The real numbers on sexual offences — Rape Crisis Cape Town Blog

A piece published by Rape Crisis Cape Town today points to the scary realities around reporting rapes and the likelihood of a conviction. Less than 1% of sexual offences result in justice for the victims. Follow the link to their website below for the full piece.

In South Africa less than 1% of sexual offences result in justice for the victims of these crimes. The estimated number of sexual offences in South Africa is 645 580 each year and only one in 13 of these sexual offences are reported to the police. In other words, only 7,7% of sexual offences that […]

via The real numbers on sexual offences — Rape Crisis Cape Town Blog


2 April 2014 – Feminist reading list for the morning

What does egalitarian porn look like? Read here

Female spies are bloody good because of sexism. Read here

Zimbabwe state paternalism policing women’s bodies. Read here

Party funding the illness at the heart of our society. Read here

SADC must engage men for gender equality. Read here

Jen Thorpe

How much does violence against women cost the South African Government?

Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

If you live in South Africa, watch the news or social media, or listen to the radio you’ll be aware that violence against women is common. You might also know that in the last five years around 60 000 rapes have been reported each year (that’s each year, not over five years). You could know that estimates vary but that statistically most women do not report a rape against them. You might know that most sexual offences committed against women are committed by someone they know, and that one in four men in South Africa has admitted to raping someone he knows.

When it comes to domestic violence you probably know a bit less. This might be because the South African police services do not report on domestic violence statistics annually, because ‘domestic violence’ is technically not a crime. Why technically? Well, because it depends on what type of violence that is, and it’s up to the police to record it as an incident of ‘domestic violence’. This means that sometimes it’s recorded as assault, assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, murder, etc. So, when the police report on these crimes against women (if they disaggregate their data at all) they don’t report how many of them were related to domestic violence. One figure we do have (you’ll see them in these interesting research reports at the bottom of this blog) is that over 200 000 new incidents of domestic violence were reported in 2011. That’s new and reported.

Suffice to say that we have a significant problem of intimate partner violence and violence against women in general in South Africa. There are two main laws which govern these types of violence – the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 and the Sexual Offences Act 32 of 2007. These laws define the crimes, prescribe the role of various Government Departments, and make requirements on those Departments to provide particular levels of services. What these laws (and others that affect women’s rights to safety, housing etc) don’t do, is require Government Departments to budget together. This means that each Department (that’s the South African Police Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, and the Department of Social Development) has to try and estimate the scale of the problem, and ask for money to do their bit, separately and in a way that is not connected to working with other Departments or ensuring that victims of violence against women get the best and least traumatising service. Add to the fact that when the scale of the problem is so massive, these services are not going to come cheap.

Yes. I find it as strange as you do. When laws require Departments to work together in implementing them and don’t make sure each Department has enough budget to do so, they are essentially setting themselves up for failure. Even more importantly, when laws don’t make exactly clear what each Department has to do, it is really very seriously tremendously (do you get my point) unlikely that Departments will altrustically go on spending sprees to make sure those services are available.

At a research recent seminar three papers were produced on Government spending in relation to gender-based violence. Two of these looked at specific departments – the South African Police Services and the Department of Justice – and asked Departments to report on exactly what they were spending. The other tried to consider Government spending as a whole. This was almost impossible for a number of reasons:

  • Government Departments do not budget specifically for violence against women services;
  • Not all Government Departments provided information to Parliament on their spending when requested to do so;
  • Sometimes Departments simply did not know how much they spent because they included some services in general budgets.

Nevertheless, the third paper reached an estimate of Government spending at at least R311 051 687 in the 2013/2014 financial year alone. This excluded the costs of the Department of Health and Social Development who did not report. It also excluded the costs of the Department of Correctional Services (who had not yet been asked on their spending on the perpetrators imprisoned for violence against women), the Departments of Education and Communication who should be responsible for awareness raising and preventing violence in schoools, or the Department of Community Safety.

Violence against women is thus significantly costly for the Government. Urgent prevention programmes and responses are required to ensure that equal spending is invested in prevention as is spent on the response. Critically, Government needs to begin to consider how it could budget more holistically to ensure that services are standardised, and that each and every victim of violence regains her right to safety.

What’s important though is that the highest cost is obviously borne by the victim of violence. It is borne by those who survive it, and those who do not. It is also borne by those young South Africans trapped watching their family members inflicting violence against one another, and learning that this is the way that things are resolved. These costs have not even begun to be measured but it is certain that they will be very high.

To read the research reports, click the links below:

Lorenzo Wakefield: SAPS and planning for gender-based violence, an update

Joy Watson: The cost of justice in South Africa

Jen Thorpe: The 2013/2014 financial year estimates for spending on gender-based violence by the South African Government

Jen Thorpe

A correct police response to domestic violence could save lives.

Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

Every eight hours in South Africa, a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. Three a day. At least. 

The Preamble of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) states that victims of domestic violence are amongst the most vulnerable members of society. The DVA describes a variety of behaviours that can be classified as domestic violence in a range of domestic relationships.

We know this. We have known that women are being murdered by their boyfriends, husbands, ex-boyfriends, etc at alarming rates since the Medical Research Council first told us about it in 2004 (nearly 10 years ago!) (back then it was every six hours). Yet, when they looked at the figures again in 2012, they found that although murder rates are going down, gender based homicides are not:

The study shows that homicide in South Africa is declining, but gender based homicides are disproportionately resistant to the change while rape homicides have proportionately increased. We need to increase our prevention efforts and it is also essential for health, police and justice departments to prioritise such cases so that those who kill women are held accountable and punished. – Medical Research Council, August 2012

What is an adequate response from the police?

A correct police response to domestic violence could save lives.

To ensure an adequate and helpful police response to domestic violence in order to prevent intimate femicide, one would expect that accurate statistics on domestic violence are recorded and that police are well-trained on domestic violence particularly in areas where it is prevalent.

The primary problem with accessing statistics on domestic violence is the fact that domestic violence is not a standalone crime. What I mean is, domestic violence is often categorised as attempted murder, sexual offences, assault, or child neglect. Other incidences could include situations where a weapon was drawn etc. It is at the discretion of the officer on duty to determine what the crime is classed as.

In addition, the definition of Domestic Violence in the Act is necessarily broad. It encompasses sexual abuse, physical abuse and assault, damage to property, stalking, economic abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behaviour. Some of these incidences, for example emotional abuse or economic abuse, do not have appropriate legislation to protect the survivors, and thus these cases may be missed at the police station level.

Yet, they should class them overall as domestic violence and, according to the National Instructions 7/1999 relating to the implementation of the DVA in police stations, all domestic violence incidents must be recorded in a Domestic Violence register. So in theory the South African Police Service should release accurate statistics each year on the extent and nature of domestic violence in South Africa, and prepare accordingly.

Instructions of interest 

In light of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, and the allegations that police had responded to prior incidents ‘of a domestic nature’ the following instructions are of particular interest:

Section 4: When an incident of domestic violence is telephoned in to the station, or reported by someone other than the complainant (i.e. person being abused), they should ‘without any unreasonable delay, ensure that a police vehicle…is despatched to the complainant to attend to the matter; ensure that the crew of such a vehicle is informed (i) whether any violence or threatened violence is allegedly or has allegedly been involved in the incident; and (ii) who the complainant is.’

Section 5: A police officer who attends the scene of domestic violence must “first of all determine whether the complainant is in any danger and take all reasonable steps to secure the scene…and to protect the complainant from any danger.” They should then investigate the allegations of DV and gather evidence about the offence.

Securing a scene is always potentially dangerous for a police officer, particularly if weapons are involved. Of course, police may not always know about weapons, but let’s just say based on the millions of articles that said Oscar Pistorius was gun mad, they were able to deduce that he might. Then,

Section 6 of the National Instructions specifies that: “Where a member has reason to believe that a person

(a) has threatened or expressed the intention to kill or injure himself or herself or any other person by means of a firearm or any other dangerous weapon; or,

(b) who is in possession of a firearm and whose possession thereof is not in his or her interest or in the interest of any other person as a result of his or her physical or mental condition, his or her inclination to violence (whether an arm was used in the violence or not), or his or her dependence on intoxicating liquor or a drug which has a narcotic effect,

such member may at any time, in terms of section 1 1 O( 1) of the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act No. 60 of 2000), without a warrant enter upon and search such place or search such person and seize any arm or ammunition, for the purposes set out in section 102(l)(a) – (e) of the said Act (which interalia provides that the National Commissioner may declare a person to be unfit to possess a firearm).

In short, they can take away someone’s guns, when they suspect that they have them.

The DVA thus places a positive duty on the police to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence when taking down such a complaint, and to protect them from any further violence as best they can. It places a duty on them to be proactive, to listen to complaints, and to investigate. Section 18(4) of the Act compels the police to fulfil their obligations in terms of the DVA and the failure to do so amounts to misconduct and calls for disciplinary action against the officials who fail to fulfil their obligations.

We need to empower ourselves by understanding what we should expect of the police when we call them as neighbours, family members, or domestic violence survivors. One way is to download this booklet on DV, print it (double-sided of course) and share it with everyone you know. This knowledge could save lives.