At the Magistrate Court in Sibasa

A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls. A typical carebox contains a friendly stuffed animal for girls, hotwheels (matchbox cars) for boys, a book, sticker activities, a snack, some sweets and a fruit juice. Many children come hungry to court and have to wait for hours until their hearing.
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Discussing with Magistrate Kellermann the need for a more comforting environment for underaged victims of sexual violence. A lot of cases can not go to trial because the children are not able to testify due to nervousness and stress.
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Handing out my first set of 40 comfort boxes containing R4000 worth of items such as fruit juices, snacks, a lovely stuffed toy, sticker activity books, toy cars, crayons etc.
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To get to the rural Magistrate courts one drives about an hour from Louis Trichardt in the North of Limpopo province. A truly underdeveloped infrastructure in the rural courts makes serving justice a challenge.

As many of my followers know, here in South Africa we deal with child abuse and child rape in a severity that is unbelievable.

Today I went to the Magistrate Court in Sibasa delivering 40 care boxes.

The boxes contain high quality toys, stickers, activity books, snacks and a high quality fruit juice. Many children have not had breakfast when they come to testify in court and often they wait for a long period of time.

I had been talking to a friend about the plight of the children in Limpopo, with child abuse rates soaring so high. She is a Magistrate judge and I had asked if there is anything we as a community could do to make testifying easier for victims of child abuse.  After Magistrate Kellerman got the permission by her head of department, I started making of these boxes to help the children bridge the uncomfortable time at court. The boxes will be used in rural courts such as Sibasa, Waterval and Musina.

This has also come up as a topic with the Guardian Angels, our local High Schools care group, who helped me with the collection of boxes while we informed them about their own responsibility to step in and step up when they see abuse happen.

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Teaching our local high School students the importance of getting involved when they see abuse happen instead of lookign the other way is another leg of our efforts to fight the rape epidemic in our province.

How an individual responds to unpleasant events in their life is crucial for their future.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

To assist a child and young woman or young man in overcoming the trauma of abuse is a call we all need to take up in this nation.

To end this, there are many different steps needed. We as a church are going into schools, training learners how to prevent abuse, how to interfere when you know a peer faces abuse, how to report abuse. We train parents. We try to get the community involved.

It is very important that abuse cases to go to court and the perpetrators get sentenced.

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Packing out in total 40 care boxes (more will come the next months as the project takes of) in front of the court staff.
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Magistrate Court in Sibasa- the family courtroom in a mobile trailer! The infrastructure around the court is basic, to say the least. The judges and lawyers work tirelessly under challenging conditions, even in protable offices. The main road leading to this court is a dirt road.

 

As I wrote in my post about courts, https://germanytoafrica.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/going-to-court/ this is a crucial part of the right against rape in South Africa.

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The court staff responsible for keeping the children safe during the trial. They have a very tiny office and it is not easy to keep children comfortable there. I hope the snacks, toys and books will be of some help.
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The children are testifying through a CCTV system so they do not have to face the criminals.
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The office where the children are waiting for the hearing or coming to for delivering their testimony via CCTV.

 

The stress is very high. A case can only be processed when the judge finds the child capable of making a statement. For that, the child must show an understanding of truth, understanding of consequences of lying. Since most children only understand tribal languages, the have to be able to communicate via a translator and intermediary.

The judge says that unfortunately often children stress so much, they tense up and refuse all communication. The case can not go to trial then.

The comfort boxes will be handed to the child by the intermediary. This will give them a positive start in their communication. The child will be more positive about the experience and also have juice and a snack. They often come to court without having had breakfast and without a lunch box. These comfort boxes cover all that.

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Magistrates Pieter and Hanlie Kellermann who brought my attention to the situation of the child witnesses in court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Talking to the court staff about the importance to support the under aged victims when they testify at court. Intense words for an intense situation.
Talking to the court staff about the importance to support the under aged victims when they testify at court. Intense words for an intense situation.
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Intermediary Salome Phaho (left of me) shared with me her challenges in keeping the children busy. Some NGOs are coming and going with own project ideas, not always practical. they are looking for long-term commitment in a cooperative way. I prefer to first go in and assess the real needs at the base.

 

 

 Statistics from the South African Police regarding child abuse

 

 

 We later received a BIG thank you from the court staff.

