#childsafety | Information for Survivors of Rape and Sexual Assault in South Africa


1. First steps

It is your choice about what you do next, but this information may help you in coming to a decision. The most important thing is to make sure that you are as safe as you can be. You can:

  • contact the national emergency number on 10111 from a South African landline or 112 from a South African mobile phone
  • contact the South African Police Services (SAPS) directly from any landline or mobile phone. The dialling code for South Africa is +27
  • contact a Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) who provide support to victims of rape and sexual assault with reporting to the police, medical and judicial procedures, as well as counselling. TCC’s are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TCC’s have a social worker and a victim assistant officer available, as well as the police and medical officers on call. TCC’s may not always be located in an area which is safe for tourists, please contact your tour operator, hotel or local Consulate before travelling to the TCC
  • go straight to a medical facility to seek medical attention if you are seriously injured
  • contact your tour operator if you are travelling with one
  • contact your nearest British High Commission or consulate on +27 (0)12 421 7500. Embassy staff will be empathetic, and non-judgmental, and can provide information on local police and medical procedures. Anything you tell them will be treated in the strictest confidence. They can contact your family or friends for you if you wish

2. If you want to report the incident to the police in South Africa

The crime can be reported by the victim; a family member, friend or colleague; or a person who witnessed or received information about the crime.

If you report by telephone from the scene of the incident, the police will send a patrol vehicle out to you, however you may have to wait a long time. If you are waiting at the scene of the crime, try to preserve evidence on yourself and at the scene.

If you have a tour operator, they should be able to arrange for someone to support you.

If you approach the police directly, you can also ask them to inform the nearest British embassy or consulate on +27 (0)12 421 7500 and they can offer you consular support.

If you are in an area that’s close to the British High Commission, we will try to send a consular officer to support you if available and if you would like us to, where timing and location allow. You will always be able to speak to trained consular staff on the telephone 24/7. If you are a long way from us and we cannot get to you, we will try to liaise with local police via telephone. Let us know if you have any difficulties and we will speak with the police.

You can report the incident at any TCC, but consider the safety of the location. The British High Commission can provide advice on how safe it is to travel to TCCs in your area.

It is possible to report the crime to the police without laying a charge. Inform the police of your request and insist it is recorded in the Occurrence Book (OB).

If you choose to report the crime, try to do so as soon as possible, so forensic evidence can be retained. Washing yourself or your clothes may make it difficult for the police to obtain forensic evidence. If you change your clothes, think about taking those you were wearing to the police. You may wish to preserve evidence by retaining items such as condoms, toothbrushes, bed linen or texts and social media messages.

You can ask to speak to a female police officer, but one may not be immediately available. Some police stations provide victim support social workers or volunteers; however, this service is not always available.

-There are no legal risks of reporting rape and sexual assault, this includes rape of any gender, including non-conforming and married persons however, individual bias by police officers or prosecutors can occur. The Service Charter for Victims of Crime in South Africa presents the framework for which services are provided under the National Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP).

You will be asked for detailed account of the incident, some of the questions may feel intrusive. You will also be asked for physical and forensic evidence, including samples (saliva, urine, blood, pubic hair, genital swab) and clothes worn during the incident. If you have electronic and photographic evidence, this would be useful too.

You are not required to hire a lawyer. In South African law, the criminal case is between the State and the accused, and not between the victim and the accused.

3. If you do not want to report the incident to the police in South Africa

A person who has knowledge that a sexual offence has been committed with or against a child or person with mental disability must report such knowledge immediately to a police official. A medical professional is obliged to report a sexual offence committed with or against any person considered vulnerable to the South African Police Services and the Department of Social Development, this includes female students under the age of 25 and the elderly.

It is your choice on whether to report the crime. If you don’t report it, your case will not be investigated.

If you chose not to report the incident, you are entitled to free medical care and treatment from a designated government medical facility or a TCC. You will be required to cover all costs if attending a private medical facility, check with your travel insurance. Consider getting medical help as soon as possible for any injuries and because you may be at risk of pregnancy, HIV, Hepatitis B and sexually transmitted diseases.

You may not feel like making the decision to report so soon after the incident. The sooner a doctor examines you, the more likely it is to find evidence on your clothes or body of the person who raped you.

