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Support for GBV victims with hearing disabilities

Written by Dale Hes

The Department of Social Development’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Command Centre ensures that all victims of GBV, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, receive the same level of support.

The centre employs 48 social workers and receives calls, SMSes and ‘Please Call Me’ messages every month. Deaf people also have the opportunity to interact with social workers through video-calling over Skype and by SMS.

“We look to provide the same level of service to everyone, regardless of their situation. When a deaf person calls us over Skype, they are connected to a social worker. We then communicate with the person using sign language over video,” said Barata Molopyane, a social worker at the Command Centre.

Once the person’s specific situation has been communicated, the centre will provide the necessary support to the victim.

“We establish a relationship with the person and then start gathering the information we need from them. After that, we connect them with counselling services and also start engaging with social workers in the area where the victim is based. These social workers can then deal with the issue on the ground,” Molopyane explained.

The centre is also able to refer calls directly to the South African Police Service when immediate help is needed.

Molopyane said because Skype is not yet well known to many people in rural communities, the Department of Social Development is conducting awareness campaigns in deaf schools and deaf communities.

For people who don’t yet know how to use Skype or can’t afford the data costs, an SMS line is available.

“We can communicate well with people over SMS, especially those who are deaf or who have hearing disabilities,” Molopyane added.

Assisting with other issues

The Command Centre also deals with a number of other social issues.

“We are social workers, so we don’t turn anyone away. We have non-GBV cases that we attend to as well. Whether it be family issues, information about social grants or skills development opportunities, we are able to help,” said Molopyane. 

*People with a hearing disability can access the GBV Command Centre by SMSing ‘help’ to 31531 or

Download Skype on their phone or computer and add ‘Helpme GBV’ as a contact.