Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beeld story 22 Aug

Milnerton Opening makes the paper

The sign at the door reads, “Children Welcome”. Behind this door is a comfortable room that is brightly decorated and child-friendly. But it’s a room children should never have to visit. It is a state-of-the-art, reporting facility at the Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) at Milnerton police station that was created by the nonprofit organisation, Matla a Bana, to minimise the secondary abuse child victims suffer when reporting crime. The facility has an inviting waiting room, an assessment room with a bed, play area and toys that is linked to a monitoring room by a two-way mirror. It is also equipped with audiovisual recording apparatus.

It’s the fourth of its kind in the Western Cape with a fifth earmarked for Khayelitsha soon. Depending on available facilities at a police station, a room like this could cost between R60 000 and R150 000 to set up. Milnerton is one of 25 FCS units in the Western Cape and the aim is to eventually equip them all with rooms like these, but more sponsorship is needed. Claremont Rotary is their main sponsor, while Shellard Media sponsors the audiovisual equipment. Monique Strydom, founded Matla a Bana in 2002 to “create a voice against child abuse”. It is managed by the Callie and Monique Strydom Charity Trust, which was founded soon after she and her husband, Callie, survived a four month hostage ordeal at the hands of Abu Sayyaf rebels in Jolo, Philippines for four months in 2000.

She said August 27 marked 11 years of freedom for her, and recalled the impact the gang rape of two fellow female hostages had on them despite the rebels’ promise that they would never kill or rape the women, but rather use them as “instruments”. She equated the fear they were left with to the fear children face when abused by adults who were meant to protect them. Despite the challenges in prevention, she applauded the police for the work they did in combating child abuse crimes. She encouraged people to report these crimes and said they needed to establish more “faith and trust in children coming to SAPS.”

“We can work together as a community. This facility is purely for victims. Police investigate and make arrests. They are not here to look after the victim. That’s why we are here to do this. This facility will help get disclosure.” Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer said crime reports were never easy to digest. Referring to a horrific case of violence in a home he said, “Thirty years and it still shocks me.” He called for communities to mobilise and take care of children with the same vigour with which they mobilised themselves against apartheid. He said all parents wanted freedom for their children, but that one of the biggest prisons could be the home where children grew up. He encouraged sponsors to come forward to invest in projects of this nature. “We can spend millions on wars but unless we invest in our children we will never survive. All great men were children once. We must give them an opportunity.”

Matla a Bana runs numerous soft skills training programmes for the police. They also train doctors to do expert forensic medical examinations and train and equip forensic social workers. Visit or call 021 913 9107 to find out more about their projects and if you want to offer sponsorships. Keep kids out of this room.

Pam Fourie (Tabletalk Newspaper)