Calling for 365 days of no violence

The Community Cohesion team, from left, social auxiliary worker Zimkhita Ntelezi, social worker Angie Nyamunetsa and director Bronwyn Moore.

Community Cohesion, a victim empowerment non-profit company (NPC), has seen a spike in domestic violence and are advocating for 365 days of no violence.

The Hout Bay-based organisation also operates in Ocean View, Masiphumelele, Fish Hoek, Simon’s Town and Woodstock, providing therapeutic sessions to people who have been victims of violence and crime.

Head therapeutic social worker, Angie Nyamunetsa, said they always have a rise in domestic violence cases over the December holiday and during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.

“We have a lot of domestic violence issues in Hout Bay with a number of them being self referrals and a great number coming from SAPS. Over December we had a spike of cases but most of them did not come for any therapeutic interventions because people binge drink in December, they fight and make up,” said Ms Nyamunetsa.

“In these sessions we try to get people to take a look at their lives and how their upbringing has impacted on their lives. How their environment, their community and schools impact them… and we try to help them find positive ways of dealing with their trauma.

“Our client plan depends on the needs of the client, we always consider that because all situations are different. Some people come in for burglary and they follow the steps that they should, or maybe someone comes in for domestic violence but doesn’t want to follow the legal route and requires resilience building,” she said.

Ms Nyamunetsa, who has been with the organisation since 2014, said they don’t force clients to do anything but rather advise them on a safety plan, make them aware of their rights and improve their resilience.

“We work with people from every corner of Hout Bay and there are a lot of success stories. In our sessions with the clients, we explain to them what rights they have and that those rights come with responsibility. So they could go and lay a charge, get a protection order, but if they don’t want to go that route then we work on a safety plan for when they are at risk,” said Ms Nyamunetsa.

“We try to offer them the best solutions because most time, it is not easy. Yes, they are in that situation but maybe they depend on that person or they are just not sure enough that they can leave and still need resilience building.

“Clients have the options to get a protection order but we make them aware that could also worsen their situation because one could feel strong with a protection order, but inside, they are not strong enough yet to use it and it just elevates the violence,” she said.

Community Cohesion director, Bronwyn Moore, said even though a victim has protection rights, it does not mean they are able to go home and act on those rights safely.

She said the nature of domestic violence is that psychologically it wears the victim down until they believe they deserve the abuse.

“What happens is a victim goes home and says to their abuser that the social worker told them their rights but that just upsets the abuser and could escalate the abuse from hitting to stabbing.

“People may say why don’t they just leave, but it’s not always that simple. The main reasons why people stay in the relationships are mainly economic, but it could also be cultural and religious reasons. There’s also an old concept called ‘body for bed’. As a person you have nothing else to trade, you are uneducated and got nothing else to trade except your body… and it doesn’t make you a prostitute,” said Ms Moore.

“It has nothing to do with money because we also have wealthy clients. What can happen is that if their husbands leave them then they are done yes they are walking out of the marriage with money, but they have never worked a day in their life and then suddenly need to enter the job market at the age of 45.

“Again, that’s when we work on resilience building with them,” she said.

Ms Moore said the impact domestic violence has on children is huge and that these children could potentially grow up with that culture or behaviour as well.

She added the domestic violence runs in all directions, not just against women, but that men and children are victims as well and that the 16 Days of Activism should include men as part of the solution against violence.

“People think that domestic violence is only physical but it’s not, it’s also psychological and emotional. For children who witness this this type of abuse, may it be a mother who is constantly being belittled or a father that is being emotionally abused.

“The impact of this on kids is huge. What they see is how they will act. Also, not everyone who has been abused will become an abuser… generally these people would have done some sort of reflection and introspection, they’ve sought help,” she said.

She said instead of just 16 days, there should be 365 days of no violence and the campaign should include men who also suffer abuse.