Last week’s release of official police crime statistics for 2012/2013 has left organisations in the women’s sector angry and frustrated. These annually released figures continue to say very little about the actual situation of crimes against women in South Africa. A more real analysis would drive resource allocation and appropriate service delivery and ensure a better conviction rate for rapists.
In 1994 South Africa celebrated the end of apartheid and the beginning of the rainbow nation; a nation where all races and cultures could live in freedom and safety. Today, on Heritage Day, we come together to remind ourselves of that great ideal and to celebrate its possibilities. We see them all around us.
At Rape Crisis women from a very wide range of races, ages, cultures, religions, sexual orientations come together as ordinary people to do an extraordinary job. Since 1976 Rape Crisis has been drawing women from the communities we serve and offering them training in the specialised skills of dealing with adult rape: as counsellors, as community educators, as court supporters and as community spokespersons. Since rape is a problem that affects all communities, all communities are represented within our organisation. One of the core values of the organisation is unity. A unity fought for and hard won and therefore all the more appreciated. The Rape Crisis staff that were retrenched in 2012 stayed on to work alongside volunteers to deliver essential services to rape survivors. They remain on a four day week as a salary sacrifice that stems in part from government’s failure to allocate sufficient resources to the problem of rape in the Western Cape.
Rape is a seriously under reported crime. Interviews conducted in Gauteng in 2010 by Gender Links and the South African Medical Research Council found that a quarter of women in the study had been raped in the course of their lifetimes. But only 1 in 13 women raped by a stranger reported the matter to the police, while only 1 in 25 of the women raped by their partners reported it. Official statistics don’t show whether the victims of rape are men, women or children or whether they were gay, lesbian, elderly, disabled or a sex worker. They don’t show how many victims were raped by the same perpetrator. They don’t show where the highest concentrations of rapes occur. They only come out once a year and a single figure is given for what amounts to 59 different types of sexual offences.
Small wonder the Department of Social Development has not set its targets for service delivery high enough and have therefore not allocated sufficient funds. As a result very few organisations exist outside of urban centres to support survivors in the difficult process of disclosing and reporting rape and even urban based services struggle to meet these needs. Officials need to deal with the numerous barriers to reporting that are presented by the system itself. If they did so then more rapes would be reported, more successful cases would reach completion and more rapists would be convicted. As an organisation Rape Crisis is not able to reach communities far outside of Cape Town except through the information portal that we recently launched on MXit. Clearly this is not enough. If the police believe their own statistics, they and other agencies will continue to grossly underestimate the resources that are needed to fight this scourge.
Rape Crisis and other organisations within the sector would like to see the SAPS present a more detailed breakdown of their statistics on a more regular basis both to NGOs and to other government departments that need this information in order to plan accurately. We need to come together more and work together more in order to embody the spirit implied in our more recent heritage. Ordinary people can help too. Inform yourself. Speak out. Come together. Donate time. Donate money.
Kathleen Dey is the Director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. Join our 1000Hearts Campaign and donate now.