Women 'molested' in police cells

2018-03-12 10:06
The sexual assault victim at home after her ordeal.

The sexual assault victim at home after her ordeal. (Ian Carbutt )

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Pietermaritzburg - Police are investigating claims that two women were sexually assaulted in Mountain Rise police cells after being locked up with five men.

One of the women was arrested last Monday by Mountain Rise police for the possession of a small amount of dagga and was put into a holding cell with two other women pending her court appearance on Tuesday.

She eventually fell asleep.

"At around midnight, I was woken up by this man grabbing my feet.

"Police were putting five men into the cell with us. I asked them why they were locking up five men with three women but they ignored me and just locked the gate and left."

She said the men appeared intoxicated. "Three of them went to sleep but the other two did not."

The woman said one of the men came towards her while the other man approached the second woman in the cell.

"He grabbed me, and pulled open my shirt and then he molested me."

She said the other man also began to sexually assault the second woman in the cell. "I called for help, but there was nothing. I kept telling the man to stop and to leave me alone. I remember him very clearly. It was dark but I would still recognise him."

She said she and the other woman who had also been sexually assaulted eventually tried to hide from the two men behind a "larger woman", the third female detainee.

She said the "larger" woman, who was also older, woke up and told the men to leave them all alone. "She told them that we all have our own problems and they must leave us alone and they did.

'So angry'

"I was not raped, but what happened is not right," said the woman.

"I am so angry with the police. How can they put five male prisoners in with three women?"

University of KwaZulu-Natal senior lecturer in constitutional law, Lee Stone, said that if the allegations were true, the officers who locked the three women in with the five men should be criminally charged.

"If the law says male and female suspects are to be held separately, why would it be deemed appropriate to put them together? If you do something knowing the possible outcome could end in death, rape or assault, that is aiding and abetting. This is a violation of the Constitution," said Stone.

The Open Door Crisis Care Centre's Thora Mansfield said crimes against women and gender-based violence issues are "still not taken seriously".

 "In this case the 'alleged guilty party' for another offence became the victim of sexual harassment whilst in the care of the police where women should be protected, regardless of why they were there," said Mansfield. "Victims of abuse not only have to face the act but also the psychological effects and feelings of powerlessness they must feel."

Under investigation

Mountain Rise police spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim confirmed two cases of sexual assault "which are alleged to have taken place in the police cells" were opened.

"The matter is under investigation by the Pietermaritzburg Family, Child and Sexual Offences Unit. Ebrahim said the conduct of the officers who allegedly detained the three women and five men in the same cell is being investigated departmentally.

The acting station commander of Mountain Rise, Colonel Phoswa said "these are serious allegations and must be thoroughly and urgently investigated".

The woman said she had appeared in court on Tuesday charged with possession of dagga and was released on R400 bail. She then opened the sexual assault case.

Read more on:    crime

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