In spite of the fact that the Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) model has been cited as a best practise model and received both international acclaim and serious financial backing from foreign governments there are fears that this specialised service to rape survivors as well as the specialised sexual offences courts may not be sustained.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is due to absorb the cost of staff and operations of TCCs starting in the 2012/2013 financial year but has made it clear that budget can only be assigned on the basis of clear evidence that the model delivers the promised results. Already these results are in question.
In a presentation to the Indaba on conviction rate discrepancies Ms Alicia Victor of the NPA’s Research and Policy Information Unit stated that the conviction rate for TCCs was on average 58% as opposed to 68% in the so-called specialised Sexual Offences Courts.
The reason for this discrepancy was found to be that these courts were adding conviction rates for non sexual offences cases into their figures, which only made them appear higher. How then can these courts be called specialised sexual offences courts? And how can the budget for TCCs be motivated for when the “evidence” shows that they are not delivering the required results?
As an NGO working to act as a bridge between the rape survivor and the South African criminal justice system since 1976 Rape Crisis is convinced that combating sexual violence is dependent on specialised services at all levels. The reason for this is the extremely high levels of secondary trauma faced by a survivor reporting a rape matter to the police, undergoing a forensic examination and testifying in court. Given the extreme nature of the trauma that is rape the risk of treating a rape survivor insensitively or inappropriately is high, particularly if officials lack the necessary interpersonal skills, have not received specialised training or are inexperienced. For this reason the TCC model and the specialised sexual offences courts make use of NGOs to deliver supportive services and psychosocial care to rape survivors.
But if these facilities are not maintained, these NGOs will be delivering their services in an isolated fashion rather than in collaborative partnerships that act in the best interests of the survivor.
Like Ms Victor, Rape Crisis believes that data collection must be standardised and taken seriously and that sexual offences cases must be handled in a standard, uniform way across the country.
We also believe that the standard should be that of specialised services and that every effort should be made to extend these services so that they can be accessed equally across the country. Only then can the data that is collected give a true reflection and make the case for specialised services. But will the NPA put structures and systems in place to make sure that this happens? This remains to be seen.