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Children: Invisible Victims of Domestic Violence

Posted in Articles

Kids who live with domestic violence act differently. Please watch this video.

Imagine being a child growing up in a home where you watch your mom being beaten up by your father. Imagine lying awake at night listening to it. Imagine just being a kid, afraid, unable to properly process it all and feeling helpless. Every. Day.

Children of abuse feel isolated and vulnerable because they are expected to keep the family secret and in many instances, they do not even talk about it among themselves. These children do not know what it’s like to have their parents’ attention, affection and approval. Because mom is struggling to survive, she is often not present for her children. Because dad is so consumed with controlling everyone, he also is not present for his children and as a result these children become physically, emotionally and psychologically abandoned.

Here are some signals that all is not well on the home front.

Emotions: fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, anxiety and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at the mother for being unable to prevent the violence).

Physical responses: stomach aches and/or headaches, bedwetting, and loss of ability to concentrate.

Behaviours: acting out, lying bullying, cheating, withdrawal, or anxiousness to please. The children may exhibit signs of anxiety and have a short attention span which may result in poor school performance and attendance. They may experience developmental delays in speech, motor or cognitive skills. They may also use violence to express themselves displaying increased aggression with peers or mother. They can become self-injuring.

Even infants suffer in homes where domestic violence is the norm. These babies cry excessively and have problems with eating and sleeping.

Long term effects for children who witness abuse 

Children who grow up surrounded with fear and anger, as is the case with domestic violence, have low self-esteems and self-worth. They lack confidence, feel guilty and ashamed and blame themselves for the abuse.

Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with an unhealthy view of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way.

Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts. They may even replicate the violence they witnessed as children in their teen and adult relationships and parenting experiences.

Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes.

For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships.

Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency.

We at Safe House have come to acknowledge that we are not only a safe haven for the primary victims of abuse, but also their children. This is why we invested so much of our resources in providing a place of healing for our invisible victims, the children. Over the years we have equipped our garden with a well-equipped play area, and our resident Social Worker, Blanché, counsels the children with Play Therapy in our designated Play Therapy Room. Helping the children to heal is a major step in stopping the vicious cycle of abuse.

Our next blog post we will share more about Play Therapy so look out for it.

At the Safe House we are privileged to be able to witness the incredible transformation from scared and anxious bundles of nerves when they first arrive to joyful, happy and hopeful children with new sparkle in their eyes after only a few weeks of care and safety. We can learn so much from children about resilience and hope.

We would love to be able to help more children and families overcome abuse and build a better future. If you would like to open your heart and assist us, please contact us. We are always looking for volunteers and donations.

If you would like to become a Friend of the Safe House and commit to a monthly contribution, click here.

Celebrating Christmas at Safe House Stellenbosch

Posted in Articles

December month is a busy month at the Safe House. We always have new women and children in December. The women and children will decorate the house with Christmas decorations and are always treated to  a delicious Christmas meal, which is sponsored by one or more of  our donors.

All the gifts we can find gets wrapped and put under the tree, and the tree gets decorated a few days before Christmas by our residents and their kids.  Everyone is on their best behaviour and every now and again you will catch someone peeking to see if they can guess the contents of a gift or their name on a gift tag.  Usually sometime from the 22nd it becomes evident the wait is getting to everyone and not a single person comes into the living area without wearing something special or pretty just in case the presents gets handed out and they all know that would be a photo opportunity.  After supper on the 24th   everyone washes up as fast as they can and rushes to the lounge under the promise of a family movie night.  This is when it goes dead quiet and no one can find their spot, fidgeting endlessly and giggling behind very anxious hands.  When House Mother finally announces it is time for presents it is like New Years on Times Square and papers fly like confetti.  Some of these people have never seen this kind of generosity and good spirits and it shows.  House Mother normally ends the evening with a Christmas message and a movie all can watch.  On the 25th the big cook and big eat happens!  All join in and cook what we have, we have been fortunate to have received donations for Christmas lunch from our local Super Spar and several donors would also drop by bringing the loveliest foods and treats.  If we still need items, Lee the manager, jumps in her car and buys what we can afford, but Christmas lasts a whole weekend and our residents surely deserve it.



