How a Steenberg woman is helping victims of domestic violence

Moriedah Dien says that being able to send abused women to 48-hour shelters is not good enough. Longer-term shelter is needed. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien.

Yazeed Kamaldien

15 July 2014

For the past 17 years Moriedah Dien has been a volunteer at the Steenberg police station Victim Support Room, assisting anyone who has experienced crime. Now she wants to establish a proper safe house for women who are victims of domestic violence.

Dien says the Victim Support Room has been a window into a community where she has dealt with “victims of all sorts of crimes”. She presently works with three other volunteers.

The police station serves Steenberg and its neighbouring areas – Lavender Hill, Retreat, Heathfield and part of Elfindale. These areas are predominantly working class communities where high unemployment and gangsterism coupled with drug and alcohol abuse, take their toll.

“When victims come to us they are usually very traumatised. Our function is to interview them, stabilise them, and then refer them to the professional services they need,” says Dien.

“If they want to lay charges against anyone, we take them to the police charge room. We also refer them to any other organisation that can offer them further counseling.”

Dien’s work with countless women over the years led her to establish a non-profit organisation called Dews of Quietness last year. She recruited two young women to work with her. She intends to create a safe house for women who need refuge from violent partners.

A recent meeting on abused women in Steenberg and surrounding areas uncovered there were inadequate shelters in the area for women who are violently attacked.

Often, women who are attacked by their partners make their way to the police station, only to return to their homes where they might face further violence.

Dien explains, “Women come to the Victim Support Room on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s not so serious. Sometimes it’s very serious. The best we can do is send them to a 48-hour shelter in the area, but can’t help them for longer than that. We started that shelter in 2012.”

Dien says depending on the abused woman’s partner, sending them to the 48-hour shelter is not good enough either. “Some men are really violent and will go to the shelter to find [their partner]”.

Dien says her challenge is to find a building in her community that can be used as a safe space for abused women who need more than just a night away from an abusive partner.

“We haven’t found a building yet but we hope that it will happen. We want to have space where women can spend up to three months, to be sure they are safe and help them with counseling or job creation if they need that.”

Meanwhile Dien and her two volunteers run Dews of Quietness, with a strong focus on school learners. They hope to prevent the cycle of violence that children get caught up in.

Dien says, “We are running projects in the Steenberg community. We go to schools and do resilience counseling. When a child grows up in a house where there is abuse, they think it’s right. That’s why it’s important that we work with school children so their mindsets are changed.”

Azaria Morkel, from the neighbouring Retreat suburb, works with Dien to offer workshops for children in primary and high schools.

“Alcohol, drug abuse and unemployment drive a lot of the violence and rape in these areas. There are so many abusive relationships. And parents neglect their kids. So we really have to build up their self-confidence,” says Morkel.

“I do team work, focus on self-care. I motivate them and talk to them about their problems.”

Tarryn Stringer, also from Steenberg, says they focus on children’s behavioral problems.

“They usually have problems at home or they are being bullied. We need to help them cope with that,” she says.

Dien says, “I have tried to work in the corporate world. I worked at a call centre for four months answering telephones, and it wasn’t for me. I was missing working with my community.”

“I was in an abusive marriage for many years. So I can understand … I was able to get through that and walk away from it … The driving factor for me is that you can assist someone when they are in dire straits,” says Dien.

For more information about Dews of Quietness contact Moriedah Dien on 078-400-0801.