Empowering women to advocate for change in South Africa

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust has embodied this by launching our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign in 2016 to lobby for a significant change in how South Africa’s criminal justice system deals with sexual offences cases. The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign calls for access to sexual offences courts for all survivors and holds the government accountable for the national rollout of these courts, as was promised in 2013.

These Sexual Offences Courts are crucial in ensuring justice, because they focus on the needs of the survivor and aim to provide survivor-centred justice. These courts have specialised personnel, services and infrastructure. Some of the special features of these courts, are that the sexual offences courtrooms have separate entrances so that survivors do not have to walk past the defendant on their way to the courtroom. In addition, the survivor is able to testify from a separate room using CCTV. We believe that these courts will provide support to survivors throughout the court process and Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust provides court supporters at 5 courts in the Cape Town. These court supporters are trained to help survivors navigate the criminal justice system and offer much needed emotional support to survivors.

The specialised personnel and services that makes up a sexual offences court is centred around the survivor and we therefore refer to it as survivor-centred justice. These resources also include a friendly, welcoming environment that makes it easier for survivors who are children and/or mentally challenged to testify, because it reduces the secondary trauma that survivors experience as a result of entering the criminal justice system.

Pelisa who has been a court supporter at Parow Magistrates Court for six years knows the importance of Sexual Offences Courts. She first got involved with the court support programme because she recognized a “need” for change after hearing stories from community members in Khayelitsha, where she lives. Pelisa is a passionate supporter for survivors of sexual offences who has always helped others heal and become stronger. Her role in the court support programme has been to explain to the survivor why they are there, how they can handle the situation better and, most importantly, help them “learn to love again”. According to Pelisa, her favourite parts about being a court supporter is “when [she] sees a smile on the survivor’s face” and “when [she] talks to them and sees that they have become free and strong”.

Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust welcomed the promise by government to re-establish sexual offences courts. These services, personnel and infrastructure are vital to survivors seeking justice. Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust has continually been in the forefront of empowering women to advocate for change in South Africa. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. There are only 49 Sexual Offences Courts, and other services offered to survivors of sexual offences are still inadequate. A donation to Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust will go a long way to help us continue our work to hold government accountable for the rollout of sexual offences courts and to offer much needed support to survivors through our counselling and court support services.

Image above: Pelisa Nokoyo – Rape Crisis Court Supporter

Written by: Adam Kirschner – Communications Intern at Rape Crisis

If you would like to contribute to our programmes, Donate now and find out more here: http://rapecrisis.org.za/donate/