A 24-hour toll-free shelter helpline, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, went live last Wednesday. It is monitored by three social workers and based at the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Athlone, Cape Town
“When a survivor calls the helpline, we take her details, including her address. We offer basic emotional support, then help her to get into a shelter or whatever assistance she needs, like going to a police station to lay criminal charges or get a protection order,” said Saartjie Baartman Centre director Bernadine Bachar.
Bachar said that based on the volume of calls they received within a day of the helpline going live, it was clear more resources were needed. She said more than 200 calls were dealt with in four days.
“Many women are seeking places at shelters, and we have had a significant number of women requesting help to obtain protection orders,” said Bachar.
She said with the software used for the helpline, social workers could give callers information about the nearest shelters and whether there were beds available. They were working with about 100 shelters, Bachar said.
“Often women don’t understand what services are offered at a shelter. They think it’s merely a safe haven. A safe haven is a part of what we do, but there are a lot of empowerment programmes, psycho-therapeutic programmes and economic empowerment programmes,” she said.
Bachar said the helpline would not only help women in domestic violence situations find a convenient shelter but would also provide useful information about safety to callers.
Western Cape MEC for social development Sharna Fernandez, who attended the launch, urged all women to ensure emergency gender-based violence (GBV) contact numbers are saved on their phones.
To speak to social workers on the toll-free helpline, call 0800-001-005.
Originally published by GroundUp.