‘Insensitivity a second trauma for women’

Cheryl Thatiah was assisted by Nicola Pekeur from Melomed during the march. Walking next to them is Rani Carelse.

Police officers are still not giving female victims of crime the understanding and service they need, when the crime is reported.

This is the sentiment of Fowzia Veerasamy, chairperson of the Gatesville Neighbourhood Watch, who led a march on Wednesday July 18, which called for an end to violence against women and children, as well as better service from Athlone SAPS.

The march, called Women 2 Women, attracted a small group of women, some from the Gatesville Seniors’ Club, but Ms Veerasamy believes they managed to get the message through. The marchers walked from the Rylands civic centre to Athlone SAPS.

“We are standing for the voiceless. Women and girls are being attacked in their private space, which is supposed to be their comfort zone. Every step we take represents every young girl, woman and pensioner who has ever had to go through the trauma of being victims of crime, and in many instances also have to suffer secondary trauma because of the bad service they receive from the police. Officers at Athlone SAPS need to have a better understanding of how to deal with victims of crime so that they do not relive the trauma,” Ms Veerasamy said.

She added that they chose to march on Mandela Day because “just like Tata Madiba, women were in the forefront in the struggle against apartheid”.

The only man present at the march, was Ward 49 councillor, Rashid Adams. He decided to join, as violence against women and children is a matter close to his heart, he said.

“This initiative is part of a process to create awareness of abuse, especially against young women. We need to protect our young ladies. Many still do not speak up and initiatives like this can give them that opportunity. I have recently started a programme in the ward to deal with exactly this kind of thing. Also, there are many programmes focusing on the victims, and very few work with the perpetrators. The latter is important, so that the cycle of abuse can end. Tata Madiba was a man of peace and justice and I decided to join the march in honour of him. As a community we need to come together and work on strategies to deal with this serious matter. The march is just to highlight the challenges,” Mr Adams said.

One of the marchers, Lemeez Isaacs, said she was frustrated at the poor service she received from Athlone SAPS.

“Two years ago I was robbed and stabbed in my head. A warrant of arrest has been issued for the perpetrator, but Athlone SAPS is doing nothing about it. I still sometimes see this man in the community. I live in fear and I am too scared to walk past him. I have enquired about the case on so many occasions and I cannot believe that after two years, this man is not arrested yet. It’s not a nice thing,” Ms Isaacs said.

Ms Veerasamy handed over a memorandum with all their concerns, to station commander Colonel Mark Adonis. Chairperson of the Athlone Community Police Forum (CPF), Aziza Kannemeyer, was also there.

Said Ms Kannemeyer: “We need the City, the province and national government to take note of what is happening to our young people and elders. The City must bring the resources, and not just in Camps Bay. We need to make our voices heard. We must tell SAPS we are demanding better services and more resources. Western Cape Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, needs to wake up to the realities facing us. Bring back the death penalty. Our taxes keep the perpetrators in jail.”

Among the demands on the memorandum, the group called on an increase in police visibility, to ensure that women laying a complaint at the charge office are being respected, and that response times to crime be more effective.

In response to the memorandum, Colonel Adonis said: “I do not make any promises, but crime against women and children is a priority. We are trying to address it nationally. This is a big concern for us. As SAPS we have a six-point plan – procedures we need to follow when it comes to crime against women and children. The neighbourhood watch gave us one month to respond, and we will try our best to deal with some of the points listed on the memorandum. We also work closely with the CPF.”