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Wendy house for young victims at the back of the Sibasa court.
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We also visited a Wendy house in the back of the court property where we were greeted by a volunteer who had put up his office inside of it. The purpose of the Wendy house is for children to spend their waiting time in.  It seemed a bit unpractical as according to the court staff the young girls get separated from their mothers and during the warmer month it becomes a “hothouse” and can not be used. The toys inside are broken and dirty. The tiny room is filled with the NGO’s computer, coffee table and feels not very inviting.

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10 thoughts on “At the Magistrate Court in Sibasa”

  1. After going to court to deliver R4000 worth of help to ease the children nerves as they prepare to testify, I go a lot of positive reactions. My visit at the court had been cleared by the Regional Court President. Nevertheless, another charity started accusing me, calling my actions: misguided and unnecessary. I guess they were upset about the pictures I took of a man sitting in the Wendy house which was meant as a refuge for young girls? As a private person, I can blog about things I find funny, remarkable, interesting. I can even post recipes, or post a picture of spoiled food purchased at Woolworth. Woolworth cannot take legal actions against me, claiming I would deter future customers. Woolworth customers do not use this blog to get their opinion of the world from, and neither do charity supporters. There are a gazillion of blogposts around, contradicting each other in their love or hate for Justin Bieber, whether to wear jeans or slacks, and thousands of different opinions on parenting topics. Bloggers can be for or against the ANC, post pictures of potholes in the roads and moan that our schools are so backwards. Blogging is an individual choosing to share a personal journal online. web – log =blog, right? My visit at the court was all about delivering some help in an area where me and others saw a gap. It would be nice if other charities could see that, relax and trust that their donors know exactly what a blog is: one person’s personal opinion and not a verdict on which to judge an organizations performance. That’s what the other charities have their own websites for, after all.

  2. Reblogged this on Intercession and commented:
    Thank God for making this church an arm of blessing into our community. Pray for the victims of child abuse testifying in court, who are being reached through our comfort boxes. Please pray for our outreach to the Tsilidzini Special School as well. Keep brainstorming on how you can uplift your community.

  3. Reblogged this on Traveler's Log and commented:

    While travelling South Africa is amazing and I am providing you with some cool activities to do with families, let us not forget South Africa is a crime-ridden nation. This week I went to the Magistrate Court in rural Limpopo to provide comfort boxes for chidl abuse victims who are brave enough to testify to have the criminals locked away. They face a gruelling day without even having had breakfast. I provide them with a toy, juice, a snack, sweets, a sticker activity and a little children’s book. If you are on paypal maybe you want to click that Donate button. 7 US Dollars buys a box for one child – and lessens the intimidation and stress a child feels at court.

    1. Yes it is so needed. The children are very brave to testify against those criminals. The court process is an ordeal. The judge must work through an interpreter, as most children do not speak English. To establish whether they can distinguish between truth and lies is a whole long procedure – to make certain they are aware they must speak the truth. The testimony can not be taken into account if there is no viable communication. The boxes serve as some kind of stress relief during the whole process.

      1. Oh – I’m sorry, I’m not aware that you spelled anything wrong! I used * * around the word instead of italics to provide emphasis! Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for the further description of the process. It sounds arduous for all; the care boxes must make a big difference to these little ones! Prayers are with all of you.

      2. Oh hehe what a misunderstanding. I thought you meant it is supposed to be “beautiful”instead of whatever typo i came up with! In the local African Venda culture it is customary for men to rape women and to marry the one who falls pregnant first. Men also have multiple wives. Women fall prostrate on the ground before men. The judge told me that just recently she had a case of a father pleading “not guilty”of raping his 12 year old daughter, The court process can be extremely frustrating. But when the justice system is up and functional and criminals are being put away, it makes a big impact!

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful update! It really helps us understand more about what you’re doing and what the situation is. Have many of the care boxes been used yet? Are you making more soon? Keep us updated so we can continue to support this very important effort! And bless you for this work.

    1. Yes the care boxes are currently in use. I am provided with weekly court statistics as to how many children witnessed, and how old they are. I am not allowed to publish any details. I have promised to keep them coming! Each box costs about 6-10 US Dollars depending on the toy. Courts in other districts have also asked me about boxes. I am going to write a small report for our community paper to get more local people involved in donating a quality toy and snack!

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