In a shocking statistics revealed by a study, the Sonke Change trial, conducted by Sonke Gender Justice in 2016, 56 percent of men in Diepsloot in northern Johannesburg say they’ve either raped or beaten a woman or child. The numbers are more than double reported in national studies. Considering how many attacks go unreported, the real number of victims is terrifyingly high.
The study, done in partnership with Wits, was conducted among 2 600 men aged between 18 and 40. Of these men, 60 percent said they’d raped or beaten women several times in the year.
Lekekela, who was once a volunteer counsellor at the Diepsloot Police station runs the shelter with partner Dudu Nene. They operate out of three Wendy Houses, two of which were donated by Massmart. It relies solely on the goodwill of companies to assist them.
Lekekela says he saw a need for a centrally situated temporary shelter where victims could report the attacks straight away and be given safe sanctuary – “Due to the ever increasing incidents of rape and domestic violence being reported at Diepsloot Police Station, but also due to victims not reporting attacks because of a lack of trust in the police. Also the station is too far from the community to report this cases as they happen. Most of the incidents happen at night and there is no transport to the police or if they call the police, they respond too late. At Green Door, they can safely wait for the police and to be referred to other relevant professionals.
“When a rape victim comes to Green Door I ask them how can I help them and they will tell me what happened. I call the police to open a case. While we are waiting for police to come, I will counsel the victim so that she is feels calm and safe and is ready to make a statement. Police, after taking her statement, will go with her for medical check and report. After this is done, the victim can either choose to stay at Green Door or go back to where she lives.
“When children and women come here, they still smell like the rapist’s sweat,” he explains. “They will be bleeding and have scars all over their faces and their private parts from being regularly being torn apart,” Brown told Bhekisisa Centre For Health Journalism in an interview.
“Mostly, rapists here don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. They think it’s their right to rape. They argue: ‘What is the problem if I have given this child or woman money?’
“Some perpetrators they confront me saying I make their women to disrespect them because of me when I talk about gender equality and teach them about their human rights. Some men believe that women are their possessions, they can do anything they like with them. They sleep with them and if they refuse, they beat them. They believe that women must not report them.
“Some perpetrators believe that if they beat women, it is a sign of love. They believe that women need to be beaten as they are ‘like children’. Some believe this is how men should behave . It’s normal for them as men, as this is how it’s always been since they can remember.
“So it is important to educate young boys so not to make the same mistakes as their fathers or other male relatives. Violence is learned behaviour and I believe it can be unlearned. We need to teach these boys from a young age what good behaviour is, and how to treat women.”
Lekekela has received help from a number of companies such as Werksman with legal help, Sadag helps with the counselling of victims, residents of Fourways have donated clothes, an individual has donated ‘Bags of love’ – care packages for victims, the Dischem and Lush Foundations have helped too. Fourways Life Hospital donated building materials to help build extra accommodation. The violence continues daily though, so the need for help is ongoing.
And it is from government that Lekekela feels that they need more support. “We need our departments to do their work the way they are supposed to: Our Department Of Safety to ensure that that criminals are arrested. Our justice system to prosecute the perpetrators , our Department Of Social Development to give more physical support, and our Department Of Health to provide post-medical care facilities. Also, for our own community members to report cases and follow them up.”
There is just one police station in Diepsloot that services 13 extensions, and an estimated half a million residents. The nearest government service offering post-rape care is Thuthuzela Care Centre at Tembisa Hospital, about 30km away.
In summing up their study, researchers painted a bleak picture, stating: “These levels of violence represent a state of emergency for victims and survivors of this violence.”
That is why Green Door and the victims of Diepsloot need all the help they can get.
Pay It Forward
The public and companies can assist with financial support, clothing, toiletries for women and children, non perishable food, beds, bedding, kitchen utensils, appliances and computers. Also building materials to add on accommodation for victims. Phone Brown Lekekela on 065 2473 643.