Clem Sunter

The war against rape

2011-03-02 14:11

I spoke at a Rotary breakfast yesterday in aid of a proposed Sandton Crisis Counselling Centre. The aim of the centre is to provide comprehensive care for rape survivors and victims of other crimes that require counselling. The provisional location is on vacant land next to the Sandton Police Station on the corner of Rivonia and Summit Roads; but the site is subject to final approval.

In the war against rape and related crimes, the problems faced by emergency workers, frontline trauma workers and police investigators include the following:

1. There is no central point available to provide all the necessary requirements for the support of a survivor. The latter is normally taken to three separate venues for forensic and medical examination, then blood tests and finally trauma counselling.

2. Conditions in many emergency trauma units are not conducive to prioritisation of sexual assault cases, resulting in compromised forensic documentation and evidence, which leads to a lower conviction rate.

3. There is no central database of statistics. Identification of trends to report on service delivery is therefore impossible.

4. Compassionate fatigue of frontline social workers and emergency personnel is high.

The service offering of the centre has therefore been identified to cover local networking and advocacy; sexual assault evidence collection; court testimony; trauma support services; training in partnership with the South Africa Institute for Trauma Stress (SAITS) ; local data collection and verification; psychological education; and support and supervision of trauma care volunteers with SAITS.

The estimated cost of building this unit is about R3m. The Rotary Club of Morningside have undertaken to build the centre and are in the process of raising funds for this purpose. They are also seeking financial assistance for medical supplies, furniture and equipment once the centre is commissioned. However, the plan is that operating costs will thereafter be funded by the community for the community.

The whole project is one of partnership with Sandton Victim Support, the community, the Sandton SAPS and business in the area. For more information on the initiative, you should contact Elaine Bowen at

As far as I am concerned, the centre fulfils the four-way test of Rotary:

1. Is it the truth? Well, the truth is that you have to do it for yourself – you can’t wait for others. Steve Biko said it long ago and LeadSA says it today.

2. Is it fair to all concerned? Most definitely in terms of tipping the scales of justice in favour of the victims.

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Partnerships are designed to do just this.

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Reading the terms of reference of the centre, I would say that it will certainly create a lot of light in an area where plenty of darkness currently reigns.

Send your comments to Clem

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