Victim empowerment rooms are part of the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP). SAPS is responsible for ensuring that victims of crime, especially sexual offences and other serious and violent crimes, are provided with a victim-friendly service in which the dignity and rights of victims are protected, and the victim is empowered and not subjected to secondary victimisation by an inefficient criminal justice system.
Four elements of victim empowerment are:
- emotional support;
- practical support;
- the provision of information; and
- providing referrals to professional support services.
SAPS, together with Sonke and other organisations working in Delft, held an event at the Delft police station to mark the opening of the VEP room. More than 300 people attended. Among them were members of the ‘Men for Change’ forum within SAPS which was launched in 2006 by a group of men within SAPS who wanted to replace the existing negative perceptions of the role of men with a positive paradigm. One of the Men for Change members talked about his own journey of change and explained how he is now educating other men in his community. Both he and other community members welcomed the work Sonke is doing in Delft.
Sonke and members of the Delft community have regularly mobilised in solidarity against the violence inflicted on women and children there. Currently, Sonke is following the case of the rape and murder of nine-year old Queen who died after being raped and set on fire in Delft early this year.
Queen was still alive when she was found, and named her attacker as a man who lived in the neighbourhood. When he was apprehended, police say the man had fresh burn wounds and visible scratch marks on his body. But at this point, the case is not being prosecuted due to the failure of the police to collect and present sufficient evidence, and currently the man who Queen identified as the perpetrator walks free. Queen died two months after the incident as a result of severe burn wounds and injuries.
Sonke is following this case and working with community members and the police to ensure that Queen’s murder is properly prosecuted. We are also engaging the Delft community and our community action team (CAT) in Delft in mobilisations to combat gender-based violence and promote awareness and activism that furthers gender equality, non-violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
While much work needs to be done to improve policing in Delft, and throughout South Africa, the opening of the victim empowerment room in Delft is a positive step. We applaud SAPS for its effort to create safe spaces for survivors of violent crime and ensure that they are not re-traumatised when reporting crime. Creating safe and responsive spaces promotes an environment where more crimes will be reported. Currently, only about one in nine rapes are reported in South Africa.
Sonke also recognises the importance of men and women within SAPS working towards creating positive and equitable gender norms and combating gender-based violence and the abuse of women and children at every level.
By Demelza Bush and Micheline Muzaneza
Edited by Czerina Patel