Police join campaign to end abuse

Captain Stephen Knapp, Thandi Honneman of SAWomen Fight Back, Constable Tokozile Poni, TamarynDingley and Bronwyn Litke of SA Women Fight Back.

In a show of solidarity with SA Women Fight Back (SAWFB), 17 police stations – including Fish Hoek, Ocean View and Muizenberg – have joined its awareness campaign against genderbased violence.

SAWFB, a non-profit company, approached police stations from as far afield as Sandton and Durban and all across the Western Cape, to join the campaign.

Their slogan is “Shatter the silence, end the violence”.

Tamaryn Dingley, a SAWFB member and Marina da Gama resident, said since its inception in August 2019, the organisation’s Facebook group had grown to more than 250 000 members.

“That’s when we took a simple Facebook group further and turned it into an NPC, working with other groups, to make this country better for all women and children.”

SAWFB founder Bronwyn Litke said she had noted ever-increasing violence associated with the rapes and murders she learned of daily.

She had heard of cases where women had been dismembered and even gutted.

SAWFB tackles gender-based violence on several fronts, from petitioning for tougher sentences for rapists and murders to offering victim support, counselling, emotional support, legal support and court support.

“We are driving change in legislation, and continue to fight for all The Fallen Angels, to see much-deserved justice being served,” she said.

The organisation is promoting a six-point plan for this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign:

1. All victims should be treated with respect, dignity and interviewed by trained police officers in a victim-sensitive environment.

2. Victims should be helped in a victim-friendly room or room where the statements can be taken in private.

3. Victims should be referred for medical examination by the healthcare professional to obtain medical evidence; a medical report must be completed.

4. The investigation should be done by the family violence, child protection and sexual offences investigation unit or a detective with relevant training.

5. The victim and family should be referred to the victim support services for legal, medical, social and psychological help.

6. Victims should be proactively provided with continuous updates and feedback on the progress of their case.

Ms Litke said they wanted to highlight the rights of victims and end the stigma and silence surrounding gender-based violence.

“Victims must be supported in the event of any trauma. They should feel safe, respected and honoured when reporting what they’ve endured. This is their basic and human right.”

Both for their own recovery and for change, victims of gender-based violence should hold their perpetrators accountable, she said.

Most women would leave an abusive partner 18 times before they left for good, she said, adding that the abuse was often also economic as women who left their partners risked being left penniless and even homeless.

Muizenberg police spokesman Captain Stephen Knapp, who accepted information pamphlets from the group, said police officers were dedicated to fighting for convictions. It was vital that victims did not withdraw charges against an offender, he said.

He recalled a case early in his career when a woman he had been dealing with had withdrawn the charges against her abuser.

“By the next day, she was dead. Her partner slit her throat. It was just terrible,” he said.

The police stations that have joined SAWFB’s campaign this year are Bothasig, Bellville, Goodwood, Athlone, Grassy Park, Ocean View, Fish Hoek, Muizenberg, Kraaifontein, Diep River, Mitchell’s Plain, Franschhoek, Villiersdorp, Sandton, Durban North, Midrand and Somerset West.

“The SAPS stations we approached agree with us that 16 days of activism is not enough; 365 days of activism will be our plight,” Ms Dingley said.

Anna Els, a Muizenberg police station trauma counsellor, said SAWFB’s efforts dovetailed with her work.

“We can work together through referrals for counselling and sharing information which will benefit the victims of gender-based and domestic violence,” she said.