Cape Town. 140514. The Saartjie Baartman centre in Athlone where abused woman and children are given a place of safety to stay and live from 3-6months. Dorm style rooms and passages during the day where kids play and are kept an eye over by staff. Reporter Simone. Pic COURTNEY AFRICA

Simone Alicea

SOMETIMES it takes crossing an ocean to help fight gender violence.

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children will host a New York-based shelter expert as part of a panel discussion on commonalties between South African and American shelters and services, including challenges and best practices next week.

“Whenever I go to another country, I love to find out what works and what doesn’t work,” Sanctuary for Families clinical director Beth Silverman-Yam said from New York.

The discussion is sponsored in part by New York’s Gibney Dance Community Action Programme which uses movement as therapy, specifically in domestic violence cases.

Gibney Dance will hold a movement-therapy workshop for Saartjie Baartman clients and clinicians as well as social workers from around the metro next weekend.

It was Gibney who approached Saartjie Baartman Centre director Shaheema McLeod last year to organise the workshop with Sanctuary.

“Music, art and dance are a part of that healing and I’d love to see what it could do,” McLeod said, adding she was keen to see what the different organisations could learn from each other.

McLeod said she was interested to see how safety was addressed in the US.

“I was surprised to see that there weren’t really any 24-hour guarded, closed and locked facilities like ours is,” McLeod told the Cape Times.

She was referring to the high walls, razor wire, and surveillance that marks the centre.

Even now, the building is undergoing more security upgrades to increase the safety of the women and children who use the facilities. Silverman-Yam said this would be unusual to find in New York.

McLeod said that these measures were necessary to protect clients who may be hiding from former abusers.

She thought the centre’s strongest skill was the way all parts of it – legal, clinical, financial and emergency services – were localised.

“Clients need access. We look at it from all different angles,” McLeod explained.

Sanctuary provides the same services on an even larger scale, but Silverman-Yam seemed interested in this policy. “We say we have a holistic model, but it sounds like they’re even more integrated.”

Both Silverman-Yam and McLeod noted that fighting gender violence requires constant adjustment and evolves over time. “Violence in South Africa is through the roof,” McLeod said.

There will also be a benefit performance with the iKapa Dance Theatre on May 23 at the OnPointe Dance and Wellness Centre.

Tickets are available through Quicket for R200.

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