What is the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign?
We believe that rape survivors who are well supported in court make good witnesses. Good witnesses help achieve convictions and stronger sentencing of rapists. High conviction rates and strong sentences send a clear message to society that sexual violence will not be tolerated. These beliefs uphold and defend the right of all people in South Africa to live free from violence and support improved gender equality in our country.
The Rape Survivors Justice Campaign (RSJC) advocates for the planned and funded rollout of sexual offences courts across South Africa by the government.
The RSJC believes that the South African Government should be held accountable for making sure that all survivors of sexual violence have access to a sexual offences court.
Why is the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign important?
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. We also have high levels of poverty and a very big difference between rich and poor in our country. These factors mean that rape survivors get very different kinds of support after being a victim of a sexual offence, depending on what community they live in and which police station they report the offence to.
We need more support in the criminal justice system so rape survivors will feel comfortable when reporting a crime.
“We need more support in the criminal justice system so rape survivors will feel comfortable when reporting a crime.”
Police do not always investigate a rape case properly. Even if the perpetrator is arrested, when it gets to court the survivor may be too distressed to answer questions from the prosecutor, magistrate, and defence attorneys.
Many victims find it very difficult to tell their story as they would want it heard. This is one of the biggest reasons why very few perpetrators are actually convicted and sentenced in court. Our research has shown that the government has also identified that improvements in the system are needed. In fact, the Department of Justice has promised to establish sexual offences courts across the country. But will the government make a strong enough effort to make this promise a reality?
Without higher conviction rates and stronger sentencing, the number of rape incidents in our country will never be reduced.
What is a sexual offences court?
Sexual offences courts are special court rooms that only deal with sexual offences such as rape. They provide specialised services to rape survivors and other witnesses.
A 2013 report details the Department of Justice’s new model for sexual offences courts, including the need for specialist personnel including specially trained prosecutors, court supporters and magistrates.
The report also notes requirements on the infrastructure of sexual offences court room layouts so that the survivor does not suffer secondary trauma from being in the court building. For example, it can be very traumatic for a survivor to walk past the perpetrator in one of the corridors. A sexual offences court has a special court room with a separate waiting room for witnesses and rape survivors, as well as a special testifying room with CCTV equipment so that children can testify from a separate room and not have to see the perpetrator while they talk about what happened.
Do we have enough specialised sexual offences courts in South Africa currently?
The South African Government has promised to implement sexual offences courts across the country, however; there are currently not enough of these specialised courts to serve the more than 50 000 survivors of rape that come forward to report their cases each year, let alone the many thousands more that do not.
Why these courts are important:
Sexual offences courts are important as they are sensitive to the survivor and help to:
- make the trauma of a survivor much less.
- speed up cases so they are completed more quickly.
- make better court decisions or judgments because the people working in these courts are experts
who are skilled and experienced.
- give more people hope that reporting rape will work out well so more rape survivors will report
their cases to the police.
- get more convictions and send more perpetrators to jail.
How can I get involved?
You can get updates about everything that is happening in the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign by following the campaign on Facebook at RSJCampaign. You can also find more information on our website: http://www.rapecrisis.org.za/justice-campaign
Things that you can do to bring about change in your community:
- Join us…
Use social media to help us call for the development of sexual offences courts near you, using this information. Share the campaign’s status updates and photos with your friends and followers.
- Talk to a group you are part of about advocating for a sexual offences court near you.
This could be a community group, religious group or a group at your work. Tell them about sexual offences courts and the information in this booklet. If they want to join our campaign, let them know how they can learn more about the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign.
Support the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign today by scanning the SnapScan code and making a donation.
Donate online: https://rapecrisis.org.za/donate/
Find out more on our website: https://rapecrisis.org.za/justice-campaign/
Follow us on Facebook at RSJCampaign https://www.facebook.com/RSJCampaign/?ref=bookmarks
Follow us on Twitter at @RSJCampaign https://twitter.com/RSJCampaign
Call the Rape Crisis hotline 021 447 9762
Advocacy: A series of actions that are done to work for change.
Criminal Justice System: A set of role players and processes set up by governments to control crime and to punish those who commit crime.