Station launches victim support room

Veronica Cronje, Megan Schuman, Claudia Reynolds, Benita Eybers, Warrant Officer Warren Petersen, Nozukile Jingisa, Patricia Francke, Hendriena Klein and Unathi Nzwanga are all volunteers at the Victim Support Room at Ocean View Police Station.

Everybody who has suffered trauma at the hands of a loved one – or a stranger – now has a safe space at Ocean View police station.

The station officially launched its victim support room on Saturday, June 25, which has an office, bathroom facilities and two separate interviewing rooms: one for adults and one for children.

Warrant Officer Warren Petersen, a police officer who has volunteered to strengthen the service to people who have experienced trauma, said the room, which was donated by the Spar group, is an essential space at the station where victims of all forms of abuse and violent crime can be counselled.

“We have trained counsellors who are doing this work because they want to, because they believe in helping their community; and sometimes they know first hand the hardships experienced by the people who need these facilities: these communities endure a lot of hardship. But there is also a lot of help,” Warrant Officer Petersen said.

Ocean View Community Police Forum chairwoman, Patricia Francke said it was important for all NGOs working in Ocean View and Masiphumelele to pull together.

“We can achieve so much more together, instead of all trying separately to re-invent the wheel. We want to have representatives meet together once a month so we can work on long-term goals which are more achieveable when we all know what the other one is doing and how we can all help one another,” she said.

There are plans to extend the support room services by setting up at least 24-hour safe houses to shelter women in desperate need.

“Most incidences of abuse happen in the dead of the night, and when women come for help, once we have taken their statements, we want to have places to take them where they can sleep and restore and be safe again. At the moment, we have to wait for a court order to place them somewhere and that can’t happen at night. In short, we want to offer a full range of services to anyone in need, in these communities,” Ms Francke said.

She thanked schools and organisations for their support, including Open Doors, Living Hope and Soteria Ministries.

Warrant Officer Petersen said volunteers are always needed. He hopes to see the support room open 24/7, but it will take volunteers working in shifts to achieve that.

“All training is provided, but people must be honest. Training takes two weeks and can help the person and be used to help the community, but a lot of people do the training and then don’t come to volunteer,” he said.

He suspects they use the training to try find employment elsewhere.

“We are happy to train people but they must help their communities with that training,” he said.

Warrant Officer Petersen said Masiphumelele and Ocean View communities were taking the fight against crime very seriously.

“We have two new neighbourhood watches, and this shows that people have had enough. People like you and I have to be that difference now,” he said. “We must do everything we can to keep the goodness alive, and we must act on this – and pray.”

He described the women in the room, all victim support room volunteers, as the backbone of the police and the community.

“It is these people whom the police turn to if someone has gone missing to help distribute pamphlets and information, and it is the most important network,” he said.

He appealed to a garden centre or business to donate some plants to transform the area next to the support room into a green, tranquil haven. Lighting was also needed, especially if the room was to run 24/7.

“We have great plans to expand our service to the community. We want to show them we really do care, but not by saying it, by our action,” he said.