Swaziland

In Swaziland, a rape victim finds a safe space for recovery

By Rebecca Wabwoba

A One Stop Centre offers free medical care, psychological counselling, legal support and social welfare services to women and children victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

MBABANE, Swaziland, January 2016 – Eighteen-year-old Xolile Dlamini* woke up feeling unwell that fateful July day. Deciding to attend a local health clinic in the afternoon, she embarked on her journey by foot. On her way, she was stopped by a man from her neighbourhood who lured her into nearby bushes with the excuse of talking to her about a family matter.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Swaziland/2015
A poster inside the One Stop Centre in Mbabane, Swaziland, encourages victims of violence to speak up and report abuse.

The man repeatedly raped her and detained her for hours. He eventually disappeared after stealing her mobile phone.

Dazed, bruised and bleeding, Xolile slowly found her way out of the bush as it became dark. She borrowed a phone from the first person she met and called her mother, explaining her horrible ordeal. Her mother picked her daughter up and together they went to the local police station to report the rape.

Once the police had taken down details of the rape, they referred Xolile immediately to the One Stop Centre in Mbabane, a facility that offers free medical care, psychological counselling, legal support and social welfare services to women and children victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

“When she came here, she was subdued, hurting and traumatized,” says Futhi Gamedze, Site Coordinator at the One Stop Centre. “As per the procedures, we immediately gave her medical care including post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and a pregnancy test. We offered her initial counselling and booked her for weekly counselling sessions.”

Xolile returned to school the following week, but the trauma was still too fresh for her, and when her teacher found her sobbing hysterically in a classroom one afternoon, she asked Xolile to stay at home indefinitely while she continued getting psychological counselling from the Centre.

Reducing trauma

The One Stop Centre was established in October 2013 by the Swaziland Ministry of Justice in collaboration with government partners, NGOs and through support from UNICEF, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other development partners.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Swaziland/2015
A child-friendly counselling room inside the One Stop Centre in Mbabane

The Centre works to reduce secondary trauma to victims of rape and other forms of violence by providing a mix of medical, psychological and social services, all under one roof.

It aims to improve the process of managing and prosecuting rape and physical violence offenders; to reduce the cycle time for finalizing court cases and to restore victims’ optimal state of health.

Sexual and gender-based violence is widespread in Swaziland. A national study on violence against young women and children in Swaziland (VACS 2007) revealed that approximately 1 in 3 females had experienced some form of sexual violence as a child. Nearly 1 in 4 females had experienced physical violence as a child; and approximately 3 in 10 females had experienced emotional abuse as a child.

Recovering

Three months after her traumatizing ordeal and thanks to the sustained counselling from One Stop Centre, Xolile is recovering and has returned to school.

“I have received a lot of help from One Stop Centre since I was raped. I feel better now, I am focusing on school and in fact I just passed my end of year exams,” Xolile says.

Her mother is hopeful that Xolile will eventually forget what happened to her. For now, she seems to be back to her normal self and her mother is happy for that.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Swaziland/2015
Staff at the One Stop Centre are joined by UNICEF Swaziland colleagues to mark 2 years since the centre started operations.

The trial for the rapist has been set for the last week of January 2016, and Xolile will be called upon to testify.

Scaling up

Over 220 victims of sexual and gender-based violence and clients in need of help have received services at the One Stop Centre since its establishment in 2013.

The government of Swaziland plans to roll out One Stop Centres country-wide, an initiative that is supported by UNICEF and PEPFAR as well other development partners.

Ms. Gamedze says more support is needed from development partners to make the One Stop Centre more effective: “We need more doctors, reliable means of transport to take victims of violence to hospital in time, and a full time manager to follow up on the cases reported at the centre at all the stages of the criminal justice system, and to prepare for trials.”

*Name changed


 

 

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