Our volunteers are always generous and give different kind of gifts. In the past we received lovely gifts from NG Kerk Welgelegen.

We normally receive small gifts for the children, sweets, toiletries and sometimes even a gift voucher enabling the woman to spend as they please or enabling a mother to buy something special for her children even though she might not be working at the time.

This year will be no different, and we look forward to a light lunch: residents and staff together before Christmas weekend.


We would like to thank our loyal donors:

  • Friends of the Safe House
  • NG Church Welgelegen
  • Volunteers
  • Stellenbosch Super Spar

Without them our residents and their children would be able to celebrate the birth of Jesus and have a happy memory despite the difficult situation in which they find themselves.



16 Days of Activism against gender based violence

Posted in Success Stories

What colour will you be wearing for Paint Show Tell this year to support our 16 Days of Activism?

25 November marks the beginning of the international 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which ends 16 December. Owing the success of last year, Safe House will be running its Paint Show Tell campaign again this year, trusting that the campaign will go viral and really put the spotlight on the life-and-death nature of gender based violence.

The idea of the painted nail as a talking point was inspired by the #PolishedMan, read more here.

So how do you take part?

It’s easy.

  1. Pick any colour nail polish and paint your left index finger nail. If you usually wear nail varnish then, make sure that nail stands out with a contrasting colour.

  2. Donate R100 to Safe House.

  3. Show it off! (post pictures and make a video!)

  4. Convince your friends (including guys!) to do the same.

  5. When someone asks you about your nail, tell them that you are against gender based violence.

You won’t be alone!

Last year, some local celebrities supported Paint Show Tell.

The mayor of Stellenbosch.

16 days of activism against gender based violence










Director Regardt  van der Berg and his wife lovely Clara

Safe House 16 Days paint show tell











Maties Rugby Club

Watch this adorable video that these ‘manne’ made to support our cause.


And well known actor Armand Aucamp!


You too can be a lifelong Friend of Safe House by donating just R100+ per month. Click here to find out more.

Want to know what a day at Safe House involves for the victims who find themselves there? Read this article.

Meet our team!





Annual General Meeting: Progress and Determination to do even more

Posted in Success Stories

The Safe House annual general meeting, held on 22 September in Stellenbosch, opened with some scary statistics. Safe House manager Lee Rossouw reported that,

“Three women are killed every day at the hands of their intimate partner. That’s one every eight hours, and South Africa has a femicide rate five times higher than any other country in the world.”

But if you believe that those are just faceless, nameless statistics, then you are very much mistaken. At Stellenbosch Safe House those shocking records of abuse against women show up at their door on a daily basis. Since its inception in 2006 and opening of its doors in 2008, Safe House has given shelter to more than 400 women and children. Lee went on to explain that Safe House is the only shelter for abused women in the Greater Stellenbosch Municipal District, Helderberg and Overberg region, and so the need for a place of safety far outweighs their capacity to take in everyone who reaches out for help.

“Currently we only have eleven beds, but we have approved plans to expand in the near future – although we are not sure where all the money will come from for the necessary expansions. We have also just learned that with our adding more rooms and beds, we will also need to upgrade our kitchen and are currently busy with that undertaking.”

As a registered non-profit organisation, Safe House relies heavily on funding and donations from the community.

Safe House Stellenbosch team

Safe House team from Left: Skills trainer Charlene , Finances Aletia, Manager Lee and social worker Blanchè  .



Main contributors to the income of the Safe House in the past year were:

Department of Social Development: 44.98%

Larger contributors >R100 000 per entity: 25.66%

Medium contributors >R10 000 per entity: 19.37%

Small contributors <R10 000 per entity or individual: 9.99%

As you can see from the financial report, nearly 10 % of the Safe House’s income comes from many smaller contributions.

