Our nation’s sex crime shame

2010-10-17 08:49

South Africa is a dangerous ­country to live in if you are a ­woman or a child.

Between April last year and March this year, 13000 more ­sexual assaults were reported to police compared with 2008/09.

More than 7 000 of these were against children and almost 6 000 were against women.

Childline SA training and ­advocacy manager Joan van Niekerk said they had very little confidence in police statistics as they had received many reports of victims being turned away when they ­reported sexual offences.

The figures contained in the ­police 2009/10 report show that of the almost 17000 murders and more than 68000 sexual offences reported, less than 15% of these ­resulted in convictions.

Professor Cornelis Roelofse, Criminal Justice Department head at the University of Venda, said it was a prerequisite that the number of ­detectives be increased and that the ­introduction of at least some ­specialised units be expedited.

Police minister Nathi Mthethwa has re-established family violence, child protection and sexual offences units, which he wants ­operational by April.

The units were disbanded in 2006.

Roelofse said police giving ­evidence in court were up against very experienced lawyers, so they had to prepare and present the cases and evidence in a very professional manner in order to prevent loopholes leading to acquittals.

“Police work in conjunction with the courts in order to obtain ­convictions.

“Just as much as poor investigation techniques and poor-quality evidence affects convictions, so does the quality of the prosecutors,” he said.

According to Roelofse, the backlog in processing samples was also to blame.

Mthethwa revealed that it took 103 and 204 days to process biological and chemical samples, respectively.

By March, the backlogs for ­biological and chemical samples stood at 16 598 and 21 251.

In 2002, the Medical Research Council estimated that 88% of rape cases were ­unreported.

Van Niekerk said this happened to both adults and children.

She said reasons given for turning­ away victims included:

» Child is too young to testify, which is not up to the SAPS to ­assess;

» Victim is traumatised by the process. Van Niekerk says the child should be referred for ­assistance;

» Offender is too young to be tried.

“Many offences are committed by youths, but our Child Justice Act makes it clear that children who commit offences must go through some processes, which could include­ a trial,” Van Niekerk said.

Almost 1000 kids were murdered­, 120 more than the ­previous year, while 2 457 adult women were killed.

Murder has a conviction rate of just 13.5%.

Van Niekerk said organisations like Childline had never been ­busier and some of the increased reporting could be a result of the increased awareness.

“We see more sexual crimes against very young children, which is very concerning,” she said.

She called for a complete overhaul­ of the criminal justice system and sanctions for anyone who failed in their duties.

She suggested­ more services for victims­ to support efforts to access justice and more prevention work targeting parents.

“Poor parenting is the beginning of the cycle of violence,” she said.

Police did not respond to City Press’ enquiries.

The ugly truth

Sexual offences committed against children younger than 18 increased by 7?276 from the 20?141 reported in 2008/09.

Similar offences against women older than 18 increased by almost 6 000 in the same period to 36?093.

Sexual crimes and offences, including rape and sexual assault, have a conviction rate of 14.5%.

Global conviction rates

Rape conviction rates in other countries vary.» Luxembourg had a success rate of 85% out of the 44 rapes reported in 2006.

» In the UK, the conviction rate for rape is about 6%. It’s estimated

that 75% to 95% never get reported. Over 14 000 rapes were reported in

the UK in 2006.

» Namibia’s rape conviction rate is 16%.

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