By Lindsay Henson, Executive Director, Lawyers against Abuse
Thuli came through our doors in 2014 after living with an abusive boyfriend since 2009. He had assaulted Thuli multiple times and made repeated death threats before Thuli came to LvA for assistance in obtaining a protection order against him.
Winnie was brutally gang raped and left for dead by her attackers. She was referred to LvA for both legal and emotional support as she fought for justice in her criminal case and began to heal from the trauma she suffered.
Tebogo had been with her partner for more than 30 years – tolerating many drunken outbursts where her partner verbally harassed and threatened her and her children. In 2016, she came to LvA and began to attend group therapy where she is beginning to heal from the years of abuse. While each of our client’s stories is unique, sadly, the context is not. It is well known that gender-based violence (GBV) is endemic in South Africa with high prevalence rates seen throughout the country. In poor and marginalized communities like Diepsloot, the informal settlement where LvA is based, prevalence rates are more than double the rates found in other parts of the country. To say that change is necessary is a gross understatement. The lives and futures of millions of women and children in South Africa depend on it. As we all continue to fight for this change, we must also support those for whom change did not come soon enough. This is where LvA comes in.
How can LvA help you?
As one client noted, “I am very grateful to you. Remember that time when first I came in? How confused and scared I was? I felt better after Rethabile, [an LvA attorney] explained everything... You guys were there every step of the way.”
Creating systematic change In addition to providing critical support when violence does occur, LvA also works closely with local police and court officials to ensure effective enforcement of GBV laws and within the community to raise awareness of available legal rights and remedies.
We also work to change the patriarchal norms, attitudes, and beliefs that lead to and condone violence in the first place through community workshops, campaigns and outreach initiatives. In so doing, LvA hopes to create systemic change within communities - not simply for the individual victims we support.
While LvA plans to open additional Centres throughout South Africa, we would much prefer a South Africa where LvA’s services were no longer needed. A South Africa where Thuli, Winnie, Tebogo and countless other women and children are able to live their lives free from violence.