The cost of rape: Seeking justice in South Africa

Violent crime in South Africa is rife and horrific, but the prevalence of sexual assault and rape has led to South Africa being dubbed ‘the rape capital of the world.’

Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is failing survivors as few cases are reported and even less get justice.

The law is simply not doing enough for rape survivors in South Africa. According the 2016/2017 crime statistics, over 100 people are raped every day in the country, and that’s just based on the attacks that are reported.

ALSO READ: What to do if you are a victim of sexual assault?

This means that the number of people being brutally violated add up to tens of thousands every year.

In general, violent crime in South Africa is rife and horrific, but the prevalence of sexual assault and violence has led to South Africa being dubbed ‘the rape capital of the world.’

This is largely attributed to the pervasive rape culture that exists in the country.

What is rape culture?

Feminist author, Emilie Buchwald, describes rape culture as, a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.

In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself.

A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm. In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable.

Why are so many rapes unreported?

One of the biggest problems with an inescapable rape culture is that it directly affects survivors getting justice for the crime because not only do many victims feel as though they won’t be believed; there is a widespread belief that many victims are to blame for being raped because of wearing revealing clothes, being intoxicated or even due to their sexual orientation among others.

Of course, this is all nonsense as the victim is never at fault.

These normalised ideas also impact how many law enforcement authorities view victims and, thus, process rape kits and investigate cases.

Naturally, this has a knock-on effect because a survivor might then think that a case will be thrown out of court due to insufficient evidence or the rapist will be given a lesser jail sentence.

ALSO READ: Reaching out to victims of rape, child abuse and human trafficking

And it is all backed up by statistics: it is estimated that 90 percent of all rapes are not reported to the police. Arrests are made in less than 50 percent of the reported cases.

Less than 15 percent of accused are taken to trial and five percent of rapists who are tried are convicted. When it comes to sentencing, over 15 percent of convicted rapists get less than the mandatory sentence of 10 years.

More than 40 percent of convicted rapists are eligible for life sentence. Less than 9 percent of those eligible for life sentence get life sentence.

Editorial submitted by Adv Jackie Nagtegaal

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  AUTHOR
Adv Jackie Nagtegaal

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