Group calls for limited contact with rape survivors and accused in courts


December 3, 2018 11:30 am

Members of the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign picket outside the Khayelitsha Magistrates court demanding the government establishes a Sexual Offences Courtroom in Khayelitsha. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Rape survivors who gather the strength to stand up to their attackers and hold them accountable often have to brave facing the perpetrator at the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on their way to testifying against him.

According to Rape Crisis advocacy co-ordinator Jeanne Bodenstein, this causes many survivors to suffer secondary trauma, making it impossible for some to testify.

The organisation is advocating for a safer space at the court for witnesses to be protected, and met with Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery outside the Khayelitsha court.

“We’re worried about the sexual violence situation in Khayelitsha. We know the experiences the survivors have with the system.

“Khayelitsha in the past 10 years has had the 10 highest reports of sexual violence in the country. We believe in a court system that can address secondary trauma suffered by survivors through the correct infrastructure to limit the contact survivors have with perpetrators,” said Bodenstein.

She said secondary trauma has had a severe impact on cases, making it difficult for the State to build a strong case against the accused.

Rape Crisis is calling for regulation amendments to ensure that all courts are set up to limit contact between the victim and the accused.

Jeffery, who received a memorandum, said he felt that it was important to address progress made at the court and report on problems regarding the existing building.

“We’ve been working on it [sexual offences regulation] for some time and had workshops with different role-players and magistrates on what the minimum standards should be.

“We have an existing building but there are limitations on what you can do to it.

“It has been an ongoing issue at the court in Khayelitsha. Last year I picked up their memorandum and there have been some changes, in terms of a room being built for Rape Crisis, but there are other issues that need to be addressed,” said Jeffery.

The provincial head of the Department of Justice, Hishaam Mohamed, agreed with Jeffery and said a safer space was needed for victims and witnesses to move into court. He said the court was in the process of creating a separate waiting room and lavatory with direct access to the courtroom.

In light of this, the deputy minister will meet with representatives from Rape Crisis and other stakeholders to provide an update on progress regarding the establishment of a sexual offences court at Khayelitsha.

@IamAthinaMay

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