An NGO for rape survivors has slammed a judgment that saw a convicted rapist sentenced to effective 10-year imprisonment.
This comes after the Groblersdal regional court in Limpopo sentenced the 24-year-old for raping an 18-year-old woman in Groblersdal in 2020.
In an interview with Sunday World, the TEARS Foundation official, Kavya Swaminathan, said the criminal justice system was flawed.
“It feels like the system is failing survivors because it is, and it’s saddening to watch,” said Swaminathan.
“Not to say there are no people within the system who are trying, but because there are fundamental flaws in our system.
“Even the good workers get bogged down and cannot make effective change.”
She said there was a denial that the processes and procedures regarding reporting, apprehending, and convicting the perpetrators of sexual assault were lacking.
Police are callous or dismissive
“There seems to be stop gaps at every stage. Police officers who survivors report to are often times callous or dismissive; investigations take a long time to process; and even when a docket gets submitted, the back and forth at the courts seem inevitable.
“Addressing any one of these issues in isolation is difficult, but addressing all these issues in tandem requires conscious and meaningful intervention and change.”
Swaminathan said the rape incident took place almost two years ago, and it was shocking to see the system fail survivors in this manner.
“The system has only convicted the accused now, which is shocking and frankly not acceptable,” she said.
“As a country, we need deep examination and meaningful reform in our police and judicial systems in order for survivors to feel heard and protected.
“We need more training of first responders, better preventative education, and a real effort from the government.”
Swaminathan said sexual assault and domestic violence were under-reported crimes, noting that this can be attributed to a plethora of reasons, including stigma regarding sexual assault, a lack of trust in the police force, fear that the perpetrator may retaliate, invasive questioning and testing, and so many more.
“We as an organisation always encourage people to report [the crimes]; however, we understand the reasons people have to not want to. We cannot force them, and we would never.
“Cases rarely result in convictions, so this case, in the grand scheme of things, is a win,” said Swaminathan.
“Hopefully, it does encourage people to have some faith in the system.
“However, when looking at statistics regarding sexual abuse and domestic violence, we always encourage people to take them with a grain of salt.”
The convicted rapist appeared in court this week, where he was slapped with 10 years of imprisonment.
Police spokesperson, Colonel Malesela Ledwaba, said evidence presented in court showed that the victim was walking along the R579 on July 6 2020, at about 6.30pm, when an unknown man grabbed her from behind and threatened to stab her.
The accused fell asleep after the rape
“The accused then dragged the victim to an abandoned house, where he raped her,” according to Ledwaba.
“It was further heard that the accused fell asleep, and the victim grabbed the knife and stabbed him, and that’s how she managed to escape. The distraught and naked woman ran to the nearby house to seek help, and police were called.”
Ledwaba said the suspect was arrested shortly after the incident and was positively linked with the rape through DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid].
The acting provincial police commissioner, Major-General Jan Scheepers, has welcomed the 10-year sentence.
He said it is a clear message that the perpetrators of gender-based violence will be dealt with harshly and without compromise.