Jul 31, 2017

Training Peer Educators

In July 2017, Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) partnered with non-profit organisation Afrika Tikkun to conduct a four-day workshop series for a group of 49 Peer Educators, students of all ages coming from schools throughout Johannesburg. Note that peer education is a process whereby well-trained and motivated young people undertake informal or organized educational activities with their peers.The primary objective of the workshop series was to increase participants’ knowledge and abilities to facilitate sessions in relation to gender-based violence (GBV).

The first day of the series focused on the politics of violence, which was introduced using role plays. Through this, the peer educators explored the use of power in different relationships (e.g. parent/child, teacher/child, husband/wife), and how they may lead to exploitive and abusive circumstances. Participants also discussed power, patriarchy and misogyny as factors contributing to GBV. The second day focused on the psychology of violence. In this session, participants explored differences between gender, sex, sexuality, and sexuality orientation, and discussed the linkages of social expectations about sex, gender and sexual orientation to oppression.The third day focused on the justice system and was designed to empower participants with information about the civil and criminal legal remedies available to victims of GBV in South Africa. Participants were separated into four groups, and each group was given a case study relating to a situation of domestic violence. Each group presented their case study using role play techniques. The facilitators also led discussions around key definitions in the Sexual Offences Act (e.g. rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment) as well as concepts such as consent using various scenarios.

The final day of the series focused on a therapy-based body mapping activity called the Journey of Life. The purpose of this activity was to allow the participants to explore past life experiences, both good and bad, and how they impact their lives now. For this activity, participants were asked to lie down on sheets of poster paper. Facilitators then led participants through a guided meditation. The activity proved to be very powerful and emotional for all participants. Following the meditation, many of the participants shared difficult situations they had faced growing up including being exposed to violence, family breakdowns, neglect, suicide, and sexual abuse. Given the emotional intensity of this session, a further activity was used to help the peer educators think about their inner strengths. For this activity, the peer educators were asked to draw an outline of their body on the poster paper. Then, using different coloured crayons, participants were asked to identify their inner strengths and where they want to be in the future. This was a very empowering activity as it helped the participants realise that they are not victims of their own circumstances, and that their past bad experiences do not define who they are today.

By working with peer educators, LvA hopes to amplify the impact of the workshops series as the information shared will be transferred to others.

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May 2, 2017

Report from the Field: Small Victories

Randburg Magistrates Court
Randburg Magistrates Court

Here are some reflections from LvA's Executive Director, Lindsay Henson.

People often ask me “Isn’t it hard?” or “How do you keep a positive attitude?” when I share with them about LvA’s work supporting victims of gender-based violence and the challenges that we face in Diepsloot on a daily basis. For me, the answer lies in celebrating the small victories. Allow me to explain what I mean through the lens of a recent client’s story. On 31 March, bail was denied in one of our client’s criminal cases. While this may not seem very significant in of itself, it is the culmination of several small victories.

You see, the client, Winnie (name changed), was the victim of a horrific gang rape. She was referred to LvA by a member of the Diepsloot Community Policing Forum (CPF), a community-level structure that victims often turn to for help in the first instance. Recognising this, LvA has been working to strengthen our relationship with the CPF including providing them training in mid-March. As such, this referral is a small victory. Furthermore, LvA has developed a strong relationship with the investigating officer assigned to the case and, as such, we were able to engage with the officer as she went above and beyond to build a strong evidence base for the prosecutor to argue against bail. This is a small victory. LvA’s staff attorney, Rethabile, spent hours with Winnie in the week leading up to the bail hearing, ensuring that she understood the criminal procedure, answering all her questions, and assuring her that LvA would be present at court on the day of the bail hearing monitoring the proceedings. This is a small victory. Meanwhile, at the same time, Winnie had several individual trauma counselling sessions with LvA’s therapist, Noluthando, where she was able to begin to work through the trauma she had suffered. This is a small victory.

Through it all, Winnie was able to move from a space where she was terrified to leave her home to knowing that she had the support of an entire team of professionals behind her. And while Winnie still has a long road before her on her path towards justice and healing, she does not have to walk this road alone. And this, friends, this is a BIG victory.

To help ensure that LvA can continue providing this critical and life changing support to victims in Diepsloot, please consider making another donation today.

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

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