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New Stellenbosch Thuthuzela Care Centre a “beacon of hope” for GBV victims
Author: Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Anél Lewis]
Published: 18/04/2024

​​​​Stellenbosch University (SU) is one of several partners involved in the launch of the first support centre for victims of gender-based violence (GBV) that is not on hospital premises and has onsite overnight facilities.

Since opening its doors in February this year, the Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) in Ida's Valley has helped more than 90 GBV victims. This underlined the dire need for a facility in the area to provide support for rape and GBV victims, the National Director of Public Prosecution, Advocate Shamila Batohi, said at the official opening this week. The event was attended by dignitaries from national and provincial government, the diplomatic corps and representatives of various nongovernmental organisations.

Already, the Centre has relieved the load of the Stellenbosch district hospital by providing a safe alternative for victims looking for support and emergency accommodation, said Provincial Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez. “The TCC is a place where wounded can start to rebuild, where they can transcend from victim to survivor. This Centre is just one aspect of the arsenal we need to fight the scourge of GBV."

Batohi described the Centre as a “symbol of the power of collaboration" involving the National Public Prosecuting Authority, national and provincial government, the South African Police Services, Stellenbosch University (SU), Stellenbosch Municipality, Mediclinic, Ring for Peace Cape Trust, the private sector and “active citizens".

SU is involved through the INSPIRE (Initiative for Non-violence, Support, Prevention, Intervention, Research and Education) facility, which will help to establish global networks to study nonviolence and create an environment for academics and students to research GBV. “We want to bolster our commitment to fighting GBV and this facility will help with research, training and teaching," said Jaco Greeff Brink, Head of SU's Equality Unit. Advocate Bonnie Currie-Gamwo, Special Director of Public Prosecution: Sexual Offences, commended SU for its role in the realisation of the Centre by releasing one of its former residences for the purpose. She said the National Prosecuting Authority would encourage more tertiary institutions to link with their local care centres.

One of the objectives of the TCC is to provide victims with the emotional, psychological and legal support they need to pursue a conviction against their perpetrators – most often someone they know. Batohi explained that over 50% of GBV offences are committed by people known to the victim. While the current conviction rate for sexual offences cases is reportedly at around 75%, the reality is that this only applies to those cases that make it to court. Often, the victim will withdraw the case out. “This means that the conviction rate drops, with less than 10% actually getting justice," she said. However, facilities like the Stellenbosch TCC make it easier for victims to follow through with legal action. “The model works because it is victim-centred and court-directed to ensure justice for victims."

Fernandez said the Centre will set the benchmark in the support for victims, not only for Stellenbosch and the Western Cape, but “for the country as a whole", adding: “I believe that this is a special place, created by special people for a special purpose."