30 May 2017

Women in Action participate in 16 Days of Activism helping victims of trauma break the silence

For the sixth consecutive year Women in Action's trained trauma counsellors participated in the annual 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence (25 November - 10 December), by offering men and women the opportunity to speak about their traumatic history of abuse and begin the journey from victim to victor.

Once again, members of the public passing through Beyers Naude Square in the Johannesburg CBD on Friday, 25 November 2016, were given leaflets encouraging them to overcome their past and work towards a better future. Women, young people and even some men, took advantage of this opportunity to break the silence and speak to volunteer counsellors about the emotional, physical, verbal, sexual or psychological abuse they have suffered. 

The event launching the annual campaign was hosted by Women in Action, a group of women whose husbands are pastors at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG). The event was also held in Burger’s Park in Pretoria, Grand Parade in Cape Town, Library Square in Vanderbijlpark and outside the UCKG church in Lesotho and Durban.

Marking the 17th annual event, Women in Action wore white ribbons as a symbol of support for this campaign against abuse and violence. The volunteer counsellors, many of whom are survivors of abuse themselves, handed out information leaflets to people, helping create awareness of the importance of speaking about the abuse as an important first step in making a choice to change their personal circumstances. Besides offering counselling, women were invited to attend a special service of forgiveness which was held on Sunday, 4 December, at 25 Plein Street, Johannesburg at 2.30pm.

At the service of forgiveness, founder of Women in Action, Mrs Marcia Pires, highlighted how women who have suffered rejection, betrayal or any form of abuse, react emotionally and find it extremely difficult to let go of past hurts. The pain they carry destroys their joy and impacts negatively on their lives, often leaving them feeling inadequate and depressed. 

Basing her message of encouragement on a passage in Luke 17:3 she said: “When the disciples learned that they had to forgive seven times seven, that is 49 times every day, they were shocked and asked for strength to help them do this. This instruction, repeated in all four Gospels, shows us just how essential forgiveness is. We need to forgive, not for the benefit of the perpetrator, but for ourselves. When you forgive, you free yourself from the burden of carrying the past with you and can begin to enjoy a new life. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, but it means you can let go of grudges, sorrow, bad memories and hatred in your heart. When you make a decision to forgive rather than seek revenge, you demonstrate intelligent faith.”

Mrs Pires continued: “Besides forgiving those who have wronged us, it is important to forgive ourselves. This is often the most difficult aspect of forgiveness. We torture ourselves with questions of: Why did I allow that to happen? Why didn’t I stop it? What’s wrong with me? Why did I make bad choices? Our internal voice accuses us and we are weighed down with guilt. Make a decision to let go of the past, learn to love and value yourself and embrace a new life.”

One woman who has done this, shared her story of how she met the Women in Action counsellors at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism in 2014 and accepted their invitation to attend the Rahab Project meetings. Here she learned to forgive people who had abused her sexually, emotionally and physically, stopped blaming herself and regained her self- confidence and self-esteem. She said: “I had suffered abuse for so long that I thought it was normal! I know now that it is not normal and I did not deserve to be treated that way. I have found freedom and a better life.” 

Throughout the year, Women in Action volunteers are involved in highlighting the societal scourge of violence and abuse, and encouraging people to recognise that silence is never a solution. The damaging effects of abuse can never be ignored because they impact on every facet of a victim’s life, robbing them of self-confidence, happiness and hope. 

All too often victims do not know that there is help available and that they need not feel ashamed about what they have experienced. To help address this need, Women in Action established The Rahab Project in March 2011, to offer support for abused women to begin the journey to healing and freedom. The Rahab Project offers a caring, confidential, nurturing environment where traumatic experiences can be shared without criticism. Counsellors journey alongside others as they heal, develop their self-esteem and find renewed purpose. 

Responding to the increasing demand for individual counselling to be available to victims of abuse or any other trauma, the Rahab Project hosts regular support group meetings in Johannesburg, Soweto, Thokoza, Tembisa and Spruitview.

Rahab Project counsellors are available throughout the year to offer confidential counselling where traumatic experiences can be shared without judgement or criticism. Please contact the UCKG Help Line on 0861 330 320 for details.

For further information, please contact the church’s public relations department on pr@uckg.org.za.