Determined to make a fresh start from a history of emotional and physical abuse, Zinhle Sithole turned to the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) for help.
A dedicated social worker picked up the phone on the other end and counselled the tearful 31-year-old who had resolved to leave her abusive husband.
“I appreciated her honesty when we spoke on the phone. She made me aware that my children were traumatised because of the abuse. She informed me that I had a chance to make things right with them by leaving the relationship,” says Sithole of the three-hour phone call in December 2019.
The call to the centre had been made after midnight.
Sithole (not her real name), had previously contemplated leaving her abusive husband three years after they had said their “I do’s”.
Unemployed at the time, she vividly remembers how her husband would belittle her because of this.
Her partner who she married in 2010, also started drinking on the regular.
“I wanted to get out of the marriage when my first-born was two-years-old but I fell pregnant with my second child,” says the mother of three, who due to her Christian belief, got married at an early age.
Even though there were cracks in her marriage, she decided to stay with the hope that she and her husband would be able to iron out their issues.
Speaking to SAnews as the country commemorates the16 Days of Activism Campaign, Sithole reflected on the late night phone call wherein she had nobody to talk to about the emotional and physical abuse she had endured at the hands of her husband.
She also needed advice on how to break the news to the respective families that she was leaving her husband.
She recalls an incident in which her husband picked her up and threw her on the floor, injuring her. When she sought medical attention, she was informed that she was two-weeks pregnant with her third child.
With the unbearable pain of living with an abusive husband, she attempted to commit suicide. However, this endeavour was not successful.
She credits the GBVCC for supporting her during one of the lowest moments in her life.
The centre which is located in Groenkloof, Pretoria, operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year under the Department of Social Development.
It operates as a national call centre facility and victims who need counselling can contact it on 0800 428 428 or send a please call me on *120*7867# or log onto the website www.gbv.org.za.
Sithole has now moved on from her traumatic experience and is navigating the new chapter in her life as a career woman.
After seven years of applying for jobs with no luck, Sithole received a life-changing phone call about a position as a Personal Assistant that she had applied for at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
By November 2020, she had grown within the company and is currently employed in the company’s marketing and sales department.
Sithole who is now in a good place mentally, is looking forward to growing her career.
Recently, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu reiterated the call for South Africans to make use the GBVCC, which offers immediate response and psychosocial support services to victims.
Zulu called for action demonstrating that Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) has no space in society.
The Minister has called on individuals to address attitudes and beliefs that support GBV like violence and patriarchal norms; the impact of adverse childhood experiences on both perpetrators and victims; substance addiction and individual’s relationship with peers.
The GBVCC call centre operates 24 hours/7 days, and the services are manned by qualified social workers, who are responsible for call taking and call referrals.
The centre has an emergency line – 0800 428 428 – and is supported by a “Please call me” facility: *120*7867#, a Skype line to assist the deaf community (add ‘Helpme GBV’ to your Skype contacts) and an SMS based line (SMS ‘Help’ to 31531).
No doubt the centre is a crucial cog in the fight against GBVF. The facility employs social workers who are responsible for call taking and call referrals.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has called on South Africans to make interventions in their own spaces to respond to the scourge of GBVF as a society.
The16 Days international campaign, takes place every year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day).
The campaign forms the centre point of government’s comprehensive 365 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.
During 16 Days, government together with civil society and the private sector will host a series of community and sector dialogues and activities to foster a collaborative effort in dealing with GBVF.