Childline Gauteng, located in Parktown, is taking significant steps toward creating a more just society for rape survivors and a safer environment for all. Under Director Lynne Cawood’s leadership, the organisation conducted a research study in December 2021, funded by the Solidarity Fund and in collaboration with independent researcher Dr Marinda Weideman. The study aimed to enhance their support services for victims of violence.
Cawood explained that the research delved into the experiences of survivors with various aspects of the criminal justice system (CJS), such as medical facilities, law enforcement, and the courts, to understand the factors contributing to low conviction rates and to make recommendations for improving CJS performance.
Dr. Weideman’s research incorporated both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. This included a desk review, 28 in-depth interviews with subject experts and police personnel, and a survey completed by 207 adult survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), as well as adults representing children who had experienced SGBV and received or were receiving counselling support from Childline Gauteng.
The study’s key findings revealed that almost all perpetrators (99%) were men, with the majority (79%) being acquainted with the survivors. Shockingly, 47% of the perpetrators were family members. Perpetrators spanned all age groups: 21% were child perpetrators (aged 18 and younger), 27% were youth (aged 19 to 35), and 39% were older men, while the ages of the remaining 12% were unknown.
Regarding interactions with the police, 80% of survivors or caregivers eventually reported the incidents to law enforcement. While most survivors had positive experiences with the police, with officers described as helpful (81%) and kind (82%), 18% reported unkind treatment, and 16 participants claimed police abuse.
For those who sought assistance at medical facilities, the majority had positive experiences. Approximately 79% waited for less than 30 minutes to receive help, 88% felt that health officials adequately explained procedures, 96% found health officials to be kind and helpful, and 97% reported being treated with respect.
The research findings suggest that a low number of SGBV cases reach the courts due to a series of attritional factors. These include families and communities discouraging or preventing survivors from coming forward or pressing charges, delays in accessing medical facilities or reaching them too late, inadequate police investigations, communication, or follow-up, and a legal system that, despite improvements, fails to fully consider the effects of trauma or socio-economic deprivation, particularly for children.
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Photo: Supplied by Rosebank Killarney Gazette