Sergeant Refilwe Tlabi, a member of SAPS, presented the services offered by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offenses Unit (FCS). This unit takes victims of sexual violence to medical facilities for examination and gives any further relevant assistance. The unit has branches in Brooklyn, Sunnyside, Lyttelton, Garsfontein, Silverton, and Pretoria North. The branches contain facilities such as a DNA linkages unit and a victim empowerment room. The procedure for assistance begins with going to the police station to report a case and opening a docket. Thereafter statements are taken and a SAPS police station representative will immediately call the unit. The unit transports the victim to the doctor. FCS mostly uses the Medico-Legal Crisis Centre at Steve Biko, Lyttelton Health, or Mamelodi Health for evidence gathering and medical assistance. Following this, the DNA gathered is taken to labs for testing. Should the victim know and be able to identify the suspect, the unit immediately performs the necessary steps to arrest the suspect, if not the unit relies on the DNA evidence to identify a suspect.
DNA identification is made possible through SAPS’ DNA Linkages Unit. Whenever any person is arrested, SAPS performs a buccal swab to enable linking the suspect to any past, present future crimes. Tlabi said that the unit’s mission is to “turn victims into survivors”. “Our first and second quarter 2016 conviction rate was at 72%”, she said.
Mr Mike Nkozi, a representative of Tshwane’s Department of Health discussed the challenges the Department has overcome post-1994 such as a lack of privacy and skill when handling victims of sexual harassment or violence, which then led to poor conviction rates. To address these challenges, the department decided to create dedicated facilities with specially trained forensic nurses. Thuthuzela Crisis Centres (TCC) and Medico-legal Crisis Centres are such facilities that render free services to gender-based violence survivors. Their aim is to offer a holistic and comprehensive approach to assisting victims of sexual violence, from gathering evidence and laying a criminal charge to victim counselling.
An ideal TCC includes FCS member, a doctor and forensic nurse, a social worker, case manager, victim assistant officer and a counsellor.
Rowan Watson, head of UP’s Security Services, emphasised the need for students to immediately report any emergency situations to the numbers printed on student and personnel cards. “Our contracted reaction time to you is within two and a half minutes. Someone will be there to assist you,” he said about response times. He defined an emergency situation as “When your life’s in danger. When you’ve had a narrow escape with an assault, a robbery, whatever the case may be.” UP has an investigation unit that operates on standby duty and is available 24 hours a day. The unit handles investigations of all crime on campus as well as student and personnel misconduct. UP’s Security Services also works closely with SAPS Brooklyn and other stations in whose jurisdiction the Hatfield campus falls and can assist students in opening criminal cases. The aim of this is to limit a victim’s retelling of the incident. “We can write a sworn statement should you [want] to open a criminal case,” he said about facilitating victims in opening criminal or disciplinary cases. However, the Security Services’ mandate of authority regarding investigations is still limited in certain situations such as rape, sexual assault, or murder. To avoid secondary victimisation in these circumstances, the Security Services will contact the relevant SAPS authority and the victim will only have to relay the incident once to all relevant parties.
Lastly, the DSA panel, headed by Dr Matete Madiba, the Director of the Department of Student Affairs, presented their recommended procedure to follow should a rape occur. The presentation consisted of a continuum of primary, secondary and tertiary actions. The first step was to report the crime followed by legal, medical and emotional health assistance. Dr Madiba continued to elaborate on the legal, medical and emotional support that UP’s Department of Student Support offers. Dr Madiba emphasised prioritising reporting first, but stressed that “categorisation doesn’t imply a lower level of importance for any of these steps”. She also highlighted the need to improve the level of preparedness of the staff that assist students in the event of sexual violence, harassment or assault by increasing their training and available resources. “We need to up our game in such a way that we discourage perpetrators from committing crimes”, she said.
UP&Out holds weekly support groups that offer extended discussions on these topics.
Photo: Shen Scott