App helps rape victims reach police fast

A simple cellphone app could offer a much-needed lifeline to abused women in Diepsloot.

The Vimba Helpline, a data-free cellphone app, allows the user to call for help from police and paramedics and provides the user’s location. It also provides information on what to do if someone has been raped.

Results from a study conducted by Wits University and Sonke Gender Justice NGO paint a grim picture of sexual violence in the township.

Of the 2,600 men aged between 18 and 40 surveyed for over a year, 56% revealed that they had committed acts of sexual or physical violence against women within that year.

The numbers are more than double the rates recorded in other national gender violence studies.

It also showed that the majority of men interviewed had experienced at least one type of physical or sexual childhood abuse.

The authors of the Sonke CHANGE Trial study say the level of violence in the township represented a “state of emergency” for women in Diepsloot.

“For instance, one-third of men believe that wives should not be able to refuse sex, more than half expect their partner to agree to sex when the man wants it, and a majority of men control the clothes a woman wears, the friends she sees, or where she goes,” the study says.

Sonke Gender Justice’s community manager, Dumisani Rebombo, said: “The app couldn’t have come at a better time for Diepsloot.”

He said the NGO would now look to the government for assistance to roll it out to other communities in the country.

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