“It’s our goal to grow our Friends of the Safe House initiative, where people donate just R100 or R200 per month. That little bit adds up and goes a long way to sustain our cash flow for basic necessities,” Lee says.

The AGM was also the perfect opportunity to give special acknowledgement to the regular and loyal donors and volunteers, not to mention the staff who work relentlessly and are emotionally invested in every woman who enters the Safe House. To say thank you to her team, Lee gave each one of them a crown as a symbol of their immeasurable worth to the organisation.

The new executive committee was also announced at the meeting.

Safe House’s next awareness campaign will start in November: Paint Show Tell. Click here to learn more.

The meeting was closed with these inspirational words by John Wesley.



Safe House always welcomes donations and volunteers.


How to Spring Clean with a Purpose

Posted in Articles

Spring has arrived, and it’s that time of the year when most of us want to de-clutter the house, clean the nooks and crannies and get ready for the long summer.

Do it!

And do it for a purpose!

Not only will you feel lighter getting rid of the clutter, you can also make a huge difference in someone’s life by donating your unwanted things.

[Read more about donating to Safe House Stellenbosch here].

Although it is always a daunting task to start the spring clean, the best thing you can do is just start because once you get going, you’re likely to just keep going. The trick is just to make a list of all the rooms and cupboards that you want to clean out and earmark a charity /family member / friend that you want to donate your unwanted things to. The next step is to then tackle the smallest area first; it could just be the linen closet or one of the bedroom cupboards.

Here are more tips for digging deep, cleaning out and gifting your unwanted items.

Your wardrobe – ask yourself these key questions to decide what stays and what goes.

  1. Does this fit?
  2. Have I worn this in the last 12 months?
  3. Is it likely I will ever wear this again?
  4. Is this currently in style, and/or does this still accurately represent my style?
  5. If I was shopping right now, would I buy this?
  6. And most importantly: Do I feel confident when I wear this?

If you answer a firm “no” to any of the above, it’s time to let it go!


In your kitchen…

Make room in your cupboards by getting rid of things that you never use and take up space: odd and old tupperware, pots and pans, utensils, dishcloths, glasses, mugs and plates and even old appliances – all of these could go to a good home!

We at Safe House always send our ladies off to their brand new start with as much kitchenware as we can spare, so that they can cook for their kids in their new place. So, if you have a pile of branded conference mugs at home, please consider donating them to us!

Your linen closet…

Probably the one place where you are hoarding old towels and linen that you never use. Seriously, if you haven’t had a need for it in the last two years, it’s unlikely you will again. We welcome any donations of towels, bedding and curtains. Contact us here to make a donation.

The kids’ room: Toys and clothes

Any parent will agree that these can pile up and can admit that kids usually have their favourite items and many things just never get played with anymore. Now imagine the kids who comes clutching his mom’s hand to Safe House with no special toy… In many instances it would be under the circumstances of fleeing, which means no time to pack ANYTHING. Any toys or children’s clothes you can spare will be deeply appreciated by mom and child.

If you feel inspired to spring clean with a purpose and would like to choose Safe House Stellenbosch as your designated charity, we’d be happy to give you the donations address to come and drop it. Please send us an email:

If you are thinking about becoming a volunteer, read this post about the experience of two of our volunteers. We could really use your help.


Spotlight on Safe House Volunteers

Posted in Articles

As a non-profit organisation that relies heavily on community involvement we are always grateful for volunteers who come and assist us by giving us their time. You’d be surprised to see how much good a crafting, cooking or baking group activity can do to lift the spirits of the downtrodden. Some volunteers also arrange outings for the women and their children, which is always a treat.

If you are thinking of becoming a volunteer, click here, and read what two of our very involved volunteers have to say about their experience at Safe House.

