Since expanding their services to include a substance abuse unit in 2016, the Saartjie Baartman Centre has successfully assisted more than 70 women in their intensive programme. The first service of its kind in South Africa, the unit’s staff are equipped to address both substance addiction and intimate partner abuse.
A key feature of the substance unit is that women can bring their children with them and while at the Centre, they attend parenting skills training and counselling. “Few substance abuse programmes are able to take children. A women who is abused does not want to leave her children behind in an unsafe situation,” says head social worker and shelter manager at the Centre, Dorothea Gertse.
Research indicates a number of factors that make women who are abused more likely to use drugs and those who are addicted are more vulnerable to abuse. “Depression and anxiety can drive women who are abused to substance use, which in turn can put them into situations where illegal activities and violence are tolerated,” says Gertse.
“If you treat the two separately, you are only addressing one part of a complex problem that is connected. Rehab units need to assess clients for signs of intimate partner abuse, abuse shelters need to address substance use,” says Gertse.
Gertse notes that victim-blaming can lower sympathy for victims of intimate partner violence, including from the officials who are meant to protect victims; “Sometimes the police are less sympathetic and likely to take action against abuse because they see victims who are under the influence as partly responsible or criminal in their own right.”
Under close care and supervision, women are able to stay at the Saartjie Baartman Centre’s substance abuse unit for 16 weeks. The unit is equipped to assist clients to come off those drugs that do not require medical in-patient oversight, namely; dagga, tik, cocaine, mandrax, glue and over-the-counter medications.
Established 18 years ago, The Saartjie Baartman Centre has assisted more than 190 000 victims of crime and violence. Situated in Manenberg, the shelter houses an average of 100 women and children at a time. Women seeking their services can contact the Centre on 021 633 5287.
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 447 1082 / 072 930 4412
On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:
Director: Shaheema McLeod