The British High Commission or consulate will be able to help you. This includes helping you to contact your insurance company, your family, making arrangements to travel back to the UK and/or provide you with information on local support in the UK and in South Africa.

We can provide you with lists of English-speaking lawyers and translators.

If you are travelling with one, you can also report the incident to your tour operator and ask them for assistance. If you wish, the tour operator may accompany you to the local medical facility. If you wish, and depending on location and timing, a member of consular staff may be able to accompany you.

4. If you want to report the incident to the police in the UK

The support available to you, and your access to justice may vary according to where you report the crime. In many countries, you need to report the crime before you leave the country, if you want it to be investigated and police to obtain important evidence

If you are staying in the country where the crime took place, you should report the crime in that country. If you are a British national and you need help to report the crime, you can contact the British High Commission or consulate or the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in London on +44 20 7136 6857.

If you do not report the crime in the country where it happened and you return to the UK, you can still report the matter to your local UK police

The UK police should send the information you provide to the country where the crime happened. However, it is for the South African Police Services to decide whether to investigate a crime in their jurisdiction and they may not take action.

You can report the crime to the UK police even if you are not seeking an investigation abroad. The UK police can offer you access to victim support in the UK. They may still send some details of the crime to police in the country where it happened. This might be necessary in order to protect vulnerable people, or to stop more crimes being committed.

5. Reporting the crime in South Africa – what happens next?

If you report by telephone from the scene of the incident, the police will send a patrol vehicle out to you, however you may have to wait a long time. If you are waiting at the scene of the crime, try to preserve evidence on yourself and at the scene

Whilst it is best to report the incident at the police station closest to where the incident took place, the case must be dealt with by the police station where it is reported. This station will open the docket and treat the incident as if it occurred in their area. Once all the necessary actions have been completed, the docket will be transferred to the area in which the incident took place. The police should not turn you away if the incident took place in the area of another police station or because the incident took place a long time ago.

If you report the crime at a TCC, the staff will contact the police. A specially trained police officer from the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) will be contacted to assist you.

You do not have to provide all the details immediately when arriving at the police station. You can ask to be seen in a private or trauma room at the police station. Some police stations have VEP volunteers available who may be available to comfort and support you. A police officer from the FCS Unit will be contacted to assist you. The FCS service multiple police stations within their cluster and may not be immediately available.

Tell the police if you think you have been drugged as soon as possible, most drugs will leave your system within 6 to 12 hours.

Initially, only a brief statement in English may be recorded in writing so that the investigating officer can register a case docket. You will be asked to provide your personal details, a brief outline of what happened, and any information you can recall about your attacker. Depending on the circumstances, the police may immediately circulate information if the suspect is thought to still be in the area. This information will be recorded in the CAS (Case Administration System) at the police station.

If you cannot remember everything that happened, be honest and don’t try to fill the gaps.

Make sure you are given a written CAS number and the investigating officer’s details before you leave. If you are not given these details, note down the branch name of the police station and the date to help trace the information at a later date.

If you have not received medical or forensic treatment, the police may take you to a medical facility after they have opened your case. You will need to give permission for a medical examination in writing before going to the centre.

Note: You can go directly to a TCC, a hospital or a doctor before reporting the incident to the police. If you go to a private facility, it is important that the doctor completes a J88 form to record medical findings. This is a key document which is used in court to present medical evidence of the incident.

After forensics, the police will transport you home. Bear in mind that you may need to wait for an available van. If it is not safe for you to return home, the police should arrange for alternative accommodation at a shelter/place of safety, subject availability.

You will be asked to provide a more in-depth statement in English after the medical examination. This should be done within 24 to 36 hours of reporting, if you have sufficiently recovered. The interview should not be rushed. You are entitled to give your statement is a private room. A friend, relative, consular officer or tour operator may be present, if their presence will not inhibit the disclosure of details or if they are not a witness.

You will be asked to provide detailed, intimate information about the incident, some of which may be very upsetting to talk about. You may find some of the questions irrelevant, e.g., had you been drinking, did you find the assailant attractive. However, it is standard practice in South Africa for the police to ask these types of questions. If you feel uncomfortable with the officer who is asking these questions, you should ask to speak with another officer however it may take some time to arrange.

