The Role of the Police in Prosecuting Rape Cases

Rape cases must be reported to the police if you wish to press charges against a rapist.South African Police Service badge

  • If possible the police will arrest a perpetrator and prepare a criminal case against them, which will then go to trial.
  • The outcome of a criminal trial depends very much on the survivor’s involvement in helping the police to do their job.

If you are pressing charges, understand that the legal process is long and slow – it takes months, or even years to reach court and you may need to make many appearances in court.
Rape cases are investigated by specialist units within the police force called Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units.
Even if you were raped by a stranger that you would have difficulty identifying if you saw them again, the rape should be reported to the police, because it’s possible that you were the victim of a serial-rapist in the area, and the police need to be alerted to this.

What Happens When You Report a Rape?

Go to your nearest police station. Some police stations have links to counselling services, as well as volunteer counsellors at their stations.

  • Your statement will be taken in private. Each police station is meant to have a trauma room for this purpose and you may request that your statement be taken by a woman. Normally, a local FCS officer will be called to take your statement, as well as statements from anyone who witnessed the rape. You may get a copy of a statement that you give, and you may make a second statement, if you remember more details later.

The police should supply you with the contact details of the officer investigating your case. Make sure that they have current contact details for you.

  • Your case will be dropped if the police can’t get hold of you. If you move, or change your contact numbers, you must inform the officer in charge of your case.

If you know the rapist and their friends or family attempt to harass or intimidate you in any way, please report this to the police, you have the right to request police protection.

If the rapist is arrested, he will appear in court. The police must inform you whether he was given bail or not.

  • If a rapist was given bail and tries to contact you, please inform the police

Working Towards a Successful Outcome

A speedy legal outcome would help rape survivors to feel that they can move on with their lives, but this doesn’t happen very often. The legal process is slow because

  • Investigating officers have large case load
  • Court rolls are often full

You can help your case by making sure that you stay in contact with your investigating officer.

  • Phone him or her at least once a month, and make sure that they know where to find you at all times.
  • Your investigating officer will inform you when your case is going to court. You can also meet the prosecutor and ask them about what will happen in court.
  • If you don’t attend court hearings that were scheduled, your case may be thrown out of court. Justice can only happen if you participate.
  • You may also lodge a formal complaint with the police if you feel that your case is not being investigated properly.