Call centre gives hope to victims of gender based violence

Friday, September 7, 2018
Nomathemba Malvern

The Department of Social Development’s Gender-Based Violence Command Centre is making waves.

Barely six months after its launch in 2014, the Command Centre had already clinched the Best Technology Innovation Award, at a ceremony in Pretoria.

The centre has been praised for saving the lives of hundreds of women who become victims of Gender-Based Violence.

The Command Centre provides immediate psychological assistance and referral for victims and assists them in avoiding additional exposure to violence by ensuring that they are moved to places of safety and shelters.

SAnews recently visited the centre and spoke to Manager Nomathemba Malvern about some of the progress the facility has made since its launch.

When the centre opened its doors, it dealt with four common cases - physical, emotional, rape and psychological abuse.

However, with an increase in the number of people requiring assistance with other social problems, the centre has since expanded its services to cover both Gender-Based Violence (GVB) and unrelated cases, and today more than 1 500 calls are being attended to per week.

Common cases attended to include domestic violence, rape, abused children, child neglect, sexual harassment, forced marriages, abandoned children, forced prostitution and abortion, human trafficking, exploitation of domestic workers, abuse of elderly, incest cases, xenophobic attacks and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) related issues.

Non-GBV cases

The non-GBV cases include enquiries related to attempted suicides. Malvern reveals that the centre usually receives a high volume of calls relating to attempted suicide by matric learners in January after the publication of matric results.

The centre also assists with enquiries on South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants and substance abuse and adds that most of the time, the abuse starts from substance abuse.

The main responsibility of the centre when receiving a call from GBV victims is to transfer the call to the SAPS 10111 and in cases where other provinces don’t have the 10111 service, the call is transferred to the nearest police station.

Through the command centre system, the social workers are able to locate the victim’s whereabouts, and if it’s an emergency call, it is immediately logged in as an emergency.

Malvern explains that once the call is transferred to 10111, or a police station, the police immediately go and fetch the victim and move them to a safe place. A social worker makes a follow up call within 30 minutes to check if the victim has received the necessary attention. This is followed by a trauma debriefing over the phone.

“If the victim still needs more attention after the debriefing and counselling session, the social worker from the command centre transfers the victim to social workers,  or the nearest area with an NGO, which has a working relationship with government, to take care of the victim,” Malvern explains.

Whilst most people would think that most calls coming through the centre are from victims of GBV, Malvern says this is not the case.

“Most victims of GBV are still afraid to come out and expose the perpetrators. We find that it’s still not easy for people to come and say, ‘I’m being abused by my husband.’ “You try to assist, but there are other barriers, and those are some of the challenges and frustrations that we encounter. Some of them contact us via website and ask to remain anonymous and they don’t give us their contact numbers except the place where the perpetrator stays.”

Malvern urges victims to make use of the centre and assures that the facility is managed by professional social workers who are capable of assisting.

The centre operates 24 hours, 365 days a year. Victims can call 0800 428 428 or send a please call me on *120*7867# or log onto the website

Deaf community members can use the skype line by adding “help me GBV” to their skype contacts and start a conversation. –