By Lindsay Henson, Executive Director, Lawyers against Abuse @LvA_SouthAfrica
As we commemorate 16 Days of Activism, we wanted to share insights from our staff that do this critical work every day
What do perpetrators of sexual violence need to know?
On the day the violence occurs, essentially the victim dies. They may continue with life, but their existence can be lifeless, hopeless, and dictated by a continued sense of shame and loneliness. They often lose their sense of self. This act extends beyond an abuse of power because essentially the perpetrator has killed their victim. Through therapy, we seek to facilitate a process of healing and an opportunity for our clients to reclaim their sense of self and begin a new life.
Bandile – Drama Therapist
What motivates you to do this work?
I come from a family where we’ve experienced domestic violence, so I am motivated by my past. I want people to have access to the information and services we never had. It was hard for us to get help because the people we could speak to had become numb to their work. They didn't recognise how broken we were when we walked through their doors. How hard it was to even get through those doors. They had become robotic in their work. At LvA, we are not numb or robotic. At LvA, we still genuinely care about our clients. I do this work because I know what it feels like to not have access to this type of support.
Tell us about one client who has had a tremendous impact on you…
When I first met Lerato during a school workshop, she was very angry. During the workshop, she spoke about how the criminal justice system fails people. She saw no value in disclosure. However, she later came to LvA for legal services and trauma counselling, disclosing that she was a rape victim. She decided to pursue a criminal case against her attacker. Not only was her attacker arrested, but his DNA was also linked to another case where the investigating officer was just about to close the docket. Not only was Lerato able to see justice, but her renewed faith in the justice system brought justice for another victim as well. This client is just one of hundreds, but she reminded me that our integrative approach works and so too can our justice system.
Why do you work at LvA?
At LvA, we are helping the most disadvantaged – those who live in the most vulnerable areas. Here, I am able to play a role in educating people about gender based violence (GBV) and their rights and in empowering them in their lives. Our work ensures that even the most vulnerable have access to the services and support they need to combat GBV in their lives and in their community.
What must we do to end GBV?
In order to end GBV, we need more awareness and it must start at a young age so our children have an opportunity to grow up free and in a country without violence. When violence does occur, we must be able to reach those individuals in crisis and ensure they feel safe in disclosing their situation.
Prevention can’t be limited to processionals – it must start at home.
This prevention must happen through the way we raise our children because behaviour is learned. Our kids see the world through the examples their parents set. We have an obligation to our future generations to act humanely, to respond to conflict with communication, not violence.
Noluthando – Therapist & Psychosocial Programme Coordinator