Standing in line at the police station, a woman shivers with fear. All alone, she walks to the charge desk and tells the officer on duty that she has just been raped.
Uncertain what the protocol is in reporting a rape, the woman tries to listen to the officer, while struggling to control her emotions. However, she does not have to do it alone.
Situated at Newcastle SAPS, the Victim Friendly Room offers victims of crime a support structure which can guide them through their ordeal.
“The Victim Friendly Room was initially opened in 2017, but often saw social workers coming through when there were meetings or someone in need. But this has changed, as I am here full time, from Monday to Friday and alternate weekends,” says social worker Jabu Makhoba.
At the Victim Friendly Room, Jabu says she offers an array of services. “I help victims of rape and domestic violence, assisting them in opening cases; and helping them at the hospital for the relevant tests,” she says.
Furthermore, she explains that at times, she even goes as far as opening cases for certain victims. “This is usually when the victim is a child and the parent doesn’t want to open a case. I am then liable to open a case and I can testify in court,” she says.
Jabu also offers psychosocial therapy for victims of crime, as well as for those who are suffering from bereavement.
“I also work with rehabs, crisis centres and rehabs. Through the Victim Friendly Room, there are also support groups for people who have endured domestic violence, rape or who are parents of victims,” she explains.
While the Victim Friendly Room is situated at the police station, Jabu emphasises that she is not employed by the SAPS, but rather by LifeLine.
Dedicated to assisting victims of crime, what led Jabu to become a social worker?
“I faced a lot of challenges in my life and did not always have someone there for me, and I did not want someone else to go through their challenges alone. There is a high demand for social workers, and I feel privileged being able to help those who cannot help themselves.”
Looking at society, Jabu says the two biggest issues faced withing communities is that of rape and domestic violence. With these two crimes often shrouded in silence, Jabu encourages victims to step forward.
“Victims can either phone me on 033 342 4447 or come to my offices at the Newcastle SAPS, I am always here.”
As Jabu encourages people to break the silence on abuse and rape, victims can now report their case with someone by their side. No longer do they have to fear to report their ordeal by themselves.