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Reporting of Sexual Offences At South African Police Service ( SAPS )
When a sexual offence is committed, the victim suffers severe trauma. It is difficult to conceive of any other offence of which the bodily and psychological integrity, privacy and dignity of a victim is simultaneously violated more severely than when a sexual offence is committed. Furthermore, a sexual offence not only affects the victim alone, but also his or her family and personal life. Therefore, police members will assist victims in any way possible to lessen the trauma. The South African Police Service renders a professional service to victims in the investigation of offences of this nature, and will assist victims in this regard.
The alleged commission of a sexual office may be reported by:
_ the victim of the offence
_ a family member, friend or colleague of the victim or
_ a person who witnesses or received information about the commission of the offence.
Any person who has knowledge that a sexual offence has been committed against a child must report such knowledge to a police official. Failure to do so, constitutes an offence.
Any person who has knowledge or a reasonable belief or suspicion that a sexual offence has been committed against a mentally disabled person must report such knowledge to a police official. Failure to do so, constitute an offence.
Sexual offences may be reported at a police station or be reported by phone. No victim may be turned away simply because the alleged offence took place a long time ago or was allegedly committed in the station area of another police station.
Here are a few guidelines on what to expect when reporting a sexual offence to the South African Police Service:
- The victim is permitted to have a person of his or her choice present to support and reassure him or her during the interview.
- The interview will be conducted in surroundings that are either familiar to the victim or reassuring to the victim.
- Once sufficient information has been obtained from the victim, a docket must be opened, registered on the CAS and an affidavit must be made in which the following must be clearly specified:
- The time and date on which the offence was allegedly committed
- The place where the offence was allegedly committed
- The nature of the alleged offence
- The manner in which it was allegedly committed
- The first person to whom the victim has reported the alleged sexual offence before he or she reported it to the police
- Any details regarding the alleged offender(s) that may assist in identifying and finding them
- Any details regarding possible witnesses that may assist in identifying and locating them.
- The officer should determine whether the victim requires medical assistance and if so, make arrangements for the victim to obtain medical assistance as soon as possible.
- The purpose of the medical examination of the victim is to establish whether there is any evidence relating to the alleged sexual offence.
- The victim must be taken for the medical examination as soon as possible – even if the sexual offence was only reported more than 72 hours after it had been committed, and even if the victim had already washed.
Remember – If you have been a victim of a sexual offence, it is vital that evidence must be collected before washing away any body fluids of the perpetrator.
- The medical examination will be conducted at state expense and by a medical professional.
- A male member may not be present during the medical examination of a female victim, and vice versa. Even a member of the same gender may only be present during the medical examination if the victim agrees to it.
The victim of a sexual offence has had a traumatic experience, and most victims of a sexual offence will need some form of counselling to enable them to deal with it.
- If the victim is a child, a member trained by the FCS Unit or a specialized individual must be contacted. If there are grounds for believing that it will be in the best interest of the child to be removed and taken to a place of safe care, the provisions of the appropriate legislation relating to children must be applied.
- It is the responsibility of the investigating officer to –
- provide a victim with the details of medical and counselling services available in the area
- provide reasonable assistance to the victim to use such services
- ensure that appropriate steps are taken to safeguard children or other vulnerable victims.
Assisting the victim at the court proceedings:
- The investigating officer will keep the victim informed of any developments in the investigation of the case, and must explain the court process and what to expect in court, to the victim in order to prepare the victim for the court hearing.
- On the day of the trial or earlier, if the victim requests it, the investigating officer will hand the victim copies of his or her statements to read through again to refresh his or her memory.
- In terms of section 335A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977), his or her particulars will not be reported unless authorized by the presiding officer, and any report without such authorisation will constitute an offence. The victim should report any contravention of this section to the investigating officer as soon as he or she becomes aware of it.
- The investigating officer will explain the court proceedings and the possibility of a postponement to the victim. The victim should persist and press ahead with the case, despite any delays in the finalisation of the case.