In South Africa, gender-based violence (GBV) has been declared a second pandemic as the scourge takes on many forms and can even happen online.
But for one woman turning her own experiences into a tool to help others has been paving a way forward for life after abuse.
In November last year, Zen Williams founded Rise Against Domestic Violence SA.
Launching an organisation was not her initial plan when she first started a Facebook blog to share her story, but quickly saw the need to use it to help others especially given the rise in cyberstalking and revenge porn.
“I am a survivor of revenge porn, cyber-stalking, cyber-harassment, domestic violence, hacking and narcissistic abuse,” Williams said.
“I have not yet reached a point of finding justice, but I do fight for it every day.”
Williams says she has pending cases with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
“Seeking justice is a long, frightening, and tiring process but it is worthwhile. I have made peace with what happened in my life and have found positive and meaningful things to fill my life with. I focus on helping others and in this have discovered so much healing and growth. All our volunteers are the very core of this organisation, without them this would not be successful,” adds Williams.
Revenge porn is the act of releasing intimate images or videos onto an online platform or circulating to others in other forms in a bid to hurt or defame a person.
In most cases it is done by an intimate partner with whom a relationship has been broken.
The dangers of cyberstalking and the gap in the judicial system, which leaves women vulnerable to cyberstalking and revenge porn as well as the threat of being in a relationship with a toxic individual, are some of the topics Williams addresses through her page and now the organisation.
“Once I began sharing what had taken place in my life I had many followers reaching out for help which then led me to opening this organisation,” she said.
“My husband Ryan was also a driving force behind my opening this organisation, and without him I wouldn’t have had the faith in myself to do so.
“My husband has been my rock through the last few years of trying to survive the crimes waged against me. Helping others allowed me a second chance, giving me hope and purpose. It was a new lease on life.
“The motivation that drives me every day is to educate and assist both men and women about the shortfalls, red flags and warning signs of toxic relationships as well as offer hope to the victims who have lost theirs.”
October is also Cyber Awareness Month, dedicated to empowering and educating locals on the importance of safety and crime prevention online.
“Along with the education and awareness programme, I feel there is a lack of education among all adults relating to their rights, how to go about applying for protection orders and how to effectively handle opening police cases when necessary. To assist this process of offering adequate legal advice, I created a WhatsApp Legal Advice group. We have been blessed with very committed and dedicated legal volunteers who assist members of this group. This group currently has 80-100 members at any given time who provide legal advice to victims of domestic violence and abuse as well as guidance pertaining to divorce matters, criminal procedures, and court protocols.
“In addition to this, we also have a WhatsApp support group for women where we offer access to resources, information, guidance and emotional support and another separate group offering the same for men. These support groups currently have 80-100 members at any given time. In addition to the above groups, we also have members who approach me privately on a daily basis, and we average 20-30 interactions per day which includes men and women.”
The legal advice remains their most popular as many need to go through legal procedures without access to legal representation.
Williams says the organisation does not only focus on women as men can be abused too.
“I noticed most organisations concentrate mainly on women who are abused but never speak about or support men who are victims of domestic violence and abuse. I felt it was imperative to welcome both men and women into our organisation because I believe that violence has no gender and that men are victims of abuse too,” she says.
“Even though I was a victim of domestic violence actioned against me by a man, I still feel the need to assist men in this organisation.”
Since their November launch, they have assisted 735 women and 25 men. Around 20 people have also successfully obtained protection orders and assisted in placing seven victims in shelters or arranged accommodation.
“We have arranged free counselling for victims of abuse and rehabilitation for abusers in order for them to have a second chance. We have assisted with countless affidavits in the process of opening protection orders or police cases. Affidavits are very important and need to be written correctly, we have noticed that victims of abuse have their cases thrown out of court due to not having enough evidence or the affidavit is not adequate in describing the events that took place.
“We are driven by a single goal, to do our part in making South Africa a better place for all. This cause welcomes men, women, victim and abuser. We are all in this together.”
Her hope is to grow the organisation to assist as many victims across the country and become a preferred organisation for combating the scourge.
The organisation offers free services to victims of all forms of domestic violence, including counselling.
KEY ELEMENTS ADDRESSED IN THE KIT
The first of it’s kind in the world!
Each pack comes in different size options: small, medium or large.
Everything you need to know about Domestic Violence in South Africa.
All the forms you will need to apply for protection orders, medical examination and more.
What is revenge porn? Why is it so important to us? What you can do if you are a victim of revenge porn.
What is Cybercrime & Cyber Harassment? What you can do if you are a victim.
Everything you need to know about narcissism & narcissistic abuse.
Connect to our FaceBook page for inspiration & education.
Silent Rights SA, a partner to RADV-SA who stand against Domestic Violence & GBV.