Doctors without Borders set up a programme in Rustenburg to help sexual assault survivors get the medical care they need, and this South African drives these women to safety, helping them in their time of need, and restoring trust.
Rustenburg, South Africa – Doctors without Borders – Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) took a household census in Rustenberg where they were horrified to discover that one in four women had been sexually assaulted and only 5% of those women sought out treatment. This is mostly due to the fact that clinics are too far away for the women to get to.
In Rustenburg, men outnumber women 120 to 100. This is because the area is mining country, a field dominated by men. MSF however, hope to play a vital role in linking survivors to immediate medical and psychological care, especially men.
In September 2019 they launched a short documentary film, ‘Driving Change in South Africa’ that follows one of their drivers, Lebo’s journey as an MSF driver and life as a father to a young daughter. Lebo is usually the first responder to sexual assault cases. He collects the women, teens or children and drives them to clinics where they can get the proper medical care.
Lebo says many times, the women fear getting into his car as they have lost trust in men. His job is to make sure they feel safe and secure, restoring some of the trust they lost. He doesn’t see himself as a driver, he sees himself as a protector. The Drivers for Change have all received psychological first aid training on how to engage survivors with compassion while avoiding any secondary trauma.
“You can imagine I am a man, and the lady has been abused by a man. She has to get inside the car, and sometimes I’m alone inside the car with her. So, you know how it feels… You have to let her know that she’s in a safe place, that she’s safe with you.”
For one survivor, her encounter with a Driver for Change changed her life. Poppy Makgobatlou, from Babong district in Rustenburg, was escaping an abusive home. MSF has a 24-hour hotline where people can call in for help and she reported her case.
“I was crying, then [the driver] says, ‘I don’t know how much pain you feel, I cannot tell you it’s going to be okay, because I don’t know for how long have you been living like this, but what I can tell you is just try to be strong’,”
The encounter gave her the strength to leave her husband and carve out a life of her own. All thanks to the treatment she received at the Kgomotso Care Centres.
MSF is calling for all survivors of sexual violence to have immediate and longer-term access to complete medical, psychological care and social support.
MSF has been working with the North West Department of Health since 2015 to expand access to free, high quality and confidential care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Rustenburg’s Bojanala district through four dedicated clinics, known as Kgomotso Care Centres (KCCs).
The teams include forensic nurses, psychologists, registered counsellors, social workers and social auxiliary workers and support staff including drivers to provide people with free emergency and follow-up care as well as referrals for social and legal services. To date, the centres have helped 3007 people.
You can find out more here.