You will be given opportunity to review your statement. It is important to make sure the recorded statement is an accurate and true reflection of what happened. If you are unable to have this corrected, write down any omissions or corrections whilst the information is fresh in your mind.

The police are not legally required to give you a copy of the statement, but you should request a copy under your right to information as per The Service Charter for Victims of Crime. If the police do not give you a copy of your statement, you may take a photograph of your statement using your mobile phone.

If there are gaps in your statement, you may be given the opportunity to make a secondary statement. This should be discussed with your investigating officer or State Prosecutor who will be appointed two weeks prior to your trial.

You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to complain to the senior officials if this does not happen.

The South African Police Services will not inform the UK police or the British High Commission in South Africa. If you want the police to inform our consular staff, please ask the investigating officer to contact us on +27 12 421 7500.

6. The medical examination – what to expect

The medical examination procedure will be explained to you beforehand so that you are aware of what will happen. This service is free of charge if attending a designated government medical facility or a TCC. You will be required to cover all costs if attending a private medical facility and you should check your travel insurance will cover this. If you select a private medical facility, you should check that the medical practitioner is willing to testify in court and ensure a J88 form is completed.

Rape kits must be completed as soon as possible after the rape so that DNA evidence can be collected. You can complete the rape kit up to 120 hours after the rape, but evidence may be lost the longer its delayed. If you seek medical treatment directly after the incident, it is best to go in the clothes you were wearing without washing or drinking any liquid. If you remove your clothes beforehand, place them in a paper or fabric bag to preserve the evidence– do not use a plastic bag.

An accredited health care practitioner will conduct the medical examination. The purpose of this examination is to collect evidence. The examination may involve a pelvic exam, vaginal/penile/anal swabs, head/pubic hair samples and fingernail scrapings. Blood and DNA samples may also be taken and may be required from the perpetrator and all parties with whom you have had sexual intercourse with in the past 120 hours before the incident. Alcohol and body fluid samples may be taken. Photographs may also be taken of places on your body where there is evidence of violence such as cuts or bruises.

7. Treatment

Your safety and health are paramount. Even if you decide not to report what has happened to the police, you should see a doctor. They can determine if you have been injured in any way and also give you advice about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. South Africa is a high-risk country in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

In South Africa you have the right to free medical treatment and medication if someone has raped you. These are provided free of charge by government designated medical facilities and TCC. If it is possible that you have been exposed to the HIV virus, you should urgently obtain HIV prevention medication, which is known as Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

Treatment can include:

  • HIV test, including a follow-up HIV test to ensure you remain negative
  • PEP medication that may stop HIV replicating in the body and so prevent the virus from attacking the immune system. You should start the treatment as soon as possible after the incident, but no later than 72 hours. You may not receive the full 28-day course right away, therefore it is important that you attend all follow-up visits
  • if you are returning to the UK, the NHS may be able to start or continue the 28-day treatment on return to the UK
  • medication to take away the side effects of the PEP
  • medication to prevent sexually transmitted infections and emergency contraception in the form of the Morning-After Pill (MAP) can be taken up to 120 hours after the incident – the Hepatitis B vaccine that must be received within two weeks after the incident

If you have been given medication in South Africa, you may wish to keep the label or make a note of the name of the medication for your local health provider when you return home.

You can get an abortion at a district clinic up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Regional hospitals and some private clinics may perform abortions up to 20 weeks, if the pregnancy is as a result of rape. Your case will first be referred to the Termination of Pregnancy Assessment facility for review.

If you have been exposed to the perpetrator’s bodily fluids, you can request the investigating officer to apply to the courts to have the accused tested for HIV. This must be done within 90 days of the incident. Despite the outcome, you are advised to take the full course of PEP medication.

You can get free counselling for emotional support and psychiatric treatment if your mental health is affected.

If you have any injuries, you will be referred to a primary health care facility. If you would prefer to be referred to a private hospital, the costs will be for your own account.

If circumstances permit, the investigating officer may take you to the health care centre of your choice.

8. Police investigations in South Africa – what to expect

After your full statement has been taken, you may be asked for consent for police to examine the scene if the incident occurred at your residence, and to remove any items as evidence.

