Given that the Department of Justice recently established a specialised sexual offences court in Mitchells Plain you would imagine that the community’s police station would have seen an increase in the number of rape cases reported there.
In fact, the Mitchells Plain police station has seen an extraordinary reduction in the number of reported sexual offences over a number of years, from 542 a year in 2005 to 192 in 2017. Many other police stations in the Cape report rapidly declining statistics on sexual offences. Khayelitsha police station reported 269 sexual offences cases in 2006, and now report 156 in 2017.
What’s going on? Can it be that despite the claims by #TheTotalShutdown, that gender-based violence is largely under control, or certainly declining in prevalence? Intuitively, no. But, while intuition is a poor basis for determining or questioning government policy, does the data on the reporting of sexual offences tell us anything about how effective these policies might be?
Crime statistics do not measure crime; they measure the reporting behaviour of the victims of crime since at the reporting stage these cases are not yet proven. Many people report a crime not because they feel that this will result in the apprehension of a criminal but because they need access to things like health services or the activation of insurance claims. The more serious crimes that get reported tend to be murder, where the body is inconveniently in the way of ignoring the problem.
As for sexual offences such as rape, these are probably the hardest of all crimes to report. Victims are often too traumatised to speak out, there is no dead body and no crime scene with bullet holes, so if they don’t come forward no one will ever know.
The rate of reporting of sexual offences over a decade ago was famously one in nine. The One in Nine Campaign was established in order to draw attention to this fact and to stand in solidarity with those who do choose to come forward and speak out. That rate has since deteriorated and is now 1 in 13. Why is that? NGOs spend a lot of time and energy encouraging survivors to come forward and supporting them when they do. Members of the South African Police Service are under standing orders not to refuse to accept such a charge.
The real question is, are South Africa’s reported sexual offences statistics a true reflection of the reporting behaviour of the victims of these crimes?
To answer this question the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust compared the patterns of reporting at three local Thuthuzela Care Centres that it recorded in Cape Town where it offers 24-hour support to rape survivors coming to public health facilities for health services and to be examined by a district surgeon in the immediate aftermath of rape.
In 2014 there were 2,628 cases.
In 2015 there were 3,153 cases.
In 2016 there were 3,210 cases.
In 2017 there were 3,425 cases.
This pattern represents a clear and undeniably steady increase in reporting.
This tells us that police statistics on reported rape cases do not, in fact, mirror the reporting behaviour of rape survivors. Will the 2018 crime statistics reported on Tuesday show the same thing? And if so what could the reasons be for the fact that declining police statistics appear to be bucking the trend? DM
Alison Tilley is head of advocacy and special projects at the Open Democracy Advice Centre. Kathleen Dey is head of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.
Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!
No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.
Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.
It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.
But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.
So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.
ReCaptcha is not just to prove you're not a robot. It also is part of a project to digitise books. So far over 2.5 million books have been digitised this way.