A key aspect of LvA's integrated services model is the inclusion of psychosocial support services for our clients in conjunction with the direct legal services we provide. Since 2016, LvA has partnered with the Drama for Life Programme at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Through this partnership, LvA has the opportunity to work with drama therapist students as they complete their Masters degree. Over the past two years, LvA has seen the effectiveness of using drama therapeutic techniques, especially with our younger clients. Here is a story of how one client was able to work through, and ultimately overcome, the shame and fear that she was feeling through drama therapy.
Client Story: From Victim to Superhero
While Tsipho* was a victim of sexual violence herself, it was her younger sister’s abuse that brought her to LvA. Tsipho’s six-year old sister, Kerabo*, had confided in her about the sexual abuse she had experienced and Tsipho was going to testify on her behalf at the upcoming trial. Tsipho began meeting with LvA’s drama therapist, Bandile, to prepare for the trial.
When Tsipho came to LvA she was plagued with anxiety, guilt and shame. Recognizing this, Bandile thought movement work would help her release some of the physical anxiety she was harboring. Upon suggesting this approach, Tsipho responded, “But I can’t dance.” Bandile asked her to trust him in the space and assured her that if she was uncomfortable they could stop immediately and try an alternative approach.
Using a technique called Labans Work, Bandile guided Tsipho through a series of movements that allowed her to channel and release the tension that was stunting her. After the exercise, they sat to reflect on the experience. During reflection, Tsipho was finally at ease and ready to open up about the true source of her anxiety.
For years, Tsipho had hidden that she too had been sexually abused by the same man who had later abused her sister. Tsipho had never told anyone about the abuse, as she was afraid that no one would believe her. So she hid it. Realizing that her secret may have contributed to her sister’s abuse she was overcome with guilt and shame.
Working with Bandile allowed her to finally confront her past. By creating a safe and trusting space in drama therapy, Bandile was able to help her start working through the inadequacy and shame she felt through role-play. In role-play, she expressed the desire to be a superhero that protected women and children from abuse in Diepsloot. Bandile was delighted by her request to play a superhero as it demonstrated her desire to overcome her feelings of inadequacy. It also showed that even in their short time together, Tsipho was already beginning to make a profound transformation. He was assured of this when he asked her, “As this superhero, what would you tell the women of Diepsloot?” She simply responded, “You will always find someone to trust your story.”
*Client names have been changed to protect their identity.