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UCKG's Break the Silence. End the Violence campaign helps victims move beyond self-blame

Participating for the fourth consecutive year in the annual international 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children (25 November - 10 December), the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God's Women in Action (WiA) supported by Godllywood and the Youth Power Group (YPG), marched through the streets of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Rustenburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth on Saturday, 23 November, as part of its campaign to increase awareness of abuse.

Commemorating the 13th annual international event, the group marched with placards stating "woman you are strong, woman you are beautiful", to encourage and empower women to stand against abuse. Wearing white ribbons as a symbol of support for the campaign, women and young people distributed thousands of ribbons to members of the public to remind them of the importance of the 16 days of activism.

Recognising that silence is never a solution, Women in Action work tirelessly throughout the year, highlighting the prevalence of abuse and offering counselling and assistance to victims to face reality, realise they have a choice and start the journey to recovery. This year's theme highlighted the "the possibility of starting all over again" and urged women not to keep the hurt and humiliation of abuse to themselves, but share it with a trusted counsellor and seek healing.

Speakers at the event following the march stressed that regardless of the trauma one has endured, it is possible to start afresh, work through the issues, put the past behind and face a brighter future, but it takes courage to face reality and start this journey of healing and hope.

One of the challenges victims of abuse face in acknowledging their situation is the tragic reality that many blame themselves for what has happened to them, believing if they had been better perhaps they would have been loved by family members and not hurt by those they trusted. Many victims take ownership of the blame, accepting that they deserved this treatment while others feel guilt because they did not protect vulnerable family members. All too often victims do not know that there is help and that they need not feel ashamed about what they have experienced.

Acknowledging that the abuse was not your fault, but the symptom of a damaged perpetrator, is often the starting place for successful recovery. The responsibility for the anti-social behaviour lies with the abuser, not the abused.

A young victim of abuse shared her moving but uplifting testimony of how she suffered physical abuse from a caregiver with whom she lived from the age of six. The family member, who should have been a trusted relative, beat her and attempted to suffocate her repeatedly, always threatening the vulnerable and frightened child that if she spoke about it, she would kill her. The child deteriorated into a sad person who wanted revenge and she began to hurt the caregiver's daughter. Tragically, this is a typical cycle of abuse when the person suffering abuse, abuses others.

The abuse continued in the young person's life. When she was nine years old she was abused by a stranger who again threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the incident. With anger against men and a low self-esteem, she resorted to alcohol and frequenting nightclubs to help numb the pain. As a young teenager she felt unworthy and believed her life had no value. She associated with a destructive group of friends and made poor decisions, eventually becoming a bully herself.

Fortunately at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), she reached out to trained trauma counsellors and started to change her life and rebuild her self-esteem. The brave young woman said: "No one knew about my past until I came to the church. I didn't want to tell anyone for fear of being judged, but the day I was courageous and spoke about the abuse, was the first step towards my freedom. I was not judged, criticised nor rejected. I was loved and cared for and help was always available for me. I regained my peace of mind and was free at last. Memories of my past come back, but they have no power to hurt me anymore. I changed the way I looked at myself and saw life in a positive and different way."

Just as she found help and hope, the Women in Action "Save a Tamar" support group offers counselling and support for anyone wishing to start all over again. During the 16 days of activism campaign, "Save a Tamar" counsellors are available every day. This support group offers a caring, confidential, nurturing environment where traumatic experiences can be shared without judgement or criticism. Many of the counsellors are themselves survivors of abuse who offer understanding and journey alongside the victims until recovery is reached. For further information, you are invited to contact the Help Line on 0861 330 320.

For further information, please contact Nametso Mofokeng at the church's public relations department on 011 224 3400 or email .


Universal Church of the Kingdom of God's press office

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