Meet our new Thuthuzela Coordinator

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My name is Nomnqweno Nomxhego-Gqada and I’m 35 years old.  I obtained my Bachelor of Social Work at the University of the Western Cape.

I’m a humble, goal-oriented and very persistent person.  When I was 18 years old, I joined Rape Crisis as a counselling volunteer.  Back then my interest was stirred by the lack of knowledge around the issues of gender based violence in my community, especially from young girls.  This encouraged me to get involved and make them aware of the issue while also imparting knowledge of available services around Khayelitsha.

My role as the new TCC coordinator is to lead and manage the Thuthuzela Care Centres’ counselling service team to ensure delivery of high quality counselling services to rape survivors. The three sites are situated in Heideveld CHC, Victoria Hospital and Karl Bremmer Hospital.

TCC’s are important in providing improved services to rape survivors both prior to entering and within the Criminal Justice System in order to minimise secondary victimisation and increase the effectiveness of trials so that conviction rates are increased.

With my team, we will provide a high quality service to reduce trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encourage them to report rape incidents.

My goal for the year is to provide a space for professional growth within the TCC team.

I can’t really pin point any challenges for now but my approach will be taking each one as it arises.

To someone who wants to make a difference, I would say “start small”.  It’s the smallest things that make a difference in a person’s life.  You don’t need to have money to make a difference, find a cause that shares your interests and volunteer.

Welcome to the team, Nomnqweno!

We got through 2016 thanks to you!

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Dear supporter,

Rape Crisis has a dream of a world where women feel safe and are free from sexual violence – a world in fact where everyone is of free from rape.

This year you helped us train the volunteer counsellors who are there to offer support and empowerment to anyone traumatised by rape. You helped us pack care packs for rape survivors at our annual Mandela Day event. During the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women you stood with us as our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign demanded specialised Sexual Offences Courts outside Athlone and Khayelitsha courts in an effort to get government to roll these courts out across the country as promised.

Because of you rape survivors and their closest supporters can call our helpline at any time of the day or night. Because of you they can come for counselling sessions that help them understand their trauma and find ways of coping.

By the time they leave Rape Crisis so many of them are free of their traumatic feelings. While they will surely relive this trauma at certain times they are free of their day to day distress. Many of them leave here feeling closer to people in relationships, with an appreciation of the simpler things in life, a greater sense of purpose and willing to try new things again.

For this if nothing else you made 2016 a good year for us and we thank you for it.

Love, Kath

Kathleen Dey

Director

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#HerNameWasVovo and she was a human being

I am a middle-class, white, cis-gender woman who is perceived to be heterosexual. Because of this I am protected in many ways from the hate and violence that is levelled against poor, black queer people like Noluvo Swelindawo, who was kidnapped from her house in Driftsands and murdered because she is a lesbian. I am not sexualised and perceived as ‘deviant’ in the way that Noluvo is. My body has not being transformed by hundreds of years of exploitation into something unhuman, like hers has.

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Noluvo Swelindawo. Pic: IOL

But I am not as protected as I have always thought. On the 30th of October 2015 I was raped.

I do not profess to know what Noluvo experienced as a queer black woman, but I have experienced what it means to have violence acted out on me, because of what I represent; that which is less than man, that which is woman. I know what it is to be grabbed, strangled, dragged, penetrated. I know what it is to look into the face of a man and fear that he will kill me and leave my broken body in a clump of bushes. I know what it is to fear that those I loved would find me like this. I know what it is to have my humanity ripped away from me, to feel that I am no longer myself.

The murder of Noluvo forced me to reflect on what it means to be a human being in South Africa, what it means to inhabit this precarious, fractured space. On reflecting on the murder of Noluvo, I am forced to mourn for all of us who can read this kind of story and then carry on with our lives, when the lives of so many are being ended, when so many are being stripped of their dignity, their freedom and their humanity.

The valuing of my life, over the lives of other women, was made clear when I attended a government clinic following my own rape. Here I was repeatedly asked who I was accompanying for treatment – because surely this well-dressed white girl could not be the one who was raped? The fact that I cannot comfortably be seen as a ‘rape survivor’ and  that so many people have wanted not to believe what has happened to me when they so easily believe and overlook when the same happens to other women, is deeply revealing of how dehumanisation has become a key social coping mechanism.

