While a national women’s organisation has highlighted the lack of rape kits at a number of police stations, those in Mitchell’s Plain say they are fully equipped to assist those who come to report cases of rape to them.
SA Women Fight Back recently put the spotlight on the lack of rape kits available at police stations after reports revealed the backlog in processing DNA case exhibits at the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL) was nearing 100 000 cases.
Among the 35 police stations contacted by SA Women Fight Back, were Mitchell’s Plain SAPS, Lentegeur SAPS and Strandfontein SAPS who all confirmed the availability of rape kits for victims of rape and gender-based violence.
Of all the police stations contacted, seven said they had sufficient rape kits, some did not answer, some did not have rape kits available while others did not know what a rape kit was, said founder of SA Women Fight Back, Bronwyn Litkie.
“Rape kit” is the common term used to describe the equipment used to collect physical evidence from victims of sexual assault and rape.
Dee Coetzee, from Mitchell’s Plain, who is the head of social media for SA Women Fight Back, called the three police stations.
Mitchell’s Plain SAPS spokesperson Captain Ian Williams said rape kits were available at Strandfontein and, Mitchell’s Plain police stations and the Family violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit in Mitchell’s Plain.
The kits, he said, were mainly managed by the FCS Unit which investigates the domestic violence and gender-based violence cases. If a rape victim reports an incident to Mitchell’s Plain SAPS or Strandfontein SAPS, they’d take their statement and refer them to the FCS detectives for further follow-up, he explained.
Lentegeur SAPS spokesperson, Constable Felicia Adams confirmed that they had rape kits available and accessible if a victim came to Lentegeur SAPS for assistance.
“The victim is requested to ask for Constable Nokubonga Mbolekwa who is trained and qualified to deal with these sensitive matters. Constable Mbolekwa will assist and then notify the FCS Unit of the matter and FCS will then handle the matter further.
“If we do not have rape kits available our FCS unit will bring a kit with them to assist the victim,” she said.
Weighing in on the backlog in DNA testing, the DA’s spokesman on police, Andrew Whitfield said it was denying thousands of victims of gender-based violence and other crimes, access to justice.
“Without a fully functioning DNA testing capability at our NFSL, perpetrators of the most horrific crimes cannot be brought to book and tackling gender-based violence will remain yet another unfulfilled presidential promise,” said Mr Whitfield.
Chairperson of Lentegeur Community Police Forum (CPF) Byron De Villiers, said rape kits had previously not been available but Lentegeur police station now had them, and the CPF has a victim support room available for victims of gender-based violence.
“More can be done, we do not lack the technology but we lack the skills to get the results faster,” he said.
“We need to localise our resources.”Alvina Spike, founder of New Creations Outreach, a non-profit organisation that works with victims of gender-based violence, said she assisted victims after they had been interviewed by police.
Last year the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele announced that every police station would have rape kits and staff would possess the skills to use them.
Ms Spike said more should have been done since then.
“The system will work if more people are employed to assist with the backlog,” she said. “It is near impossible to assist 100 000 cases alone. We cannot depend on our justice system, a case takes a few years before it is seen to.”
She added that community workers who deal with gender-based violence need to be better positioned so that the community could identify them when they needed help.
“Involve the necessary people working with gender-based violence and share that load. We are fighting a losing battle because of the structure of the system and assisting victims of gender-based violence,” said Ms Spike.
Geraldine Young, an auxiliary social worker, who has worked for Mitchell’s Plain Crisis Line for 21 years, said in the past, police stations would have care packs available, which would include rape kits, sanitary pads, and toiletries for the victim.
Mitchell’s Plain Crisis Line, she said, visited police stations to check-up on rape kits and to ascertain if care packs were still available for victims. They also offer group counselling and support, as well as individual counselling.
Social worker at Mitchell’s Plain Crisis Line, Surayah Feltsman, added: “Those who assist victims of gender-based violence should advocate for rape kits to be available, on a monthly basis to a designated person. Victims’ need change regularly and those assisting the victim should learn what the needs are. As organisations, we should network with each other so that we can all understand how we function respectively,” she said.
They do not have rape kits available at their office, but refer victims to SAPS after which they offer counselling.
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