New victim support unit at Bellville SAPS

Monique Strydom spoke at the unveiling of Bellville police station’s new victim support unit last week about how she had handled the trauma of being taken hostage by terrorists.

Ms Strydom was one of the 21 hostages held by Abu Sayyaf militants for about four months on a remote Philippines island in 2000. She and her then husband, Callie, had been on a scuba-diving holiday, when they were taken hostage.

The experience was a life-changing one, which she now uses to inspire and motivate people.

After her ordeal, Ms Strydom closed her PR and marketing business and started Matla A Bana, a non-profit organisation fighting child abuse. Matla A Bana creates child-friendly facilities at police stations for survivors of child rape when giving statements to police and helps about 30 000 children a year. The organisation recently held its annual Matla A Bana Extreme for Kids Cycle Tour and ploughed some of the proceeds into the new victim support unit.

Bellville police’s Major Fienie Nimb said they had started working with Ms Strydom on the new unit in December, after station commander Brigadier André van Dyk said he wanted to get rid of the “hokkie” that housed it previously.

The new unit has a reception area, a bathroom, children’s room and the main room for counselling sessions.

Janette Edgar saw an article about plans for the new unit and decided she wanted to get involved.

Ms Edgar had gone through her own trauma – losing her daughter, Belinda Platt, who had died a few days after giving birth.

Ms Edgar, an artist, did some paintings for the unit, and the centre-piece work for the main trauma room was inspired by her daughter.

She said the experience had helped her to heal.