As the country marks the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, an NPO and church in Kraaifontein has restarted its work to restore the lives of those affected by abuse.
Lofdal Restoration Centre, situated near Bloekombos, hosts a three-month rehabilitation course for women and men who have fled abuse and are battling addiction.
The 16 days of activism campaign started on Sunday November 25 and will run until Monday December 10, which is international Human Rights Day.
Lofda also has a home for abandoned babies who live with volunteers on the premises.
Pastor Ulrich Strauss said the centre first opened in 2012 but closed after two years due to a shortage of staff and lack of resources. It reopened this year.
Now social workers and occupational therapists from other NGOs volunteer at Lofdal.
The centre can accommodate up to 12 women and 20 men at a time.
He said they can usually take more men than women because the men are often only treated for addiction but the women need help with a range of things like recovering from abuse.
At the moment there are only 11 women on the three-month rehabilitation course.
The women live on the Lofdal premises and are monitored by a team of counsellors.
They will be sent home in January but social workers will keep an eye on their progress and a new group of those seeking help will join the next course.
“Working with women can be very challenging but practising patience and giving them the necessary love and attention they need can help change their situations. These ladies living here are doing very well and have accepted that they are in a safe place,” said Pastor Strauss.
Luwanda Frieslaar, an occupational therapist at Lofdal, holds weekly one-on-one consultation sessions with the women.
She said many women turn to drugs to cope with the abuse while others just accept it and continue this way for many years.
“Many women face abuse and some of them are not aware that they are going through it, especially verbal and emotional abuse. Daily, these women share their heartbreaking stories with me and most of the time I cry with them.”
She said some of the women had experienced abuse at very young ages, while others learnt about abuse when getting into relationships or in their marriages. Some made bad decisions such as turning to drugs. There were even those who committed suicide.
She said the different types of abuse that people experience are physical, emotional, financial and verbal.
Northern News spoke to some of the women at the centre.
A 27-year-old mother of four children, aged 11, 6, 2 and 3 months old, shared her story on how many times she tried to escape physical and emotional abuse.
She said she was in a relationship for 11 years and although it started off well, she and her partner began using drugs together. The abuse took place when there was no money to support their habits.
“More than the drugs, I think the man was my addiction because no matter how he would hurt me, I would continue going back. If you think you love someone, you accept that they are abusive but I needed a change,” she said.
She said she laid charges against her abuser many times but they would reconcile and she would withdraw the cases, until the abuse started again.
She said she walked around with bruises on her body and saw how the abuse negatively affected her children.
“Due to my parents being separated, I never wanted my children to grow up in a broken home. I needed to break away from the abuse as well as the drugs but I had no clue how,” she said
Things changed for the young mother when her abuser threatened her with an axe. She knew this would result in her death.
“My breaking point was when my mom said she was aware of the abuse and she awaited a phone call saying I had been murdered.”
A 25-year-old woman, who is five months pregnant, said she faced physical abuse and had two near-death experiences. In the first incident, a rock the size of a baseball was thrown at her forehead. The next time she was stabbed in the back of her head with a knife. Since escaping the abuse, she said Lofdal has changed her life.
The experiences of the other women made her realise that
she made the right decision to get help before she ended up dead.
“My boyfriend hit me often and I was abused emotionally. I still suffer from nightmares of being abused but I know that I am in a safe place. I am dealing with the trauma,” she said.
Her message to women who are currently face abuse is: “ Get out and get help, fast. You don’t have to put up with it, there are people who can help.”
Pastor Strauss said he hopes to see a transformation in communities during the 16 Days of Activism campaign. He believes that women will come together and share their stories of abuse and find solutions to their problems.
Call the Lofdal Restoration Centre on 021 982 7290 or call Pastor Strauss on 076 036 9908.