Port Elizabeth — According to the World Health Organisation, 60 000 women and children in South Africa are victims of domestic violence every month.
The country has the highest incidence of domestic violence in the world - and those are just the cases that are reported.
"I believe the statistics could be as high as 100 000 per month," said Lindsay Ziehl, senior supervisor of Yokhuselo Haven in Port Elizabeth, which provides safety and shelter for abused women and their children.
"So many people don't report domestic violence."
Since opening their doors 22 years ago, the haven has assisted thousands of women and children. It is a fitting tribute that they are once again the beneficiary of the SPAR Women's 10km Challenge in Nelson Mandela Bay on Saturday, May 5, an event last year supported by 11 000 participants.
SPAR Eastern Cape marketing manager Martin Webber said a race mainly supported by women and children benefiting a haven that supported abused women and children was "the right fit" for this community-focused event.
"We feel the haven provides the right care for these women and children.
"As abuse is generally kept under wraps, an event the size of ours allows the haven to be made known to those who may be in need and not know where to turn."
Yokhuselo Haven runs two homes - Prospect Hill Crisis Centre in Central, where victims stay on a short-term basis, usually just a night, and a safe house at a secure address, sheltering families who are in danger.
The crisis centre is often the first port of call for survivors of domestic violence. "We are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We never, ever close," said Ziehl.
Along with providing a safe environment, which includes food, clothing, a bath and a bed, the crisis centre supervisor will arrange for statements to be taken, and for counselling and evaluation by a social worker, who may recommend that the family is relocated to the safe house.
There, they are provided with accommodation, food and clothing, and also receive assistance with protection orders, ongoing counselling and help in finding employment. Women often stay at the safe house for up to three months at no charge.
"It's so important to us, knowing that the community and a retail giant like SPAR support non-violence against women and children. Each time SPAR puts on this race, I am sure it makes an impact in all communities," said Ziehl.
"It's also heart-warming to see schools involved in the race - and understanding what the day is about. The fight against domestic violence starts with our children."
Ziehl said the race provided an "informing platform" for the haven. In the five years that it has been a beneficiary, women from all communities have approached the organisation directly after the event to give talks on domestic violence.
"This information needs to be out there, it needs to be said," said Ziehl.