The recent incidents of women getting raped and sexually assaulted while using taxis has brought to attention the urgency with which South Africans need to confront and find lasting solutions to gender violence in the country.
Over the past months, several women were raped in Johannesburg while using taxis, leading the SAPS to warn of taxi gang rape in the city. Which is why, according to Kay Makubela, SAPS Gauteng spokesperson, the police are taking measures to combat rape — including making it easier and more dignified for survivors to report rape.
Educating men about rape
“We have a gathering called Men 4 Change,” he says when asked what the police are doing to change men’s perception about their entitlement to women’s bodies. “We’ve started within the police because we know, among us, there are perpetrators, too. We also go out and talk to the men and try make them understand that we are all equal, and have to treat each other as human beings. We also encourage that such incidents are reported.” Makubela goes on to say the police have campaigns where they teach people, especially women, how to keep safe. “We go to churches, we call imbizos, we send pamphlets, go to taxi ranks and advice people to be vigilant.”
The first step, says Makubela, is that after being raped, the survivor shouldn’t wash themselves or change their underwear as that would be literally cleaning away the evidence. “Secondly,” he continues,“go to the nearest police station or nearest medical centre. If you start at a medical centre, they will call the police. If you start at the police, the police will take you to a medical centre.” After getting the statement, you’ll be treated by a doctor, and smears will be taken and given back to the police. “We will then take those smears to forensics in Pretoria to try and verify the perpetrator.”
When you don’t get help
While survivors are encouraged to report rapes, their experiences with the police is not always positive, with some women reporting that their were not taken seriously, or treated with dignity. Makubele says,“If you are not satisfied with the service you get from a police officer, you ask for the station commander’s office while you are there, and relay your story to him or her.” If you are not able to get help still, he says, go to the sexual offence unit. Makubela also goes on to note that victims under the influence will be taken to the victim support centre where they will be kept until sober. “The police can’t take a statement from a drunk person as it might not be accurate.” According to the SAPS website, sexual harassment can be reported by the survivor, a family member, friend, colleague or a person who witnesses or receives information about the offence.
Your rights as a survivor:
You are permitted to have a person of your choice present to support and reassure your when reporting an incident.
The interview will be conducted in surroundings that are either familiar to or reassuring to you.
Once sufficient information has been obtained from you, a docket must be opened, registered on the CAS and an affidavit must be made.
The police officer you are dealing with should determine whether you require medical assistance and if so, make arrangements for you to obtain medical assistance as soon as possible.
You must be taken for the medical examination as soon as possible – even if the sexual offence was only reported more than 72 hours after it had been committed, and even if you have already washed yourself.
The medical examination will be conducted at state expense and by a medical professional.
No man may be present during the medical examination of a female survivor, and vice versa. Even a member of the same gender may only be present during the medical examination if you as a survivor agrees to it.
This article is part of the #Safetaixsnow campaign by the the Soul City Institute for Justice.
Image Reference: MTV Shuga DS