Women’s abuse shelters are the response mechanism to interrupt violence by helping women leave abusive homes and, in the words of Delene Roberts, Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WCWSM) chairperson, “literally we are there when the next step is death.”
Just last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele released the quarterly crime statistics, revealing that between July and September 2023, 881 women were murdered, 1,514 cases of attempted murder of women were reported to police and 14.401 women were victims in assault GBH incidents.
“Calling our services shelters is somewhat misleading”, said Roberts, “as the word is one- dimensional. In the Minimum Standards on Shelters, women’s abuse shelters are more clearly defined as safe houses and crisis centres.”
Aside from shelter, Roberts explained there are a number of services provided to victims of violence.
“When women approach shelters directly or are referred, many have injuries and we have to take them to the hospital. Some women require protection orders so we take them to court.
“And others who choose to report the abuse are accompanied to the police station.
“In between all of this, we are feeding, clothing and counselling the survivors and their children to help them adjust to a life away from abuse.”
In a 2018 report by the Heinrich Böll Foundation titled ‘What is Rightfully Due: Costing the Operations of Domestic Violence Shelters’, it found that a per-bed funding model is not appropriate as shelters’ variable costs are determined by individual women’s circumstances, which includes their employment status, level of education, number of children, health and access to resources.
Most women who access shelters are unemployed and arrive with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. In 2018, the beneficiary cost per woman and her two children was calculated as R7,223.72 per month.
As we head into 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement would like to highlight that despite gaps in funding and support, women’s abuse shelters – themselves largely staffed by women – continue to provide trauma-informed and victim-centered services to women brave enough to leave abusive situations and reach out for help.
We have seen the impact when private companies such as Uber partner with shelters to assist women leaving abusive situations.
While we are waiting for comprehensive funding to services beyond providing beds, we call on private donors to support the work, for businesses to partner with us and for everyone who can to donate food, stationary, dignity packs and clothing to our shelters.
To get in touch with Western Cape Women's Shelter Movement, you can email [email protected]
* Western Cape Women's Shelter Movement is a valued partner of National Shelter Movement
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL