has dreamed of opening its own community-based legal services centre. In mid-October, this dream finally came to fruition! We at LvA are proud to announce that the Diepsloot Legal Services Centre is officially open! Over thirty people joined us to celebrate the Centre’s grand opening, including representatives from the Diepsloot police and fire departments, local partner organisations and clinic members, and long-time LvA supporters. 

The opening of this new Centre means that victims of gender-based violence in Diepsloot finally have a safe space to come and receive legal and psycho-social support. With private rooms for legal consults as well as individual therapy sessions, clients are now able to share their stories with LvA’s staff attorneys and psychologist in a way that better respects their dignity and privacy. A large conference room is also a welcome addition to LvA’s workspace and is already being used to facilitate larger group therapy sessions, as well as to empower young women through LvA’s on-going Sexual Violence Workshop Series (to learn more about this workshop series, check out our April 2015 Global Giving report “Finding a Voice”).

Locating the Centre just one block from the Diepsloot police station was strategically planned to best suit our clients’ needs. Previously, LvA’s office was 2.5km from the police station, requiring clients to pay for transport or spend a significant amount of time walking, often with young children, between both locations to seek assistance.  Now, victims referred to LvA by the police can easily access LvA’s services. The proximity to the police station is particularly beneficial for LvA’s criminal casework, allowing staff attorneys to accompany clients to the police station to open cases of sexual violence and domestic violence. The new location also better facilitates LvA’s follow up with Investigating Officers at the police station to ensure our clients’ cases are being handled properly. Additionally, the Centre is next door to a small health clinic and a counselling centre run by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). SADAG works with victims of sexual and domestic violence, making the site an ideal location for referrals.

The opening of LvA’s Diepsloot Legal Service Centre marks a huge milestone in the campaign to bring justice to victims of gender-based violence in South Africa. As LvA’s Head of Legal and Operations, Lindsay Henson, explained, “The extremely high prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in South Africa is a sad reality, but we at LvA refuse to simply sit back and accept it. LvA’s mission is to create a South Africa in which victims of domestic and sexual violence have access to holistic legal and psycho-social services and to an effective justice system that respects their dignity.” LvA’s new community-based Legal Service Centre is a powerful step towards the realization of that vision and towards a brighter future for South Africa.

The client waiting area
The client waiting area
Private room for legal consults
Private room for legal consults
Aerial view of the Centre
Aerial view of the Centre
Private room for individual therapy
Private room for individual therapy
A dream realized
A dream realized

Links:

 

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