Domestic Violence during the National Lockdown
Before the national lockdown people made countless jokes and “memes” on social media about how the lock down was going to be hell for married couples and couples living together. While we would all like to take them as just jokes for laughs, it is sadly a reality for those with abusive partners.
Unfortunately, abusive partners won’t suddenly become perfect companions just because the country is in lock down. If anything, the stress of the lockdown along with the threat of unemployment and money troubles means that most home lives could become even more toxic.
The stress levels and anxiety levels brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic alone and the reality of being locked in is starting to affect South Africans , l cannot imagine how stressful it is for those that are trapped in their homes with their abusers, isolated from the people and the resources that could help them.
With a restriction in movement it is difficult for survivors to just pack up their bags and leave their abusers while the country is in national lockdown. Many of the options that battered women and their children ordinarily made use of, such as teachers, coaches, friends and family outside the home environment to escape violence are no longer readily available.The reality during this time is that it is difficult for victims of domestic violence to get away from the home. However, that does not mean that nothing can be done.
Social Organisations, namely AI for Good, Soul City Institute for Social justice and Sage Foundation came together in partnership and developed a chatbot (rainbow chatbot) aimed at offering help to South Africans who are living in abusive homes.The “rainbow “chatbot is accessible through Facebook messenger and aims to help anyone who is worried about their personal situation or who is looking for advice for family or friends.
The chatbot is available 24/7, strictly confidential and does not require you to furnish any personal information. The chatbot is designed to assist users to validate their experiences and advise on a way forward.The rainbow chatbot has “an empathetic, friendly persona”. Interactions with the chatbot are designed to help victims who may be ashamed about their situation find some comfort in opening up without fear of judgement.
You can access and chat to rainbow from any device that can connect to the internet. All you need to do is type ‘chat2bo’ or ‘Hi Rainbow’ on Facebook Messenger, or follow this link, to start a new conversation: http://m.me/chat2bo. ( I tried it , it works!).
You can also visit www.hirainbow.org for more information, and click ‘Start talking’ to chat. The website also has many interactive areas with stories, quizzes, resources and definitions to learn about abuse and information about how to deal with abuse.
If you are at risk of abuse or know someone who is, report abuse to the government’s hotline on 0800 150 150 or Gender Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428 or *120*786#
The Gender Based Violence Command Centre is also assisting through Skype via “HELPMEGBV”, a toll-free line (0800 428 428) and a call-back service victim could use by dialling *120*7867#.
The good news is that matters relating to urgent maintenance, domestic violence related matters and cases involving children can still be brought before our courts during the national lockdown period.
*Disclaimer: This advisory should not be interpreted as legal advice.
Author: Angela Vushe
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