Mismanagement can set rapist free

By Safiyia Stanfley, MPL, DAWN Provincial Chairperson:

The unacceptable mismanagement of a rape case in Deben highlights the cracks in service delivery to victims of sexual offences. Due to the unprofessional conduct of the police in this specific case, the alleged rapist could very well walk away from the crime he committed without suffering any consequences.

While many officers are going beyond the call of duty on a daily basis, it is the mismanagement of this matter which shows why 62% of people in the province believe that the police are lazy and 29% believe they are harsh to victims. The Victims of Crime Survey 2014/15 further shows that only 32% of people in the province believe that the police respond to crime in a timely way.

The victim was left for 31 hours after the rape occurred before a police officer came to take her for the necessary forensic tests. In Deben, where there is a small police station, the correct procedure is for an officer who is on standby to come from Kathu and to take the victim to hospital. While the rape occurred in the early hours of Thursday morning and a statement was taken from the victim shortly thereafter, an officer only arrived at 11:00 on Friday morning to collect her. She was first taken to Kathu and then to Kuruman.

During the 31 hours when the victim was waiting for assistance from the police, she could neither wash herself nor change her clothes. The rape was so brutal that her stomach emptied itself. To be left in this horrifying position is traumatising and it easily could have been avoided if the police acted with a minimum standard of professionalism.

Three days after the rape occurred, the crime scene was left untouched as the police had not yet come to do the required investigation. In the absence of a professional investigation with strong evidence, the perpetrator could be left off the hook. This is especially outrageous when you consider that the rapist is known to the victim and that he is currently out on parole for another crime.

The local DAWN branch has requested an investigation into the matter.

It needs to be established why the standby officer did not take the victim to hospital immediately, why the crime scene was left untouched and what action will be taken against those police officer who failed the victim in her time of need.

Every South African deserves to live in safety and security. When that safety is compromised, we deserve to be served by police who care about our needs and conduct themselves with complete professionalism.