Pretoria – They may be the first port of call for many victims, but police officers are not exempt from falling prey to gender-based violence.
South Africa is currently observing the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign. While the focus tends to be on civilians, hardly any attention is paid to those who serve and protect as potential victims of abuse.
“Domestic violence occurs behind closed doors… [Don’t] keep quiet because it [affects your] work… Don’t protect the abuser,” said Lieutenant Colonel Refilwe Matlamela on Tuesday.
She was speaking at an awareness march to advocate and raise awareness against the negative impact of violence against women and children. Matlamela is with the Visible Policing: Social Crime Prevention unit of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The march proceeded from the Union Buildings to Church Square in Pretoria.
“We know that domestic violence occurs behind closed doors, why are you keeping quiet because it escalates to work. Domestic violence is like a circle, dont protect the abuser,” Colonel Matlamela urged officers.
Lieutenant General Sharon Japhta said as members of the SAPS, they want to be counted in as activists against the scourge of violence against women.
Depth of invisible blows
She said emotional abuse arguably has the worst effect because no one can see it.
“Emotional abuse is something that is hidden. You don’t see it but you feel it and since it’s inside, the women don’t speak up and that is a silent killer for women and children because it has to do with your self-esteem and image.
“Abuse is no longer a shame or a family issue. You must speak up and encourage your families to report the abusers,” said Japhta.
During the march, participants had an opportunity to interact with police officers, who were distributing pamphlets with information on abuse as well as contact numbers to call when seeking help.
The 16 Days of Activism is observed under the theme, ‘Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa Forward’.
During the launch of 16 Days on 25 November 2016, President Jacob Zuma also launched the National Dialogues on Violence against Women and Children, which aim to understand the causes, prevalence and impact of violence against women and children, and to discuss appropriate solutions.
Convened by the Department of Women, the dialogues are an opportunity to understand the social, cultural and religious practices and laws that perpetuate violence against women and children.
The dialogues will also critically assess the persistent shortcomings and gaps in the current legislation, policies, institutional mechanisms and programmes aimed at addressing the scourge of violence.
They are being hosted in every province throughout the year in the format of workshops scheduled through municipal districts.