A key component of LvA's model is to provide our clients, who are primarily women and children who have experienced some form of violence and/or abuse, with comprehensive and holistic support services. These services include legal services, including assisting with a protection order or providing support in a criminal case, and therapy and counseling.
In Diepsloot, one of the communities where we work, LvA has provided direct legal services to 319 GBV victims and family members affected by GBV over the last two years. Specifically, LvA provided comprehensive support to 137 clients pursuing criminal cases of rape, statutory rape, attempted rape, sexual assault, assault, and child abuse, working closely with state actors in each case to ensure that GBV laws are enforced, and victims are treated with dignity and respect. LvA also assisted 124 clients seeking a protection order, including completing the application, advising on submission and service procedures, engaging with the police for service as needed, preparing the client for the final hearing, and following up regarding outcomes.
In order to ensure that our client's mental health needs were met, LvA also provided therapy and counseling to 207 GBV victims. Specifically, LvA facilitated 1,310 individual therapy and counselling sessions with 165 clients, 45 family therapy sessions for five families in situations where the trauma was indirectly experienced by more than one family member, and 147 group therapy sessions for 78 participants divided into the following five groups: 7 - 11 years old, 12 – 14 years old, 15 - 18 years old, minors with cognitive impairments and adult GBV victims.
Through this strategic combination of legal and psychosocial support, LvA empowered 402 GBV victims to realise available legal rights and remedies as they pursued either a protection order and/or criminal case against their perpetrator. In addition, through LvA’s empowerment-based approach, we work with our clients in a way that encourages them to take ownership over their legal process and to exercise their agency as and when needed. For example, when assisting a client in obtaining a protection order, LvA's legal officers ensure that the client understands what to do if the order is violated (in addition to coming back to LvA for help). As such, we were encouraged when one of our clients reported to us that when her boyfriend continued to abuse her after being served an interim protection order, she reported the violation to the police station on her own, and her partner was arrested for violating the protection order.
Further, clients who received therapy or counselling services appear to have experienced significant shifts during their sessions. We have observed clients’ increased commitment to their counseling processes. For example, we had previously noticed a pattern where clients would stop coming for counselling once their legal needs have been met (e.g., once they have been granted a final protection order by the court). However, we now see increasing numbers of clients continue with their counselling process beyond the conclusion of their legal process. We have also seen an increase in the number of clients willing to leave their abusive partners for their own safety and that of their children.
This work would not be possible without the support of our generous donors. So thank you for your commitment to addressing gender-based violence in South Africa and ensuring that victims of violence have access to the support they need.