The recent police statistics revealed that sexual offences for the period 2014/15 totalled 53 617 for 2014/15, down by five percent (56 680) from the previous year – however, Sonke Gender Justice research points to a society that is besieged by sexual violence.
The organisation’s spokesperson, Tanya Charles, said police statistics alone cannot be used to assess whether sexual offences were occurring with more or less frequency. She said there was a big difference between reported sexual offences and the actual prevalence of sexual offences, which can only be ascertained through data that is collected from a representative sample of people and through proper research.
“Sonke’s own research and the findings of many other civil society organisations points to a society that is besieged by sexual violence, and the only way to truly bring the stats down would be to increase sexual violence prevention programming. And also contribute significant funding to services [including training and psychological support to police] who are sometimes themselves ill-equipped to handle cases,” Charles said.
She added that there was a need to essentially develop a national plan on gender-based violence that was multisectoral, funded, and in partnership with the many organisations that have, for decades, been working to end sexual offences.
Sonke Gender Justice is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation established in 2006, which uses a human rights framework to build the capacity of government, civil society organisations and citizens to achieve gender equality, prevent gender-based violence, and reduce the spread of HIV and the impact of Aids.
Michael Sun, Shadow MMC for Public Safety in the City of Johannesburg said, “We, of course note, the decrease in some of the crime stats, such as sexual crimes decreasing to just under 10 000 cases and nationally at 53 617 cases, but one needs to look at the sexual crime stats realistically and understand that each reported case represents at least one victim.
“What the crime stats also do not represent are the unreported cases, victims of sexual offences do not always report their grievances.”
Chief forensic investigator of 1RS Forensic Investigations, Chad Thomas said the sexual offences statistics were of concern.
“I fail to understand how most violent crimes have increased, yet there is a decrease in sexual offences reported. I do not believe that this is due to there being less sexual offences being perpetrated but, rather, because victims are becoming more afraid to come forward,” he said.