Nov 2018 2nd Edition

What to expect from a place of safety

A number of safe spaces exist to shelter and support victims of gender-based violence.


 A victim of crime and violence whose life is thought to be in danger is eligible to be referred to a shelter by the South African Police Service (SAPS).

This is according to the Department of Social Development. While the majority of victims are women and children, some shelters also accommodate men overnight who are victims of crime and violence if their lives are in danger and then refer them to a more appropriate facility.

However, the department said shelters have a criteria that they use for admission that includes screening and assessing the victim at the point of entry.

According to the department, there are 130 shelters for victims of crime and violence. Gauteng has 25, Mpumalanga and the North West have 22 each, KwaZulu-Natal has 20, the Western Cape has 15, the Eastern Cape has 13, the Northern Cape has five, the Free State has seven and there is one in Limpopo.

What services are provided at a shelter?

Victims will receive various social support services that include basic needs such as accommodation, clothing or starter packs, transport and food; psychosocial services such as support, counselling, play therapy and therapeutic intervention (normally referred to as part of the healing and restoration programme); protection services like safety and security; life skills development; and vocational skills.

“Shelters also work with organisations that provide rehabilitative programmes for perpetrators,” the department said.

How to find the nearest shelter when in need?

Victims of crime and violence are expected to be referred to the shelters by the SAPS as prescribed by the Domestic Violence Act, Act No 16 of 1998.

Should a person be referred through another channel, such as the Department of Social Development’s local office, the Department of Health or traditional and religious leaders they should still be referred to the nearest police station.

The department has established White Door Centres of Hope which are community based. There are about 206 of these centres across the country. People in need of shelter can turn to these facilities, which are found across the country.

The department also has a Gender-based Violence Command Centre at national level, which can be accessed through the toll-free line 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV), through a ‘please call me’ service – *120*7867#, by SMSing ‘Help’ to 31531 or via Skype – “HELPME GBV”.

The command centre has the ability to identify the exact location of the caller and the nearest service providers, including police stations for emergency referral.

The department has also established six Khuseleka One Stop Centres which not only provide a place of refuge for victims of crime and violence, but also provide various victim-support services in one space.

Services rendered at these centres include the reporting of a case to the police, receiving initial counselling, assessment by a professional social worker, medico-legal services by a qualified nurse and doctor, placement in a shelter if needed, access to ongoing psychosocial support and counselling as well as court hearing preparation, exposure to capacity building and empowerment through  skills development.  

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