Discreetly nestled at the back of Kraaifontein police station is a serene little room where victims of crime can get comfort and support.
This is where volunteers help people who have been harmed by violence, rape, theft or other crime traumas to start their recovery. It is the home of the victim empowerment programme.
The programme is run by long-time volunteer, Basetsane Maboe, of Bernadino Heights, and Sergeant Shanneen Gertse.
During Ms Maboe’s many years with the programme a few incidents have stayed with her. Like the time very young boys made a gruesome discovery.
“One day Captain Niemand phoned me,” she said, referring to Captain Gerhard Niemand who works at the station. “Four boys, they were 6, 7, 8 and 9, and they stay around this area. They discovered a body. It was headless.”
The boys were brought to the victim support room and observed to see how bad their trauma was.
“We called their parents in because we are not allowed to speak to minors without their parents’ permission. Two boys were shaking,” Ms Maboe said. The boys were referred to a social worker for counselling.
Sergeant Gertse vividly remembers another case where a 14-year-old’s drink was spiked and she was raped.
“They were all still minors. The parents came here asking, ‘Why, why, why?’ We had to debrief them, and speak to the child,” Sergeant Gertse said.
She said that case had been difficult for her because both the perpetrators and victim had been young.
“We still have that compassion and empathy for them,” she said.
In both cases the children were referred for counselling.
“We are not counsellors,” said Ms Maboe. “Counsellors are trained for three to four years. We debrief and then do referrals to counsellors, psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers.”
Sometimes former victims are also called upon for assistance.
“People in the communities who have had the same experience, we call them in to listen. We do this because they understand.
They have been through it. I can’t say, ‘Oh, your husband died, I know how that feels’ if my husband is still alive. I don’t know how it feels,” Sergeant Gertse said.
Station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk said the volunteers were “angels” to the station.
“I’m just grateful,” she said. “Working with victims of crime, it drains you. It’s such a relief to be able to call in victim support and know that they are in good hands so that we can get on with the police work.”
But the programme itself also needs support.
“We need church organisations, lawyers, doctors, counsellors to make their services available. So that they can work hand in hand with us,” Sergeant Gertse said.
The programme also needs volunteers and donations of toiletries, underwear and clothes for rape victims.
“If a rape victim comes in, her clothes get taken for evidence,” Ms Maboe explained. If you can help, contact Ms Maboe at 074 634 4895.