Source: SA News
Pretoria – For too long, violence against women and children has remained a hidden scandal in homes and communities, says the Director General of Social Development Coceko Phakade.

He said gender-based violence affected all families - rich or poor, big or small.

"In South Africa, the statistics are just as startling. The Medical Research Council and Gender Links Study of 2011 found that over half of the women in Gauteng have experienced some form of violence in their life-time.

"Nationally, over 71 percent of women are sexually abused and with reports that a woman is raped every 26 seconds," said Director General Phakade at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday.

It is for this reason that the Department of Social Development has launched a pilot command centre for victims of gender-based violence.

"This is a 24-hour call centre dedicated to provide support and counselling to victims of gender-based violence ... The command centre is aimed at providing immediate psychological assistance and referral to victims affected by gender-based violence and to assist them in avoiding additional exposure to violence," said the Director General.

The toll free number is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) and callers will be able to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling.

"We have employed a group of 75 qualified social workers who have trained on trauma management and customer service. Sixty-five of these social workers, who were previously unemployed, are currently employed in the command centre."

He said the social worker agents would provide telephonic support and counselling and could direct the victim's case for follow-up and on-the-field support to a social worker.

Social workers in the pilot districts have been provided with training on the command centre system and cell phones to provide feedback on those cases directed to them for support and resolution in the field.

The pilot phase of this project will run for six months focusing on specific areas in two provinces, namely Hillbrow, Moroka, Sunnyside, Akasia and Alexandra in Gauteng and Edendale and Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal. However, victims from across the country will be able to make use of the call centre and receive assistance.

Callers can also request a social worker from the command centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from a cell phone.

The command centre can also assist in the prosecution of perpetrators as information collected throughout the intervention process can be made available to the courts as evidence.

The department has collaborated with the South African Police Service, Departments of Justice and Constitutional Development, Health and NGOs on the ground to ensure victims receive medical or legal assistance.

The Vodacom Foundation has invested R4.2 million for a period of six months to help cover the cost of the ICT infrastructure for the call centre, said Maya Makanjee Chief Corporate Affairs at Vodacom.

She said Vodacom wanted to get involved in the initiative to ensure victims of gender-based violence have access to qualified help. Gender-based violence was not acceptable in a country where people have equal rights.

The call centre forms part of various interventions by government to address the scourge, including the establishment of shelters for victims of domestic violence and the Khuseleka One Stop Centres for Victims of Crime and Violence which provide services such as counselling, medical treatment, legal and police services under one roof in order to minimise secondary victimisation.

There is also policy such as the National Policy Guidelines for Victim Empowerment, which guides the implementation of services to victims of crime, the Minimum Standards for Service Delivery in Victim Empowerment which provides service providers with information on what is expected of them when rendering services to victims of crime and violence, among others.

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