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Decrease in number of reported rape cases a concern – Rape Crisis

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This month, analysts have been busying themselves with the release of the annual crime report. The report, issued by the South African Police Service’s (SAPS), has garnered concern since it reflected an increase in contact crimes, such as murder and assault, but interestingly because it reflected a decrease in the reporting of sexual offences within most provinces. In the Western Cape, between January and September, 2016, 7130 reported cases of sexual offences occurred, while 10498 occurred in 2005. Thus, reflecting a decrease in the number of reported incidence, as well as the continued stigma that is attached to rape culture.

To gain clarity on the report, VOC spoke to advocacy coordinator at Rape Crisis in Cape Town, Jeanne Bodenstein.

Bodenstein explains that while it is common knowledge that sexual offences is under reported in the country, the new stats indicate that more victims are choosing not to report their trauma, consequently contributing to an inaccurate reflection in stats.

As someone who deals with victims of sexual violence, Bodenstein notes that victims are generally confronted by three barriers that leave them feeling vulnerable and unwilling to report incidents of sexual assault.

These barriers include the individual barrier, which causes an individual to fear approaching the police or their family, or the fear that the perpetrator may confront them if they disclose the incident.

A second barrier, the social barrier, reflects a fear of being stigmatised by ones family or community, generally attached incidents of rape.

The third barrier, lack of faith in the criminal justice system, causes victims to feel that approaching law enforcement and the judiciary will not be effective in achieving justice for the crime.

“The system can be extremely intimidating, so people cannot fathom entering it,” Bodenstein added.

Bodenstein says that Rape Crisis has been working to increase the reporting of sexual offences and have called for the effective prosecution of perpetrators in order to ensure that justice is served.

“This will ensure that the criminal justice system works for survivors, so that it can be ‘survivor centred’. [We are ensuring] that survivors get specialized, services, sexual offenses courses, and units at the police,” Bodenstein stated.

She asserts that in improving the system to work toward focussing on justice for survivors, this will ensure that they do not experience secondary trauma and that they are integral to all steps in the judicial process.

In light of growing concerns of rape culture within South Africa, Bodenstein says that communities need to continue to challenge rape culture and to destroy the stigma attached to it.

“We really believe that this is key to ensuring that reporting increases. [We need to ensure] that if people say that they were drunk and raped that they won’t be judged for,” she said.

Bodenstein explains that specialised sexual offences courses are being re-established and further notes that according to the Department of Justices, approximately 50 of these courses have been rolled out.

“At rape crisis we have recently launched the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign, which aims to hold government accountable for the roll out and to ensure that the Department of Justice establishes [ample] courses so that every rape victim has access to them,” she continued.

For more information on Rape Crisis, visit Alternatively contact (021) 447-1467.

If you are a victim of sexual violence, do not hesitate, contact Rape Crisis’ crisis line (English) on (021) 447-9762.



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