Transform Education about Rape and Sexual Abuse Foundation

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Acronym: 
TEARS
Description: 

Transform Education about Rape and Sexual Abuse’s (TEARS ) mission is to be an agent of transformation for all aspects of education about rape and sexual abuse in order to promote positive change in societal values and attitudes, where the right to say ‘NO’ is upheld as a basic human right; where victims of rape and sexual abuse are treated with empathy and dignity and where access to legal, medical and psychological support is easily available to each and every member of society, regardless of gender, race or economic status.
 
Founded by Johannesburg businesswoman Mara Glennie, TEARS is a nationally accessible information and assistance network for victims of rape and sexual abuse which consists of a group of media and healthcare professionals with more than 30 years of experience in their individual fields. Mara Glennie says:
 
“My motivation comes from a deeply personal space. I myself was a survivor of violence and tried to report it at the local Police Station. I was told to come back on a Monday between 08h00 and 16h00. It was 18h00, Friday!  I felt helpless and desperate and did not know where to turn. The memory of that feeling has never left me."
 
As a result of the difficulties encountered and insight gained through their own experiences, the members of TEARS put together a unique programme to help victims of rape and sexual abuse. TEARS provide 24-hour access to information about where to find medical, legal and psychological support for victims of rape and sexual abuse, free of charge. Through education, TEARS also seeks to create awareness and facilitate the transformation of attitudes and values, so that sexual abuse of any kind becomes unacceptable in our society.
 
All of the women involved in this initiative are survivors of abuse and understand how it feels to be powerless and hopeless. Each of these women hope to be able to make a difference and to help create a culture in which one’s sexuality and the right to choose to have or not have intimate relations with another person, is treated with dignity and respect.
 
Description of TEARS application solution
 
In India recently, a woman’s safety SOS application called FightBack won two awards:
 
National Telecom Award 2012’ for most ‘Innovative VAS service’ at Sirifort Auditorium at Delhi Best CIO Award at CMO Asia, Singapore - ‘Best use of Information Technology for a Social Cause’
 
TEARS’ addresses the need for urgent assistance for victims by providing immediate information to all cellphone users irrespective of make, model and service provider. TEARS’ first level of assistance is a mobile phone portal and website which uses an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) interface and simple Global System for Mobile (GSM) technology to track the location of the caller / victim and instantly send details of the nearest care facility to the person. GSM technology uses a service carrier’s network to search for cellphone towers and trace the location of the caller. This is matched to Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of care facilities stored in TEARS ’ database, details of which are sent to the caller, thus providing immediate support to victims of rape and sexual assault, wherever they may find themselves. This support additionally includes essential information on the closest legal, psychological, police and other required immediate services available to a victim.
 
USSD is a technology used to send information between a mobile phone and an application on a mobile network. It allows customers to request information by using numeric strings (a dedicated number starting with * and ending with # via their mobile phone. Most customers are familiar with USSD as it is used to perform actions such as:

  • Sending of ‘please call me’ messages;
  • Topping up of pre-paid airtime; and
  • Accessing and performing mobile banking.

Why is this important?

TEARS’ service works by employing a USSD interface and simple GSM technology which works on all mobile handsets (old and new). GSM, the world’s most widely used cellphone technology, uses a service carrier’s GSM network to determine the location of the caller by searching for cellphone towers in the nearby area.

TEARS’ database consists of details of crisis facilities throughout South Africa, together with their GPS coordinates. When a caller accesses the database via SMS, the GSM pinpoints their approximate location by means of the cellphone towers. The application then searches the GPS coordinates from the database to discover the facilities closest to the position of the caller, and sends the information back via SMS to the victim and the crisis facility.
 
Providing a link to victim assistance and support, for example the USSD interaction could take the following forms:
 
Survivor calls TEARS (*120*7355#) on their mobile.
 
Screen 1 appears on mobile:

  • May we call you?  Yes or No;
  • Survivor presses Yes or No.

Screen 2 appears on mobile:
Type number for option

  • Raped - 1;
  • Molested - 2;
  • Harassed - 3;
  • Abused - 4.

Screen 3 appears on mobile:

  • Enter City/Town then #key;
  • Enter Suburb then #key.

The Survivor then receives an acknowledgement.
 
Screen 1: TEARS acknowledges receipt of your call. Your reference is 2345.
 
Screen 2: Displays contact information of facilities closest to his / her home.
 
If the caller indicated in screen 1, ‘Y’ (yes) – she / he may be contacted, a consultant will call without delay to assist. Assistance is immediate.
 
How TEARS identified this need?
 
When someone is raped or physically abused, they need to know where to go for help, a facility that will provide the medical, legal and emotional support they need, in a safe environment. Sadly, this information is inaccessible or difficult to track down and many victims find themselves alone and helpless, without any support or medical care after their traumatic experience. In the case of rape, the victim must get immediate medical attention and receive treatment within 24 hours, due to the threat of HIV, as well as to gain the necessary information to track down the perpetrator.
 
There is currently no consolidated database of this nature in South Africa. The little information that is available is scattered and hard to track down. Accuracy, constant monitoring and on-going updates are vital, but this is no small task.
 
By creating greater collaboration between support organisations and police, as well as providing procedural information specifically for police on the organisation’s database, TEARS’ hopes to promote a more empathetic approach from police when dealing with rape survivors and an efficient follow through of procedures.
 
The result is a greater willingness to report sexual crimes and an increase in the number of rapists successfully convicted.
 
Activities
 
TEARS provides information and access to assistance services to victims of rape and sexual abuse, free or at minimal charge, wherever they may be. TEARS aims to provide an interactive board-game for schools teaching the youth how to protect themselves. TEARS also conducts research and compiles a national database of all organisations providing assistance to victims of rape and sexual abuse.
 
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Status
 
TEARS is a nationally accessible support network for victims of rape and sexual abuse. In accordance with the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Codes of Good Practice, 75 percent of the value of contributions made to TEARS will ultimately benefit black individuals.
 
Contributions from our members, community and constituents
 
The TEARS programme as outlined has been very well received and has been welcomed with open arms by the Gauteng Department of Social Services, Lifeline, RapeCrisis, Avon and Cell C, these include:

  • South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Community Service Advertising (CSA) Announcements for TEARS  regarding rape and abuse;
  • The Department of Basic Education – Endorsement;
  • African National Congress (ANC) Woman' League – Endorsement;
  • A well-known bank will be flighting an advert on National TV on ‘Giving back to the Community’ from end July onwards focusing on TEARS;
  • Pretoria University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Social Work and Criminology; and
  • University of the Witwatersrand, School of Human and Community Development.

Communities working with TEARS to provide awareness:

  • Muskaan  - Indian Women’s Association in South Africa helps to raise funds for TEARS  with events with support from the High Commission of India Pretoria and their various other sponsors;
  • Skills4Life, FM, Sensible Choices, Ford and Absa;
  • Skills4Life, FM, Sensible Choices, sponsored by Ford and Absa etc. TEARS is involved in the ‘Skills for Life’ to schools, arranged by SABC Mpumalanga FM and ‘Sensible Choices’, sponsored by Absa and Ford.  TEARS will present at events around the country for the next few months to bring awareness for TEARS and the LifeBoard Game to schools. The 1st event was held on 7 June 2013 with children representing five schools.

TEARS  has formed a partnership with Lusito Upliftment, a nonprofit youth development centre and will in partnership with the Department of Social Development, in the Johannesburg Metro Region take part in events at nine schools in and around the Soweto area addressing rape and sexual abuse incorporated in events concentrating on substance abuse, skills development and job preparation.
 
South African local performer Conrad Koch hosted the performance, of ‘Chester Missing’, to create awareness and assist in the funding of TEARS
 
United States Embassy invited TEARS founder to the inaugural meeting of the newly formed rape and abused forum.
When the TEARS database is completed, it will be the only database of this nature in South Africa and the organisation believes it will be a desperately needed tool in fighting this epidemic in Africa. Each of the current national rape and service providers is a part of TEARS’ network.
 
TEARS’ has volunteers from the community who have pledged in writing to assist TEARS as needed. This programme is being endorsed by the South African Department of Education and the ANC Woman’s League. TEARS is self funded with offices provided by ‘Tsebo Outsourcing Group’

To view the Transform Education about Rape and Sexual Abuse Foundation in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here

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