How Mara Glennie uses technology to help rape and abuse victims. Picture: Against all Odds / YouTube

Johannesburg - The cost of sexual violence does not affect only the individuals involved, it also impacts on businesses and costs governments millions per year.

A workshop was held last week in Joburg for activists responsible for and responding to sexual violence. The message there was clear: business and public service organisations cannot afford to ignore the effects of trauma, violence and crime on their employees.

Some of the costs business can face are low morale, sick leave, personnel turnover, poor productivity, service delivery and loss in profits.

Writer and researcher Jen Thorpe said violence against women was costly for the government in terms of the judiciary and policing.

A paper tracking expenditure on gender-based violence in the government gave an estimate that it cost more than R300 million last year. This excluded the costs of the Department of Health and Social Development.

It costs R8m a year to maintain the sexual offences register.

Chief economist at the Efficient Group, Dawie Roodt, estimates that crime costs South Africa R2 billion annually.

He explained that domestic violence costs come through losses in productivity due to a loss in income, hospitalisation, rehabilitation, well-being and legal costs.

The costs incurred in South Africa are considered to be in the region of 5 to 10 percent of gross domestic product.

This high economic cost was also found to be the case in research done by the World Bank.

World Bank Group development director Jeni Klugman said last year: “The need for systemic responses by governments and the international community to prevent and address violence against women is urgent and long overdue. Progress on this front would support efforts to reduce poverty and boost shared responsibility.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than one-third of women worldwide (about 35 percent) experience gender-based violence over the course of their lives.

One organisation at the workshop looking at innovative ways to help victims of rape and sexual abuse is The Transform Education About Rape and Sexual Abuse Foundation (Tears).

They are looking at ways that technology can reach out to victims across the country. Tears has launched South Africa’s first mobile portal for victims, called Help at Your Finger Tips.

It is a nationwide assistance and support network for victims of rape, abuse and domestic violence.

Tears’s database consists of 3 000 service providers, such as medical, psychological and legal services, and they are growing the network.

“When rape victims contact us for help, they are usually in a state of shock and want to find support as soon as possible.

“SMS-based technology is playing a valuable role by helping us to provide faster assistance to rape victims when they need it,” said the founder of Tears, Mara Glennie.

Glennie is a previous victim of spousal abuse, and one of the reasons she started the foundation was to give victims their dignity back.

She said that since its inception a year ago, Tears has had more than 8 000 hits.

The foundation is also looking at the development of a database that can save the details of a victim’s docket so that they are easily accessible if they need them for court.

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The Star