It takes months for victims of rape and gender-based violence to receive counselling and this makes them feel neglected and causes them to blame themselves for the crimes committed against them.
This is according to Marcia Semelane, the chairperson of ♯OurLivesMatter, an organisation that seeks to support victims of abuse.
After a spate of reports on gender-based violence (GBV), a group of women from Gauteng’s Tembisa township decided to take a stand, and what was meant to be a prayer meeting led to the formation of ♯OurLivesMatter.
“After our first awareness campaign, we received messages from people around the township, asking us to formalise the organisation as the campaign touched on burning issues within the community,” said Semelane.
“We aim to tackle anything that affects the wellbeing of women and children. So far we have assisted rape and GBV victims, people suffering from addiction, and provided child welfare,” she said.
Semelane and her team have had first-hand experiences of the challenges victims of abuse and rape face.
“We struggle with the lack of support government gives to victims of rape and we realised that by the time they need to appear in court they are not prepared for it. The court process is daunting and leaves victims exhausted by how long it takes to get the suspects convicted. Victims are seldom supported by the investigating officers and the community so they tend to stop going to court and cases fall through the cracks.”
The women also learned about the difficulty of finding relevant information sought by those who wanted to open criminal cases.
“Information is not easily accessible and women are sent from pillar to post when wanting to report crimes – and they end up feeling judged by the very person appointed to be assisting you.”
#OurLivesMatter has partnered with other community organisations in order to ensure that abused women and children receive support.
“We try to affiliate ourselves with organisations within the community and support events that impact the community. We work closely with the Vukamusha Foundation and are constantly making new contacts to learn from other organisations. We also have a close relationship with Bombani Shelter in Alexander where we can refer women and children who need shelter,” added Semelane. – Health-e News