In Abidjan (Ivory Coast), the association Stop au Chat noir (Stop the Black Cat) fights against gender-based violence. It offers a wide range of psycho-educational and therapeutic activities to meet the needs of victims of sexual abuse.
THE REGIONAL CONTEXT
When it comes to speaking out about sexual violence, a majority of women say they “feel they are betraying either a religious precept or the honour of their family“.
This resignation to violence, as described by Sylvia Apata, an Ivorian expert and president of the association CPDEFM (Citizens for the Promotion and Defence of the Rights of Children, Women and Minorities), trivialises acts of violence against women and prevents the survivors from becoming aware of the seriousness of the situation.
As proof, 70% of Abidjan women were victims of domestic violence in 2019 according to a survey conducted by CPDEFM.
This stumbling block between the reality of the facts and the weight of cultural habits complicates the actions of adapted care as much as the work of awareness raising.
It is therefore imperative to find ways to break this silence, open dialogue and support survivors through psychosocial and economic reconstruction.
COMBATING AND RAISING AWARENESS OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)
The “black cat” that the association is fighting is that of resignation to violence, which is so commonplace. More precisely, the term refers to a practice of sexual abuse, assimilated to rape. It consists of performing a sexual act, without the consent of the person, while that person is sleeping. This very common practice symbolises the culture of rape that plagues Ivorian society.
The association Stop au Chat Noir intends to combat this rape culture and especially the trivialisation of rape.
Founded by Bénédicte Joan, the association works in two interdependent areas. On the one hand, support for victims of violence and sexual abuse, and on the other, awareness-raising and prevention work.
Stop au Chat Noir’s mission is to break the silence, open dialogue and repair the survivors through psychosocial and economic reconstruction.
To achieve this, the association has, for example, deployed a mobile application that will make it possible to reach a large part of the Ivorian population. It is possible to send messages, answer questions and provide live help via chat, directly through the interface.
In addition, Stop au Chat Noir will advocate for the implementation of a policy to fight against GBV within the Félix Houphouët Boigny University.
FOCUS ON THE CREATION OF A SHELTER FOR GBV SURVIVORS
As part of the Feminists in Action project, Stop au Chat Noir is working to set up a second permanent reception centre for victims of sexual violence in Abidjan and its region.
Survivors will be welcomed throughout the week in a reassuring and safe environment. They will be able to benefit from professional support in a private setting.
Survivors will be received there to be listened to and understood. They will have access to physical and administrative support to facilitate their eventual involvement with other stakeholders: medical personnel, law enforcement, lawyers, etc.
The main difficulty encountered by the association is currently finding a place to receive and care for survivors of gender-based violence.
Stop au Chat noir, which has already visited about fifteen premises, has so far only been refused: in Ivory Coast, owners are very reluctant to rent to an association.
Through meetings, awareness-raising sessions and welcoming survivors, Stop au Chat Noir contributes to better prevention of gender-based violence and to the treatment of sexual abuse situations with respect for the victims. More broadly, the association helps to change attitudes towards sexual violence. To find out more about the work of feminist CSOs around the world and to keep up to date with the progress of the Feminists in Action initiative, go to the News section.