Women survivors of abuse are being given a chance to heal and start over, thanks to a Gauteng Provincial Government centre.
Called Ikhaya Lethemba, which means ‘home of hope’ when loosely translated from IsiZulu, the one-stop centre was established in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, in 2004.
According to Community Safety Spokesperson Ofentse Morwane, the centre was established to meet the needs of victims of sexual offences and domestic violence so that they can receive services under one roof without being sent from pillar to post. Survivors and their dependent children may also stay there for up to six months.
A number of provincial departments contribute to the centre, including the Department of Social Development, which funds three non-government organisations (NGOs). These NGOs run various initiatives, including the Ithemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre, Teddy Bear Foundation (children services) and Life Line. The Department of Education is also involved – it finds local schools for children who have been moved out of their communities. The Department of Health provides medical and related legal services to survivors.
People needing help may go directly to the centre or may be referred by the South African Police Service and other organisations.
Services for victims
Social workers and victim supporters help abused women and children when they arrive at the centre. They are given a medical check-up and any evidence that may be needed in a court case is collected. If needed, medicine to prevent HIV is given.
If needed, the victims will be admitted to the shelter, which has an early childhood development centre, library, gym and an in-house skills development centre that includes a sewing room, printing room, computer room and salon.
If the survivors need to testify in court, they will be helped through the process so that they know what to expect.
Over the years, the centre has provided a safe space for healing to over 2 000 women and children. “Some started their own NGOs to assist other women, some are in business, others are employed or furthering their studies,” says Morwane.
Another such centre has since been opened in Evaton in the Vaal area.
The department urges community members and families to play a part in supporting victims and survivors of abuse. Communities must also stop stigmatising survivors and should not look away if they witness abuse.
If you are in Johannesburg and are in need of Ikhaya Lethemba services, call 011 240 3600 or 066 010 8739.