The South African government has a number of shelters across the country specifically provided for women in need of refuge from violence or crime. Depending on the circumstances of the individual, they may reside in the shelter for anything from one day up to about three months.
Services Offered at the Shelter
A government shelter not only provides a safe and protected place for refuge-seeking women to sleep. But also supplies certain other basic necessities. Such as food, as well as certain necessary items of clothing. To add to this, emotional support is offered to victims in the form of trauma counseling. While also implementing various programs that focus on women in particular circumstances, such as gender-based violence situations. Furthermore, victims can request assistance in preparing for any potential court procedures.
At any shelter, women can also further their knowledge on their rights as victims. As well as learn what steps they may take. For example, those who have been abused by someone misusing alcohol or drugs may apply to have their abuser committed to a drug treatment centre. Or if the abuser is in possession of a licensed firearm, the victim can apply to have the firearm removed.
Children in Shelters
Unless specifically stated, most shelters do not provide statutory services to children. And therefore cannot accommodate them unless a legal guardian is present. So, as a mother or legal guardian seeking refuge, you may take your children with you to most shelters. But you will need to care for them.
How to Find a Shelter
In the Western Cape, there are 23 different shelters for abused victims of violence. All are listed, with details, on the official Western Cape government website. Alternatively, a person in need can contact their local Department of Social Development. Or, especially if after hours, go to any local police station.
In Gauteng, anyone in need of assistance has the option to SMS the 24-hour SMS line dedicated to providing support and counseling. By dialing *120*7867# a “please call me” will be sent free of charge and the victim can expect a call back from a counselor. Otherwise, the victim can contact one of the various community service programmes.
Kwazulu Natal has a Social Development Office in Pietermaritzburg that those in need can contact via telephone on 033 264 5402.
But regardless of where it is, if a person finds themselves in need of assistance or protection from violence or crime and is unsure of what to do, the nearest police station should be able to provide them with help at any hour of any day.