If the police make an arrest, your investigating officer should inform you. If the identity of the suspect/s is in dispute, you may be required to attend an identity parade. Where possible, the identification should be held at a venue or station where a one-way mirror is available. You will be required to identify the suspect from amongst a row of other people who look similar, but you will not be required to touch the suspect. The suspect’s legal representation may be present.

After the suspect is arrested, a bail hearing will be held in court to determine whether the accused should be given bail or kept in custody until the trial is over. You will not be required to attend the first appearance in court for the accused. The accused must appear in court for the first appearance within 48 hours of arrest. The court case may be postponed for a further 7 days.

It is important that you inform the investigating officer of any threats or intimidation by the accused so that the court can be informed at the accused’s first or subsequent court appearance.

There may be a long waiting period between the arrest of the accused and the trial court date due to various postponements by the State and the accused’s legal representatives, as well as the large backlog of cases within the South African courts. Your case may only go to trial 6 months or longer after the perpetrator has been arrested. The case may be further postponed if witnesses do not arrive, or the defence uses delaying tactics.

You will be permitted to leave South Africa however you may be required to return to testify as the chief witness. You may want to enquire whether it is possible to give evidence via camera from the UK, however this is at the discretion of the court and isn’t available in every province. If you do not return to South Africa to give your witness testimony, the case may be further postponed or withdrawn, and a warrant of arrest may be issued to ensure that you attend the court proceeding. It is important that you remain in contact, at all times with the investigating officer until the court case has been finally concluded.

You will receive a subpoena to appear in court 14 days before the start of the trial, you must sign receipt of the subpoena if the subpoena was served on you personally. This is called a return of service and is taken back to the court. Inform the investigating officer if you intend to leave South Africa or change any of your contact details.

It is not possible for the investigating officer to close a docket involving a sexual offence. There are standing orders in place determining who has the authority to close the docket, and what considerations need to be taken before doing so.

9. Court procedures – what to expect

It is not possible to cover all aspects of the trial in this guidance. You are encouraged to contact an NGO specialising in rape counselling such as Rape Crisis or a TCC to prepare yourself for court proceedings.

You may also consider consulting a lawyer to explain court proceedings to you and assist you during the trial, however the lawyer will not be permitted to represent you in the criminal court proceedings.

In South African law, when a crime is committed the State (represented by the prosecutor) will open a case against the person accused of the crime. The criminal case is between the State and the accused, and not between the victim and the accused. This means that the victim is often the chief witness and is not a party in the trial.

  • The State (police and prosecutor) may make decisions about the trial without considering the wishes of the victim. This also means that, unlike the accused, the victim will not have a lawyer of their own during court proceedings, however you may brief your own lawyer on a watching brief to assist you during the trial at your own cost.

In South African criminal proceedings, the courts work on the presumption that someone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. This means that the accused is presumed by the court to be innocent. It is the job of the prosecutor to prove that the accused is guilty. The prosecutor will therefore bear the onus of case and if the prosecutor is unable to prove that the accused is guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, the accused may be found not guilty, even if the victim knows he is guilty.

As the State takes responsibility for the case, if you decide to withdraw the criminal charges after reporting the case to the police, the prosecutor may refuse if the State feels you have a strong case. In most cases however the State will allow withdrawal.

The State can also decide to withdraw the case if they decide there is insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecutor does not need to consult the victim before taking this decision.

You may also choose to sue the accused in civil court, regardless of the ruling in the criminal proceedings. You will be required to hire a lawyer at your own cost. In civil cases, the magistrate’s decision is based on the ‘balance of probability’, in other words that it is more likely than not that the accused is guilty when considering the evidence presented and the law. If the civil court finds the accused responsible, you may be entitled to compensation by the accused. The accused will not receive a jail term. It is not advisable to sue if the accused does not have the financial means to compensate you.

South Africa has established Sexual Offences Courts (SOC) at many of the regional courts for criminal proceedings. Your trial will only be heard in a SOC if your case happened in an area under a SOC’s jurisdiction. The SOC offer the following services to the victim:

  • prosecutors trained in prosecuting sexual offences
  • court preparation services
  • pre- and post-trial trauma debriefing service
  • intermediary services for child and persons with mental disability
  • private testifying rooms for adults who do not wish to be in the physical presence of the accused when testifying. Evidence can be heard by video link in exceptional cases
  • private waiting rooms, with informative reading material
  • witness fees to cover the costs of your return travelling costs and food whilst in court, however funds are limited

The investigating officer should prepare you for the court process, but this depends on availability, and may not always take place. Additional free resources are available to help you prepare for what to expect in court. A pre-trial consultation is offered by organisations such as TCC, Rape Crisis or the VEP Social Worker of the NGO assigned to the SAPS branch where you report the case.

