Pro­tect­ing the vic­tims of sex­ual of­fences

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Dale Hes

Sex­ual of­fences are among the most wide­spread crimes in the world caus­ing trauma to vic­tims. In South Africa, vic­tims of th­ese crimes need to be aware that their rights are pro­tected by the Sex­ual Of­fences and Re­lated Mat­ters Act, and that they have safe places to turn to for help.

Also known as the Sex­ual Of­fences Act, this law crim­i­nalises sex­ual abuse or ex­ploita­tion, rape, sex­ual as­sault, bes­tial­ity, in­cest, in­de­cent ex­po­sure, sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren, and com­pelling per­sons to wit­ness sex­ual of­fences.

Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity (CGE) Le­gal Di­rec­tor Marissa van Niek­erk dis­cusses the Sex­ual Of­fences Act and the is­sues sur­round­ing sex­ual of­fences.

Vuk: Can you de­scribe the pur­pose and im­por­tance of the Sex­ual Of­fences Act? MvN: The pur­pose of the Act is to af­ford vic­tims of sex­ual of­fences the pro­tec­tion that the law can pro­vide and ul­ti­mately to erad­i­cate the high in­ci­dence of sex­ual of­fences com­mit­ted in the coun­try. Sex­ual of­fences are of grave con­cern be­cause they im­pact on so­ci­ety as a whole.

Vuk: How do vic­tims of sex­ual of­fences find sup­port? MvN: There are na­tional pol­icy guide­lines by the South African Po­lice Ser­vices in deal­ing with and sup­port­ing vic­tims of sex­ual of­fences. When cases of sex­ual of­fence are re­ported, they must be given im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion, and any re­quired med­i­cal as­sis­tance must be pro­vided as soon as pos­si­ble. Whether at the crime scene it­self or at a po­lice sta­tion, of­fi­cers must re­main with the vic­tim un­til the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer ar­rives. Vic­tims must also be as­sisted with ac­cess to coun­selling.

Vuk: What ob­sta­cles need to be over­come for vic­tims to be fully pro­tected by the Act? MvN: Firstly, many in­ci­dents of sex­ual of­fences go un­re­ported to the po­lice due to a num­ber of fac­tors. Th­ese in­clude fear of re­tal­i­a­tion or in­tim­i­da­tion by the per­pe­tra­tor, lack of ac­cess to ser­vices by vic­tims, the per­sonal hu­mil­i­a­tion of be­ing ex­posed as a vic­tim of a sex­ual of­fence in a com­mu­nity, and the fact that the of­fender is of­ten known to the vic­tim and fre­quently a mem­ber of the vic­tim’s fam­ily.

Sex­ual of­fences must be re­ported in or­der to en­sure that the Act is ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented.

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