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Empowering victims of violence and crime

Written by More Matshediso

Gender-based Violence

For the past 21 years, the Department of Social Development has been empowering victims of violence and contact crimes through its Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP).

The VEP was established in 1998 following the launch of the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) in 1996.

Its main purpose is to facilitate the establishment and integration of interdepartmental and intersectoral programmes and policies for the support, protection and empowerment of victims of crime and violence.

Department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said the programme aims to reduce secondary victimisation during the subsequent criminal justice system processes and to empower victims to reclaim their lives.

“The response of the criminal justice and associated systems can either mitigate or exacerbate insecurity and fear,” she said.

Oliphant said the lack of adequate support and psycho-social services for victims contributes to a vicious cycle of violence and often breeds contempt for South Africa’s human rights, which are sometimes seen as protective of the rights of perpetrators at the expense of the victims.

Oliphant said the VEP endorses the victim-centred and restorative justice approach advocated by the NCPS. 

“Various sectors and government departments are involved in the victim empowerment process. The partnership between government and civil society organisations, volunteers, academics and research institutions is key to the victim empowerment approach,” she explained.  

What VEP has achieved so far:

Sixteen Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, which is a global campaign that South Africa joined in 1999. The campaign generates increased awareness of the negative impact of violence on women and children.

Minimum Standards for Service Delivery in Victim Empowerment, which was launched in 2003 as part of VEP to provide service providers who assist victims of crime and violence with information on what is expected of them.

Victimsí Charter, which is about the consolidation of rights that already exist in various legislation, policy documents and the Constitution.

Draft Victim Support Services Bill and Policy, which was developed as a response to the lack of legislation to regulate victim empowerment services.

Gender-Based Violence Command Centre, which was established in 2013 and provides immediate care and counselling by social workers.

If you are affected by crime or violence, you can call:

  • South African Police Service: 10111
  • Childline: 0800 055555
  • Stop Women Abuse Hotline: 0800 150 150
  • Lifeline: 0861 322 322 or (021) 461 1111
  • Gender-Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428