Carloien Zietsman

Carolien is a housewife who leads group craft projects and general skills training once a week for two hours. She has been volunteering at Safe House for the last six years.

Q: How did you find out about Safe House?

A: Eiekestad News (Local News Paper)

Q: What motivates you to be volunteer?

A: Creativity brings me joy and sharing it doubles the pleasure.

Safe House Stellenbosch Volunteers


Q: What have you learned from your experience at Safe House?  

A: People need a place of safety when life gives them a blow. Here they can recuperate, get training and skills development and therapy, enabling them to enter society stronger.  

Q: What has been one of your most memorable moments at Safe House?  

A: After a few sessions of crafts people start believing in themselves, see beauty in creativity, try things they have never imagined doing and loving it.  The trauma of abuse dims the light in their eyes and I have witnessed a few lights coming back on during my years as a volunteer. Smiles appeared after they were sure they cannot do it. Being part of that growth and accomplishment made me realize everyone can make a difference with their talents and contributions.  Seeing the change in a person is the bet reward anyone can ask for.


Q: What’s on the top of your wishlist for Safe House? 

A:  1.The perfect house would be a room for each individual. 2. Courses for free education. 3. Sport clubs giving them free entrance.

Carolien says, The people working here all very dedicated.  They are my heroes. I do suffer when kids come in and pray when they go out, that their moms can cope with the demands of the outside world.  My wish for them is a place where they can go, like a clubhouse to help them with day to day problems.”


Lucille Roos

Lucille started volunteering at Safe House in June this year (2016). She visits once a week (sometimes with her daughter) and assists with the skills training by teaching cooking, baking or an art form.

V: Hoe het jy betrokke geraak?

A: Ek wou graag iewers in die gemeenskap betrokke raak by vroue waar ek ‘n klein verskil kan maak. Ek het by Lee Rossouw gehoor van die Safe House en weer op Facebook gesien dat hulle vrywilligers nodig het. Daarna het ek hulle gekontak en betrokke geraak.

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V: Wat het jy sover geleer iut jou ervaaring hier?

A: Ek het ontsettend baie geleer uit die ervaring. Hier kan n mens in ‘n goed georganisserde opset deur iets kleins te doen n verskil maak in vroue met baie seer in hulle lewe. Hulle is so dankbaar vir kleinste iets en werk so lekker saam. Ek het voorheen groepwerk gedoen maar dit nog nooit so positief beleef nie. Al die personeel is so positief en behulpsaam en maak dat die ervaring altyd baie lekker is. Ek leer elke keer iets by die vroutens, al is dit net om dankbaar te wees vir my eie huislike omstandighede en veiligheid asook my voorreg om n vrou te wees.

V: Beskryf ‘n ontvergeetlike oomblik wat jy hier ervaar het?

A: Die oomblik wanneer daar begin lig kom in daardie vroue se oe,wanneer hulle hul koppe oplig na n week daar en net begin spontaan begin deelneem aan enige iets wat jy doen. Hulle dankbaarheid is ook baie besonders! Al die personeel se hulp en positiwiteit is ook baie inspirerend. Ek dink net die hele warm en veilige , liefdevolle omgewing wat hulle daar skep is ongelooflik!

V: Watter dinge is bo op jou “wishlist” vir Safe House?

A:  1. ‘n Nuwe eetkamertafel 2. ‘n Radio/cdspeler en 3. Nog baie vrywilligers wat daar betrokke kan raak!

Lucille says…“Baie dankie vir die geleentheid om n verskil te maak in ons dorp!Dankie vir Safe House – al julle harde werk en goeie ingesteldheid.dis absoluut aansteeklik!Mag die Here julle goeie werk ryklik seen.”

Safe House Stellenbosch is  place of safety for women who need to escape domestic violence. If you know of anyone in need, please click here.

To support our cause with a small donation every month, why not become a Friend of Safe House? Click here for more information. Every R1 makes a difference to us.