With South Africa plagued by an increase in gender-based violence in 2019, concerns remain rife with regards to the safety of vulnerable women and children. Unfortunately during the silly season the consumption of alcohol soars which in turn leads to violence being inflicted onto women and children. The director at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children (SBCWC), Bernadine Bachar said the centre usually sees an increase in women and children during the festive season.
The Saartjie Baartman Centre was opened over twenty years ago as the first multi-disciplinary service centre for abused women and children in the country.
Bachar says the driving factors of the abuse during the festive season is mainly due to substance abuse.
“Any sort of substance abuse is detrimental, but unemployment obviously has an effect, poverty, all of these things do play into abuse against women and children”.
Bachar said it can be tough for women to seek assistance especially during this period because of the emphasis drawn around spending down time with family.
“It’s a difficult time for them to access services, there’s an emphasis on keeping families together during the festive period and being there for the children. All of this plays into them accessing our centers.”
Bachar says co-dependency – the control, nurturing, and maintenance of relationships with individuals who are chemically dependent or engaging in undesirable behaviours – contributes to why women are unable to break the cycle. A classic codependency model is the alcoholic husband and his enabling wife, which plays a big role in women staying with their abusive partners.
“It’s a very difficult situation because statistics are telling us that women will stay in their abusive relationship and go back to their abusive relationship often for up to 9 times, in the hope that it would stop”.
A child that is exposed to abuse will likely become one of two things, either they themselves will become perpetrators of abuse or on the flip side they become victims of abuse.
“We all know that the chances of a child that has been exposed to gender-based violence is more likely to become a perpetrator at one time or another and/or grow up to be a victim of gender-based violence, purely because of the intergenerational cycle of abuse.”
The vision of the SBCWC is the creation of a safe and secure society and a human rights culture, where women and children are empowered to exercise their full rights. Every child that comes into the centre has their own social worker in order to stop the process of intergenerational abuse.
“It is very important that we actually get to work with the children to stop that intergenerational cycle of abuse, all the children that come in engage with a social worker. That [assigned] social worker that works with the child also works with the social worker that deals with the mother. So we’re making sure that the family as a whole are getting healing.“
SBCWC has since grown to be the prime learning site nationally for providing holistic, integrated services to survivors of violence. Some of the services provided are managed directly by the Saartjie Baartman Centre. These include a 24-hour crisis response; a residential shelter and transitional housing for abused women and their children; legal assistance; and job-skills training.
The provincial department of social development is also on hand to assist any victims of gender based violence. Violence doesn’t take a holiday so neither can the healers.
If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance, call the hotline number on 0800 428 428.