If I had been murdered, those of you, who feel that this can’t happen to people like us, would have cried and probably brought flowers, like you did for Franziska Blochliger. You might have raged and screamed. You might even have marched to ensure that this does not happen to another young woman, like me. You would have recognised my humanity and that it was unacceptable for this to be taken from me.

You will not, I fear, do the same for Noluvo.

*Republished with permission.

 

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Rebecca Helman will begin her PhD, which explores “post-rape subjectivities” at UNISA in 2017. She is researcher at the UNISA’s Institute for Social and Health Sciences & SAMRC-UNISA’s Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit and a volunteer counsellor at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust’s Observatory office.

Follow her blog here. 

 

 

 

 

On the importance of specialised Sexual Offences Courts

I know you know all about the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign, because you’ve liked them on Facebook and you’re following them on Instagram and Twitter. Just to recap, it’s a project started to hold the government accountable to its promise of more sexual offences courts.

On Friday 25th November, myself, three other students along with a couple of amazing Rape Crisis staff visited Parow Magistrates’ Court to get an insight into specialised Sexual Offences Courts. We’re here in Cape Town all the way from the University of York in England to study the advocacy model that Rape Crisis is developing.

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On Friday morning we turned up at Parow Court armed with a checklist, a camera and a whole bunch of questions. Our first step was to meet Monica, a Rape Crisis court supporter. Her job is really invaluable as she talks survivors through every step of the trial process, equipping them with the knowledge which then empowers them to go into the court room and give their testimony. Everything at Rape Crisis revolves around trying to prevent secondary trauma to survivors, and the advice that court supporters provide including how to avoid looking at the defendant during your testimony sounds very useful on that front.

A quick tour outside so that we could check that Parow court met good standards of cleanliness and state of repair, and then we got to see the separate waiting rooms for adult and child witnesses. A separate waiting room gives them a few minutes of calm before entering the court room. The waiting rooms are set up with magazines, televisions and toys, to make the whole ordeal just that bit more pleasant and help the waiting go more quickly.

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We were lucky enough to get to meet a specialist prosecutor during our tour. This is another fantastic thing about specialised Sexual Offences Courts; the prosecutors only deal with sexual offences, and have received specific training surrounding rape and sexual assault myths and understand the complexities of the Sexual Offences Act. Even the magistrates here are specially trained on these types of cases as well as the procedural aspects of the law!

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Cuen Stanfield, Parow’s intermediary, showing us the speaker system set up which allows the intermediary to hear court proceedings.

I found the hardest part of our tour was our meeting with the court intermediary. With a background as a social worker, his job mostly involves working with children in order to lessen secondary trauma during their trial, although he also works with adults with mental disabilities. He is the contact person between the magistrate, prosecutor and child, and acts as a kind of “translator” to put courtroom questions into terms that the child can understand and feel comfortable with. On the day of the trial the child or vulnerable adult doesn’t go into the courtroom and instead sits in a specialised room with the intermediary, who can hear court proceedings through an ear piece and relay questions. The intermediary’s room and the court room are connected via  closed circuit television (CCTV), so that when the time comes, the cameras can be briefly turned on to allow the child to identify that the defendant is indeed the perpetrator of the crime in question. As awful as it is that there is a need for a special room for child survivors, I am so glad that such a clever system is in place to prevent any further trauma. Having seen this set up, I can’t believe that it hasn’t been rolled out worldwide and that many countries still force children to be in the courtroom during proceedings.

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Checklists at the ready as we made sure Parow court was a fully functioning specialised Sexual Offences Court.

Overall, this was a really eye-opening experience. There is no question in my mind as to the need for the RSJC Campaign, bringing in more specialised Sexual Offences Courts and reducing both the time it takes for a rape case to get through the trial and the secondary trauma that a survivor faces when taking their case to court. If you want to help Rape Crisis with this goal, you can follow RSJC on Facebook, Twitter, add your name to the RSJC mailing list  or DONATE to the campaign.

 

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Kate Every, Ari Bakke, Fiona Garvey and Hannah Smith are students from the University of York doing their masters in Applied Human Rights. Here volunteering for Rape Crisis, they’ve also spent a lot of their free time on Table Mountain with their new friends, Selasi and Cassi the dassies.