Rape from the courts perspective

Currently in South Africa survivors of sexual assault and rape often feel that the criminal justice system does not support them. This is why we are fighting for specialised sexual offences courts specialised sexual offences courts that only deal with sexual offences cases and provide special services to survivors. Therefore it is very important to understand exactly what is expected and required in order to prove that a rapist is guilty in the eyes of the law.

From the law and the court’s perspective there are certain things that are essential in making a solid case and having the case result in a conviction. To help you we have put together a list of the key steps you must take in order to provide the prosecutor and the courts with the strongest case possible against your assailant.

What evidence is needed to build a strong rape case: What can survivors do?

  1. Physical evidence

If you have been raped or assaulted do not remove your clothes or wash. Go straight to the nearest police station and request medical attention. There will be physical evidence on your body and clothes that will link the rapist to the crime and it is important that this evidence is collected as soon as possible after the rape. Physical or DNA evidence fades within 72 hours (three days) after the event so the sooner you have this evidence collected and submitted to the police the better.

If you know of a nearby hospital that is a designated as a forensic unit for assessing rape cases you may go straight there but it is important to note that not all hospitals or health facilities deal with rape cases.

  1. Forensic examination

In order to collect physical evidence such as the rapist’s saliva, blood, semen or hair you will need to have a forensic examination done within three days (or 72 hours) after the rape provided you have not washed this evidence away. You will be examined by a clinical forensic practitioner, which means a nurse or doctor who has been specially trained to gather evidence of crimes and offer medical treatment. This is often the strongest evidence in a rape case so it is important you have a forensic examination. However if more than three days have passed your case does still stand a chance of being heard so this should not stop you from reporting rape to the police.

It is also very important that you go to the hospital and get the required treatment. This will include antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV, emergency contraception, antibiotics and the possible treatment of any injuries.

  1. First contact witness

The first person you talk to after you have been raped and tell about the rape is called the first contact witness. It is important that you speak to someone you trust and that you have this person’s contact details as the police will want to talk to them. They may be required to appear in court and give evidence to support your story.

  1. Police statement

You will need to give the police a statement of what happened. From the point of view of the law the sooner you can do this the better as the criminal has less chance to escape and you may be able to remember more about the rape right after it happened. If you are not in a position to have a full statement taken, you can give a brief statement and the investigating officer will make an appointment with you for the following day or ideally within 36 hours.

From the point of view of the prosecutor and the law, the more evidence that is collected and the sooner it is gathered after the crime the stronger the case will be in court. Once you have gone through these steps you can take some time to recover and decide whether or not you want to lay a charge against the person who raped you. Even if you are not sure whether you wish to lay a charge, it is better to have the forensic examination done, so that the evidence is there should you decide to lay a charge at a later date. Having strong evidence strengthens your case, and helps convict criminals, and to empower you as a survivor and as a witness in court.

For more information and practical advice on what to do if you are raped you can read our booklet; You and Rape, the essential guide for rape survivors.  

Download the You and Rape English booklet. https://rapecrisis.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/English.pdf

Download the You and Rape Afrikaans booklet. https://rapecrisis.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Afrikaans.pdf

For further information Shukumisa http://shukumisa.org.za has created a comprehensive guide called; Women know your rights, a simplified guide to your rights against sexual violence. Download it here.  http://shukumisa.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Woman-know-your-rights.pdf

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The Gender-Wage Gap

In the world we occupy today, there are currently fewer women executives in the workforce than there are male executives named John. While this seems like an optimal moment to use the now infamous Hillary Clinton, glass ceiling metaphor, it turns out that getting on to the same level as this plethora of John’s is only the beginning of a women’s struggle in the work place. Surprise! More glass ceilings. Not only does there need to be a fight for a women’s success to equal that of John’s, but the false pretense that the struggle ends there only causes a woman to stop and say, “Wait!” when she looks down at her paycheck and compares it to that of her male counterparts.

The gender-wage gap is not a new phenomenon. In fact, as Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James discuss in their writing “The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community,” how capitalism pushed women further and further out of the workplace to the point where men were the primary wage earners and a women’s skills were wasted as she is reduced to her domestic work. However, discrimination in the name of gender is a complex animal and, of course, one glass ceiling would have been far too easy for a woman to break. Even when women shed their soapy, latex dish-washing gloves and join the work force, the system tells them that they are still not worth the same as men.

In fact, society tells women that although they can escape the home to the equally restrictive shackles of a desk, a woman still belongs to her chores. Men label women as distracted or inefficient, because clearly she must be focusing on the housework left undone at home, rather than the office tasks at hand. All in all, this justifies our wage gap. The perception that a women’s output cannot compare to a man’s when he has the ability to push home, family, and relationships out of his mind and focus in a way that, apparently, a woman cannot. The placement of men in the workplace and women in the home is so deeply ingrained in our society that now, in 2018, there is no need for a spoken justification for the gender-wage gap, this inequality lives, unquestioningly accepted, just below the radar of injustice.

