Facelift for support room

Co-ordinator of the Victim Support Room, Frieda Freeman, and Constable Natasha Landers, in the upgraded room at Manenberg SAPS.

The Victim Support Room at Manenberg SAPS received a R15 000 facelift, in order to make it especially welcoming for children who need counselling.

Constable Natasha Landers, who co-ordinated the upgrade, said their room is one of 56 police station victim support rooms which have already undergone upgrades. The aim is to make all the victim support rooms at the different police stations look the same.

An average of 40 people a month making use of the services offered at the Victim Support Room. The room is manned by volunteers from the community, who work on a shift basis, and there are also volunteers on stand-by over weekends and after-hours.

Frieda Freeman, the co-ordinator of the Victim Support Room, said people generally have a perception that the room only provides services to rape survivors, when this is not so.

“This room is open to anybody. Part of my job is to help survivors remain calm. I received the necessary training, and I can, for example, identify when someone is having a panic attack. We deal with all types of trauma, and sometimes people just approach us for some advice. There are times when people reach out to us for help with drug abuse, and we are able to refer them,” Ms Freeman said.

Manenberg SAPS spokesperson, Captain Ian Bennett, said the upgrade is driven by Business Against Crime, and the R15 000 needed for the upgrade was sponsored by Super Spar in Vangate Mall.

The new-look room was unveiled on Tuesday June 13 and deputy police minister Bongani Mkongi was among those who attended the proceedings. He gave his full support to the
victim-friendly facility.

Captain Bennett said counselling is important, especially after traumatic incidents.

“The community is affected by traumatic incidents, such as continuous shooting, leaving death and destruction. Communities are at times so traumatised, that symptoms of Stockholm syndrome are ever present.

“The Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) was established to support victims and to empower survivors of crime and violence committed against them or their families and where they are affected indirectly due to criminal behaviour. A victim is a person who has experienced an abnormal event in their daily lives – this can be physical, mental or emotional – including economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through crime or violence,” Captain Bennett said.

Stockholm syndrome is when victims begin to identify and sympathise with their captors.

Ms Freeman said she opted to volunteer at the room because she herself is a survivor of abuse.

“Things were so bad that I at one stage, wanted to commit suicide. However, somehow I started to pray, and I cried like a baby. I told God I would work for the community if he would help me pull through that very traumatic time of my life. He answered my prayer, and I decided to volunteer at the Victim Support Room, because I saw that there was a great need for this service. I love what I do here. I have been here for four years. I received training from SAPS and it helped me a lot to do my work effectively. I use all the tools I have been taught,” Ms Freeman said.

The services offered at the Victim Support Room include:

Ensuring victims receive emotional and practical support;

Assisting victims with the management of trauma;

Ensuring victims are educated to identify the symptoms of post-traumatic stress;

Referring victims to professional services where necessary;

Providing victims with emergency services;

Ensuring the criminal justice process is dealt with efficiently;

Promoting the rights and responsibilities of victims through advocacy;

Ensuring victims are aware of their rights;

Ensuring ongoing victimisation is prevented; and

Providing a shelter service.