Cape Town - More women and children may be exposed to violence and abuse over the festive season as people overindulge in drugs and alcohol.
Authorities and civil organisations were all in agreement that domestic violence and child abuse would increase over the festive period.
Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women and Children director, Bernadine Bachar said the centre usually experienced an increase in survivors of grievous bodily violence (GBV) seeking services over the holidays.
“This increase can be attributed to increasing rates of substance abuse.
“Substance abuse is one of the biggest drivers of GBV.
“We are experiencing larger numbers than usual of survivors at our legal assistance programme and an increase in demand for our child protection programme which offers free counselling to children in the community who have been subjected or exposed to abuse or violence,” she said.
MEC of Social Development, Albert Fritz said most social workers were not taking leave and would be working around the clock to assist families.
“This time of the year is where we see an increase in child abuse and many of those cases are of child neglect.
“Parents will be going to the beach, drinking and leaving the children to be on their own.
“This is the time when parents, families and communities will have to work closely to protect children.
“We must ensure that our children are not vulnerable or exposed to opportunistic dangers,” said Fritz.
Meanwhile the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said they expected a rise in calls over the festive season from people who feel helpless, hopeless, lonely and desperate for crisis intervention for depression and even suicidal feelings.
“We get more calls from people who are very lonely and the elderly, but also from people who are grieving and may be having their first Christmas without their partner, child, family member, or have recently gone through a traumatic event such as a sexual abuse, loss of a loved one, become unemployed and financial difficulties.
“There are many reasons people experience depression, anxiety or trauma over the festive season - and they too reach out for help,” said Sadag.
They said the festive season could be a very lonely time of the year and for some, and family conflict or other relationship problems made this time of the year particularly difficult.
“There are also South Africans who are struggling financially and are battling to provide food for their households,” said Sadag.