Counselling organisation celebrates 25 years

The Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture staff members are, from left, Nazeema Isaacs, Babalwa Nyaba and Valdi Van Reenen-Le Roux.

An organisation established in 1993 to help victims of political violence work through trauma experienced during the anti-apartheid struggle, this year celebrates its 25th anniversary – and a legacy of counselling people who have endured many different kinds of trauma.

The Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture in Woodstock provides counselling and support to victims of violence and torture, which it defines as anything from sexual violence to child abuse, gang violence, bullying, gender-based violence, domestic violence, xenophobia and other hate crimes.

And because many people who are victims of violence and torture do not understand their rights, the Trauma Centre also provides a paralegal service to its clients and referrals to other NGOs like the UCT Legal Clinic, UCT Refugees and Asylum Seekers Clinic, Women’s Legal Centre, Legal Resource Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights.

Trauma Centre director, Valdi van Reenen-le Roux, said when they officially opened their doors in 1993, South Africa was transitioning into a democratic state and so the centre’s primary focus was on providing trauma counselling for those who had experienced political violence.

In the post-1994 era, she said, the centre’s focus expanded to include working with youth at risk, sex workers, the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and questioning community, gang members, women and children.

In the 2000s, it once again extended its reach, this time to victims of xenophobic violence.

Added to this, said Ms Van Reenen-Le Roux, the centre has mobile trauma clinics which makes it possible for people unable to come to their offices, to receive trauma counselling.

They also have a child protection clinic which can be deployed to schools in communities which experience high levels of crime and violence.

Through these clinics, counselling can be provided to pupils, parents and caregivers by a social worker who visits a school once per week.

Ms Van Reenen-Le Roux said they also work with various community-based organisations to set up community-based clinics at police stations in areas like Kraaifontein, Delft, Manenberg and Bonteheuwel to provide trauma counselling to the community.

And to ensure that they always have someone available to help, people affiliated to local organisations are trained as counsellors through the Trauma Centre’s six- to eight-week programme.

The centre currently has 24 staff members, which includes social auxiliary workers, social workers, counsellors, psychologists and paralegals. They also regularly take on 10 interns.

Nazeema Isaacs, registered as a counsellor with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, works as a researcher in the intervention co-ordinating learning centre at the Trauma Centre.

“We are busy with a dramatic bereavement toolkit that is mainly being developed for mental health professionals to assist individuals who have experienced any traumatic bereavement,” she told the Tatler.

But it is a child safety initiative that is currently the Trauma Centre’s flagship project.

With incidents of child murder and the recruiting of child soldiers by gangs on the rise, the centre launched the People’s Commission of Enquiry into Child Safety in the Western Cape on Mandela Day, giving 80 youth the opportunity to sit with an influential leader and share their views on what child safety should be.

For more details on the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture, call 021 465 7373 or email