This week News 24 reported a concerning increase in the number of gender based violence incidents. Precious Robinson, chairperson of SACSoWACH, a coalition of 33 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which is supporting the Department of Health with its coronavirus response, expressed their concern and were quoted as saying, “The national government’s gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide command centre, which runs a toll-free, 24-7 emergency call centre, recorded that more than 120 000 victims rang the national helpline for abused women and children in the first three weeks after the lockdown started – double the usual volume of calls.” This same concern was echoed by President Ramaphosa in his address to the nation this week.
Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing and Communications Manager at Fidelity ADT, says they have definitely starting to sense an increase in stress at households in the Fidelity ADT footprint judging by the comments on Whatsapp and social media community groups regarding people requesting assistance from neighbours when they heard screams. There are also a number of angry and threatening messages directed at neighbours and those breaking the lockdown rules and the curfew. “While this is not yet being reflected in the SAPS statistics, it is definitely something to watch, as evidenced by the increase in calls and the number of loud family disturbances the company is responding to,” she says. Hattingh says they don’t have any firm stats yet but in general, mental wellbeing is as big a concern under COVID-19 as is physical health.
“Although relatively little official research has been conducted around the effects of the pandemic on mental health, many of our customers are living with the emotional fallout of the crisis. From fear and anxiety of becoming infected and what that might mean for our families, to the stress of trying to keep children entertained (not to mention shielding them from the harsh realities of our current circumstances),to the isolation and loneliness that comes with being locked down and the frustration with spending prolonged periods with family members. The majority of South Africans are riding an emotional rollercoaster at present – and that’s before you factor the considerable strain introduced by reduced income and concerns around how to manage one’s financial obligations during these highly volatile times,” she says. Hattingh says that just a few weeks ago a police officer was tragically shot when he responded to a disturbance in Parkmore recently. The resident then committed suicide after shooting the policeman.
Hattingh says the level of mental stress could definitely climb the longer we are on lockdown and the effects of the depressed economy are felt. “If you are feeling stressed that is not something you need to deal with on your own, “she says.
The Government website https://www.gov.za/Coronavirus has a list of support toll free numbers anyone can phone. Some of the main numbers include:
Health and support
SAPS gender-based violence service complaints (SAPS)
0800 333 177
GBV (Gender Based Violence) Command Centre
0800 428 428 / *120*7867# (free from any cell phone)
SMS Line: 32312
Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Helpline
0800 150 150
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)
Tel: 011 642 4345
After hours cellphone: 083 765 1235
0800 055 555
LifeLine South Africa
0800 012 322 (free on mobile networks including landlines)