My initial reaction to this idea was one of disbelief. In my experience, stereotypes surrounding women rely less on us being unfocused and stretched too thin, than on our ability to multitask, listen, and empathize. However, as I continued to read about the gender-wage gap, the more I was engaging with this justification of inequality. While the stereotypes that I associate with women are definitely informed by my own background, I generally view the ability to listen and other ‘female’ traits as skills of importance in the workplace that need to be fine-tuned in order to achieve success. However, while my stereotypes of women may be the polar opposite of those listed above, they still hold some sort of negative connotation in a work environment. While empathy is a trait that makes someone a decent human, it is hardly seen as valuable in the dog-eat-dog, masculine depiction of the business world.

Consequently, I began to question why I even associate these words with what it means to be a woman. Wait. Aren’t multitasking, listening, and an ability to empathize all traits assumed to be important in order to raise a child? Have I fallen back into the trap of connecting a woman to the home, her family and her domestic work? If these definitions of womanhood are circular, revolving around the home, can a woman not be anything, free to choose her own identity and how she manipulates it; or is anything really just synonymous with nothing? The fact of the matter is that a woman can be anything and should mean something different to every person, but society’s ability to understand women is still bound by the harsh limits of stereotyping as evidenced by the ongoing gender-wage gap.

So how do we combat this? How do we, as women, band together to change the fate of our bank accounts? How do we prevent another glass ceiling from forming right above our heads right before we successfully push through the one directly in front of us? While I do not have the answer to this question, I can only hope that by the time the John’s are equal to or outnumbered by the Emily’s, Hannah’s, or Julia’s in the workforce, we can finally push forward so that a women’s seventy-something cents can finally be equal to the man’s dollar.

 

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Talia Clark
interned at Rape Crisis in April 2018. She is currently a B.A candidate at the George Washington University studying International Affairs. In her third year at university, she decided to partake in a study abroad program in Cape Town to study multiculturalism and human rights which led her to her internship with Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

Turning big ideas into action in 2018

It’s been a busy first quarter, not only making progress towards our programme targets but also building the strength of our organisation and forging better links with outside stakeholders. We have a vision of a South Africa where rape survivors are supported in their homes, by their communities and within the criminal justice system. We’re making it real.

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Kholeka Booi talks to a school social worker in Khayelitsha about our peer education programme that addresses sexual violence and promotes safety in schools.

 

 

Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.42.49Learners from Intlanganisa High School get to hear about what rape culture means as part of our peer education programme.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.42.59At Khayelitsha Mall members of the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign speak to people about the need for specialised sexual offences courts.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.13Our General Meeting is a space for staff, volunteers and Trustees to come together to talk about the wellbeing of the organisation and strengthen our internal bonds.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.25One of our donor partners, NACOSA, has organised an evaluation of the work we do supporting rape survivors undergoing a forensic examination at Thuthuzela Care Centres.
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Speaking her truth our director Kathleen Dey writes a chapter on feminism in practice that describes how feminism is lived in Rape Crisis today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.50Attending the German Embassy reception at the opening of Parliament earlier this year with thanks to our partners from Oxfam Germany.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.44.06Making plans for joint advocacy with members of the Shukumisa Coalition's Law and Policy Strengthening Task Team.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.44.20Xhosa speaking staff and volunteers review the content of our You and Rape booklet as a self-help guide empowering survivors.

Sharing insight to develop better court models

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Spaces where researchers, activists and students can gather to share thoughts, ideas and dreams, are few and far between. That is why we were so grateful and excited when the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society offered to partner with us to host a panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa.

This discussion was designed to follow on from the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act that was presented by the Department of Justice at the end of 2017 and where some of the research concerning sexual offences courts was first presented to the public. However, only a handful of representatives from the NGO sector could attend the DOJ’s forum and we were interested to hear the views of others in the field of sexual violence, colleagues who work in courts and fellow activists.

Our panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa took place on 26 April 2018 in Cape Town and we were joined by three panellists; Lisa Vetten, from the Wits City Institute, Dr Aisling Heath from the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at UCT, and Karen Hollely from the Child Witness Institute. Together they shared some of the key findings of their three separate research undertakings in the area of sexual offences in the court system. Their separate research studies looked at the experiences of victims of sexual violence in courts, the observation of court proceedings and the reviewing of court files. They not only shared their very interesting findings, but also their personal opinions of how this issue should be taken forward.

What made this event special is that it brought together groups from two worlds; those at the coal face working in courts, and those in front of the data and research analysing findings. In our experience it is felt that these two worlds don’t connect often enough and so the opportunities to bring these perspectives together to share insights and knowledge are always meaningful. Through the Court Support Project, Rape Crisis provides support services to survivors at five courts. This is an extremely an extremely important component of sexual offences courts. We believe that the very real experiences of our court supporters has the potential to add a depth and richness to the research done by these panellists. By the same stretch, their research helps to shed light on the systemic issues at play that influence the work that happens in courts.

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) believes that specialised sexual offences courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system by decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors, and in so doing increasing conviction rates for rape. Learning from the findings of skilled researchers in combination with our own experiences is immensely valuable. It influences our RSJC strategy and helps us work towards answering the question that is central to our campaign; what do sexual offences courts need in order to be successful in South Africa?

 

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Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.