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.
Feb 5, 2017

Connecting Victims to Services

Flyer used to advertise VIMBA app
Flyer used to advertise VIMBA app

In the densely populated informal settlement of Diepsloot, levels of violence against women and girls are extremely high. New research released in late 2016 by Wits University under the Sonke-Wits CHANGE Project revealed that 56% of men in Diepsloot are estimated to have committed either physical or sexual violence, or both, against a woman in the past year. Of those, almost 60% admitted to committing multiple acts of violence. These perpetration levels are over twice the national average in South Africa. This data confirms what the team at Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) experiences to be true on a daily basis - that domestic violence and sexual violence is normalized and even routine within the Diepsloot community. The researchers also estimate that over 150,000 women in Diepsloot experience violence each year.

In response to these extremely high prevalence rates, Bhekisisa, a health journalism centre under the Mail & Guardian, a local South African newspaper, developed an app that would help connect victims of domestic violence and sexual violence to support services in Diepsloot. LvA, along with other service providers, worked closely with Bhekisisa’s project manager to develop the app in order to maximize its effectiveness and relevance within the Diepsloot community.  

The app, named VIMBA which means ‘to prevent, stop, or halt’ in isiZulu, connects victims with organisations within the community that can assist with shelter, legal assistance and counselling for free. Community members dial a toll-free number and, after answering a few questions, receive a series of text messages which provide contact details for service providers and practical information for rape victims in particular. Through the app, victims learn about the existence of LvA’s free legal services and psychosocial support and where and how those services can be accessed.   

The app is also designed to collect relevant user data including the area where the victim is located, they type of violence reported, and the date and times of app usage. This data will be used by LvA and other service providers to identify trends, such as, specific days or times that incidents occur, or potential hotspot areas. This information will help inform LvA’s services and allow for targeted outreach into the community.

The app was officially launched on November 30, 2016, during the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Children (a campaign held in South Africa each year from November 25 to December 10).  While it will still take some time for information about the app to travel through the community, the app holds tremendous potential to connect victims throughout Diepsloot to these much needed services. Furthermore, the app represents effective collaboration among multiple service providers all working to achieve same goals – to ensure that victims of gender-based violence receive the support and assistance they need. LvA is proud to be part of such a collaboration and is excited to broaden our reach within this community.

Here
Here's how it works...
Diepsloot, Ext 1, located right behind LvA Centre
Diepsloot, Ext 1, located right behind LvA Centre

Links:

Nov 11, 2016

Importance of Integration

LvA’s integrated approach to gender-based violence, providing both legal and psycho-social services, is unique. This is particularly true in Diepsloot, where the LvA’s services are the only ones of their kind in the community. The importance and success of such an integrated approach can be seen in the two client stories shared below.

Thabiso’s Journey with LvA

Thabiso is a 24-year-old mother of two. She initially came to LvA with her mother, Noluthando, seeking a protection order against her abusive stepfather. The abuse had been going on for over 14 years and was directed at Noluthando, Thabiso, and their other children. When they came to LvA, both agreed to counselling to deal with the severe traumatic after-effects of the violence. Thabiso entered individual therapy and they both became regular participants in LvA’s group therapy. Through her sessions, Thabiso identified GBV as a critical issue in Diepsloot and wanted to know more about its drivers, and do more to prevent it from happening, so she joined one of our Sexual Violence Workshop Series. Following the series, she became a champion for LvA’s cause and services, referring several people from her circle of friends and neighbourhood to us for legal support and counselling. LvA operates on the assumption that an increase in knowledge about the legal system will empower women to make use of it to their benefit. Thabiso and other women like her who have attended our workshops assist LvA in spreading that knowledge and improving access to justice for all women in Diepsloot.

As for Thabiso and Noluthando, after over a decade of abuse, they were empowered to move out of the shared residence, and to start afresh in a new city. They continue to call and/or visit LvA to express their gratitude for LvA’s support.  

Nokulunga’s Journey with LvA

Whenever Nokulunga refused to have sex with her husband, he would choke her and beat her all over her body with clenched fists. He once beat her so badly that she had to seek medical care from Helen Joseph Hospital. Whenever she reported the abuse to the police, they told her that such matters were handled within the family, or, at most, would reprimand her husband for his conduct. LvA assisted Nokulunga in applying for a protection order against her husband, which was granted. After receiving the order, Nokulunga continued attending LvA’s weekly group therapy sessions. Over the next several months, there were noticeable changes in Nokulunga’s demeanour as she was visibly happier and more confident. She attributed these positive changes to the impact of the group therapy sessions. Further empowered, we saw Nokulunga take control over other areas of her life, including applying for a maintenance order against her husband. Nokulunga is just one of the countless clients LvA has assisted who, with professional and nuanced psychological and/or legal support, are able to move from a place of victimisation to one of empowerment.

Please note client names and certain details have been changed to protect identities.

Links:

Nov 10, 2016

Importance of Integration

LvA’s integrated approach to gender-based violence, providing both legal and psycho-social services, is unique. This is particularly true in Diepsloot, where the LvA’s services are the only ones of their kind in the community. The importance and success of such an integrated approach can be seen in the two client stories shared below.

Thabiso’s Journey with LvA

Thabiso is a 24-year-old mother of two. She initially came to LvA with her mother, Noluthando, seeking a protection order against her abusive stepfather. The abuse had been going on for over 14 years and was directed at Noluthando, Thabiso, and their other children. When they came to LvA, both agreed to counselling to deal with the severe traumatic after-effects of the violence. Thabiso entered individual therapy and they both became regular participants in LvA’s group therapy. Through her sessions, Thabiso identified GBV as a critical issue in Diepsloot and wanted to know more about its drivers, and do more to prevent it from happening, so she joined one of our Sexual Violence Workshop Series. Following the series, she became a champion for LvA’s cause and services, referring several people from her circle of friends and neighbourhood to us for legal support and counselling. LvA operates on the assumption that an increase in knowledge about the legal system will empower women to make use of it to their benefit. Thabiso and other women like her who have attended our workshops assist LvA in spreading that knowledge and improving access to justice for all women in Diepsloot.

As for Thabiso and Noluthando, after over a decade of abuse, they were empowered to move out of the shared residence, and to start afresh in a new city. They continue to call and/or visit LvA to express their gratitude for LvA’s support.  

Nokulunga’s Journey with LvA

Whenever Nokulunga refused to have sex with her husband, he would choke her and beat her all over her body with clenched fists. He once beat her so badly that she had to seek medical care from Helen Joseph Hospital. Whenever she reported the abuse to the police, they told her that such matters were handled within the family, or, at most, would reprimand her husband for his conduct. LvA assisted Nokulunga in applying for a protection order against her husband, which was granted. After receiving the order, Nokulunga continued attending LvA’s weekly group therapy sessions. Over the next several months, there were noticeable changes in Nokulunga’s demeanour as she was visibly happier and more confident. She attributed these positive changes to the impact of the group therapy sessions. Further empowered, we saw Nokulunga take control over other areas of her life, including applying for a maintenance order against her husband. Nokulunga is just one of the countless clients LvA has assisted who, with professional and nuanced psychological and/or legal support, are able to move from a place of victimisation to one of empowerment.

Please note client names and certain details have been changed to protect identities.

Links:

 
   

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