The numbers of change: If you don’t like numbers, then this blog is for you

The Indian writer and mathematical genius, Shakuntala Devi, once said “Numbers have life, they’re not just symbols on paper”.

I realise that some of you reading this, might not care about numbers at all. Unless you are an accountant. Or a maths teacher. Or someone that is into Soduku. But, to be honest, I do like numbers. And I like the stories that they tell. And such a story I found in an unlikely place last week…

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I attended the meeting of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services where the Department of Justice presented their Annual Report for the year of 2016/2017. This is an opportunity for the Department to tell the Committee if their targets have been achieved and to present proof in numbers.

Side note: A large part of the parliamentary Portfolio Committees’ role is to oversee the work of the National Executive (i.e. various government departments) and you will know that I am always interested in how parliament does this.

It is easy to attend a meeting like the one last week and not even see the specifics when the numbers flash by (at record speed, mind you). Overwhelming numbers. But, interested as I am, I look for the stories behind the numbers so that I can share them with you, obviously. One such story, was the story about sexual offences courts. The Department told the Committee that 11 courtrooms across provinces were upgraded to sexual offences courtrooms during the past year, completing the first phase of the rollout.

This number tells the story of the rural community of Tsolo, Eastern Cape, where survivors now have access to specialised services to help them get through the difficult process of giving their testimony in court. The magistrate and prosecutors at this court have been specially trained to deal with sexual offences and the court room is designed in such a way that rape survivors will not have to wait in the same waiting room as the accused or his supporters, child witnesses will be able to give their testimony in a separate room using Closed Circuit Television and support services will have their own offices to offer confidential support to rape survivors and other witnesses for the state. Cases will be processed and finalised more quickly because only sexual offences cases will be heard in this court room.

Added to this, 106 more courtrooms will be upgraded in the second phase of the rollout, bringing the total sexual offences courtrooms to 163 at the end of phase two. This is huge, because it means that more than half of the total number of regional courts across the country will have sexual offences courtrooms. More than half of the survivors of sexual violence in South Africa will receive support in the criminal justice system.

By looking for the stories that these numbers tell, the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign can continue to ask the right questions of the relevant people at the right time. We will continue to hold government accountable for the rollout of sexual offences courts, so that rape survivors can tell their stories in supportive courtrooms and in the presence of supportive people. And we will continue to ask for more numbers until the story they tell is that our government has honoured its promise. You can follow us on Facebook to read more of our stories of change and to share this with your friends.

 

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Jeanne Bodenstein

Jeanne is the Advocacy Coordinator at the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and heads the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign. She likes wine, pizza and recently rediscovered her love for mystery novels.

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National Wills Week in September

The Law Society of South Africa will host National Wills Week from 11 to 15 September 2017. During this week participating attorneys will draft basic wills free of charge. You can read more about this and find all participating attorneys by clicking here. By making a Will you ensure that your assets are disposed of in accordance with your wishes after your death.

A qualified attorney can advise you on any problems which may arise with regard to your will and ensure that your will is valid and complies with your wishes. If you die without leaving a valid will, your assets may not be left to the person of your choice, it might take a long time to appoint an executor and there may be extra costs. There can be unhappiness and conflict among members of your family because there are no clear instructions on how to distribute your assets.

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Leaving a legacy

Bequests and legacies provide an important income stream for many charities. A Will is the best way to safeguard the future of the causes important to you. When you make a bequest in your Will, you make a difference. A difference to a worthwhile charity and a difference to people in need. One of the most important things our generation can do is provide the means to ensure Rape Crisis is around to continue serving the thousands of rape survivors attended to every year.

Fortunately, leaving a bequest is easy. What’s more, just a relatively small donation from your overall estate could make all the difference to the survivors in need.

Please click here to download the codicil to be filled out and attached to your will.

Let’s all work together to ensure a brighter future for the thousands of rape survivors we help every year. If you would like more information or to talk to us about this, please contact Kathleen Dey at kath@rapecrisis.org.za. To make an ordinary donation click here. Please pass on this information to anyone you think may want to leave a legacy for survivors.

Official Launch of the Boschfontein Sexual Offences Court

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) welcomes the official launch of the Boschfontein Sexual Offences Court on 24 March 2017 by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The RSJC holds government accountable for the promised rollout of sexual offences courts across the country in order to ensure that survivors of sexual offences have access to such a specialised court. In the light hereof, we applaud government for honouring its commitment.

However, we note with concern that there are still, according to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s official website, only 49 sexual offences courts nationally. This means that the vast majority of communities still do not have access to a survivor-centred criminal justice system to address sexual offences. One such community is Khayelitsha, where we gathered during 16 Days of Activism 2016 to demand that a sexual offences court be established to serve this community. Unfortunately it is still unclear when this will happen.

The RSJC (Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign) calls on the South African Government to put the necessary legislation into effect so that the courts are re-established within a framework that is clear and transparent. We are also asking:

  • that government develop a fully costed plan to make sure these courts are delivered within a clear timeframe,
  • that government prioritise the areas with the highest rates of sexual assault and roll out Sexual Offences Courts there first
  • that government ensure the necessary budget for establishing these courts is allocated annually until all 298 courts are in place and functional
  • That all established courts meet the criteria for a sexual offences court and remain fully functional

To support our demand access to Sexual Offences Courts for all survivors, please go to http://bit.ly/2frRPYU. If you want to follow the activities of the RSJC and support us, please visit Facebook at RSJC.

 

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Jeanne Bodenstein

Jeanne is the Advocacy Coordinator at the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and heads the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign. She likes wine, pizza and recently started growing herbs.

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/