The purpose is to equip you with the relevant knowledge before going to trial, and to help you make informed decisions. If you have made contact with either of the abovementioned organisations, this will usually be scheduled in the 14 days preceding the trial.

You or your advisor should contact the prosecutor at least one week before the trial to arrange a pre-trial consultation. Whilst it is a requirement that the prosecutor should consult with you, this may depend on their diary. In some instances, it is only done on the morning of the trial.

You will be given the opportunity to discuss your statement in detail, correct any errors, and view the courtroom layout where parties will be seated. During the consultation, the possibility of having the trial heard behind closed doors must also be discussed with the prosecutor. The trial will be conducted in English.

On the day of the trial, it is highly likely that you may see the accused and their family outside the court room or outside the building, and they may try to intimidate you. If possible, ask for a separate waiting area.

During the trial the accused’s lawyer will have opportunity to cross examine you. If the accused does not have a lawyer, he may cross-examine you himself. This may be in the presence of the accused if the court does not provide private or in-camera facilities. Be prepared that this process may feel intimidating.

If there are any media reporters in the court, they are not permitted to report the victim’s particulars, unless authorised by the magistrate.

After hearing all the evidence, the magistrate will provide their verdict after giving due consideration to the evidence provided, and the law.

If the accused is found guilty, prior to sentencing you will be required to give a victim impact statement. You should describe how the incident has affected you, such as nightmares, personality and behaviour changes, impact on work and home life. The purpose of this statement is to impress upon the court the impact the incident has had on you.

When deciding on the appropriate sentence, the magistrate must decide on sentencing to fit the individual case. The victim’s impact statement and any mitigating/aggravating factors will also be considered. Minimum sentencing legislation will apply to rape cases however it can be quite complex and should be discussed with the prosecutor if the case reaches this stage.

The victim has the right to appeal the sentencing through the prosecutor within one week of sentencing. The final decision to appeal lies with the prosecutor. You have the right to request to be informed of the accused parole hearing by the Parole Board.

If the accused is found not guilty, there is nothing further that can be done by the victim to change the outcome of the criminal case. The accused will leave the court room and will no longer face criminal charges. However, the victim can still make a civil case against him.

The victim can be charged with perjury if it is established that they lied under oath.

10. When you return home to the UK

You may want to let your GP or a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) know what has happened to you so that you can talk about the experience and seek further support and advice where you live

If you believe you may be at risk of having contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you should ask your local health provider to test you. You should do this even if you have been tested in the country that the assault took place in.

11. Support organisations in South Africa

It is your choice to let people know. If you are ready to talk about it, these organisations may be able to help you.

11.1 Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust

  • Telephone: +27 (0)21 447 9762 Whatsapp Line: +27 (0)83 222 5164
  • Address: 23 Trill Road, Observatory, Cape Town, Western Cape
  • Website: https://rapecrisis.org.za
  • English speaking support available 24/7 by phone, with counselling offered 5 days a week.

Rape Crisis provides trauma and pre-trial counselling, advocacy and prevention services for people affected by rape and sexual offences. Informative resources and toolkits are available on their website. Confidential services are provided to all victims at no charge.

11.2 TEARS Foundation

TEARS provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, and child sexual abuse. Confidential services are provided to all victims at no charge.

12. Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by HMG officials who are not legally or medically trained. It should therefore never be used as a substitute for professional medical or legal advice. It is intended to help British nationals overseas make their own informed decisions. Neither HMG nor any official of the Consulate accept liability for any loss or damage which you might suffer as a result of relying on the information supplied.

Medical information has been provided by The Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centres of Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and was accurate at the time of production (02/02/2022).

Information on South African resources and processes has been copied with kind permission from Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust’s website and was accurate at the time of production (31/10/2022).



Source link
.  .  .  .  .  .  . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .   .    .    .   .   .   .   .   .  .   .   .   .  .  .   .  .