Gender-based violence (GBV) activists are asking that police be held accountable for the way they deal with sexual offence cases. The Gauteng Department of Community Safety plays an oversight role over the work of the police service to ensure there is no further traumatization of rape survivors.

However, some still feel they do not get the proper service they are promised when they report the sexual assault.

Ivory Park in Midrand close to Tembisa, in Ekurhuleni, is a vibrant township that hardly goes to sleep. However, when the sun sets and people enter their private homes, everyone tends to mind their own business.

For two young girls, aged 12 and 16, home has been a torturous place as the walls echo the screams and pain they have suffered at the hands of their stepfather. It is alleged he sexually assaulted the girls over a period of three years.

The mother is said to have known and turned a blind eye, as a gender-based violence project manager at the Department of Community Safety in Gauteng, Matsobane Ledwabe, explains.

“One of our brigades, during our door to door campaign, spreading the gospel against GVB, was alerted by a neighbour to say, in this house; the child has alerted us that the parents are abusing them. We found that an old man who has three wives, also started helping himself with these minors and he was sleeping with them.”

The alleged perpetrator and his wife – who ignored the children’s plea – have been arrested and are trying to get bail at the Rabasotho Magistrate’s Court in Tembisa.

Ledwabe says this situation is not unique, however, the crucial point starts with the police and evidence gathering. He says there has been much criticism around the reporting and handling of cases.

“Yes we are aware of these issues, but we have come to be very intimate. Not all police are bad; others are just under tremendous pressure. One of the programmes we have with the police is the victim empowerment centres. That the victims don’t have to go through the charge office, as we see it as secondary victimization.

We have an area whereby victims are able to be assisted and cases are taken into account properly just to make sure that cases do not go into thin air, It is only when we give conducive evidence that can lead to proper prosecution.”

Reporting a case

A little emotion and time to digest the trauma is what Carol (not her real name) felt would have been a better way her rape case could’ve been handled.

“When you go and report a case, that very same moment, you are vulnerable and nobody advises you that you don’t have to make a statement at that point in time. When you go through your statement, you are obviously not on your normal senses and you sign. And when you go to court and they read it, it’s a completely different thing that you cannot challenge.”

Rosina Mohale is an activist and is also part of the GBV brigades in Ivory Park. Mohale says she encounters many cases of abuse and assault. She however says there are instances the police are not helpful and careless when handling some reports.

“When it comes to the police, there is still a lot that needs to happen and we need to work with them. Most of the time when we talk to them, they say after the arrest, it’s up to the magistrate. But sometimes they drag their feet and question victims more than they should the perpetrators.”

Nhlanhla Lux from Soweto Parliament, says he believes the statistics on rape cases are not a true reflection of what is happening in society, as he says he finds reporting sexual assault to be a daunting task.

“I personally don’t think the cases reported, the data matches the actual cases. I think we are probably reporting 20% of the rape and GBV cases because the 80% is still reluctant on reporting. From a policy point of view, there is a priority. I think our policemen and women need to be given some training around emotional intelligence.”

Accountability

Vincentia Dlamini from Women and Men against Child Abuse, says law enforcement officers, who are not handling cases in a proper manner, need to be held accountable.

“Police need to be held accountable and reported and this will ensure that they do what is expected of them. So they will have no choice but to create that safe space for women.”

Meanwhile, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) says those grievances and not satisfied with service from law enforcement agents, can report the matter to them.

GBV | Call for police to improve reporting conditions for rape victims: