Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust offers counselling to survivors of sexual violence aged 14 and above. The counselling service operates from three locations in the Cape Town area. What follows are quotes from some Rape Crisis counsellors regarding their clients experiences of the criminal justice system. We wish to share the following information with the committee members in order to highlight the common issues that sexual offence complainants are faced with within the criminal justice system and which they are bringing to our organisation on a regular basis.

Counsellors raised a large number of concerns related to the procedures and manner in which cases are dealt with by the police and prosecutors. This highlights the reality that flaws in the pre trial phase are undermining efforts to manage sexual offences better at the trial phase.


Survivors rights

"If rape survivors have died because they exercised their legal responsibilities then surely the state has a legal obligation to inform, protect, consult, empower and minimise delays for those who report crimes" - Emma Harvey Observatory

"The original prosecutor didn’t seem to take enough interest in the situation at all and so my feeling was, even in court itself, it was as if the defence was, they were buddies, they were big friends which made my client feel very uncomfortable. She didn’t know who to trust, she didn’t know if the prosecutor was on her side or on the other person’s side. Very uncomfortable about the interaction between them and that the conversation in court was about golf and other things that had nothing to do whatsoever about the case when we were waiting for the magistrate to return to the court room each time. The conversation was so far removed from anything to do with the case that it was surreal." – Marlene Voss Observatory

Access to information

"The experiences are associated with the police more. The investigating officers do not inform the clients ahead of time when they need to appear in court. So this impacts on the court preparation process and in essence influences the survivor’s testimony in court. This then has a ripple effect in that the prosecutor does not meet with the survivor ahead of time". – Gaironiesa Jacobs Heideveld


"Our clients feel that they are not protected by the law as they report cases and are never told about the progress of the case or if the person who raped them was arrested. The next thing will be to see the perpetrator walking in the streets without being told that he got bail. The conditions of the bail are not communicated to the victim so that she might know when she sees the person in the street it is not that the case has been withdrawn, but that he got bail. When the victim is intimidated by the friends of the person who raped her nobody seems to care, though you are told to report to the investigating officer nothing is done by the police including the prosecutors." – Ntombomzi Tinto Counselling Coordinator Khayelitsha

"She was completely at a loss, she just felt like no one was communicating with her and that the fact that she had been raped by a cop meant absolutely nothing. She had the feeling that the police were sticking together they were protecting each other, so that had a very negative effect on her." - Colleen Thiel Observatory

"In another case, the case did not go to trial it was nolle prosecute … she found this out via someone else who was not the investigating officer. So she felt like no one was communicating with her meanwhile it was about her. They didn’t discuss it they just said that it was nolle prosecue." – Colleen Thiel

"What was so strange to me, he was in jail since the beginning, no bail, but on that day he got bail, he got 1000 Rand bail. When I asked the police why, he said he also could not understand why he got bail. When he raped her he was already in jail for 8 years and he was a hard criminal he already has criminal records." – Joyce Doni Khayelitsha and Observatory


"Some cases if we are lucky get to go to court, but even then wait for more that 2 years before a case can be heard in court and by that time the survivor has decided to lose interest in the case as the feeling is that it brings back bad memories to her and her family and as a counselor there is nothing you can do even though you had worked hard with the client." - Joyce Doni

"They did not find enough information to be sure that these guys, three of them, were guilty. To me it was obvious from day one that she was raped. But it took two years before the got her to court and to me that was the worst part because now they took her back to three years. She kept it to herself for a year and it took another two years before she actually could go into court and talk about it. They questioned her and questioned her and then after two and a half days they postponed it for another six months. So that was terrible. They would just keep on asking, it was getting so irritating as the attorney tried to confuse her. He would just went on and on and on. Even the magistrate looked like she asleep at one time. He would just go on and on and then he said "well it sounded to me that you don’t know exactly what happened" and then she would say I can’t remember exactly, which is probably not the right thing to say you know on the basis of those things they threw it out." – Heleen Louw Observatory


"Most of the survivors we work with are subjected to testify in open court with the perpetrator as well as his friends and they intimidate her outside the courtroom before coming in to make her more scared than she is and she does not feel safe enough to talk. It is not understood who has the obligation of protecting the survivors the minute they get to court for their case." – Ntombomzi Tinto

"The attitude in court was very bad as far as I felt, I sat in what was supposed to be a closed court and there were various people wandering in and out at all stages, I have no idea who they were, or what they had to do with the case, but the door kept on opening, while evidence was being led and people that had nothing to do with the case came in and out. It just seemed very strange. Each time the door would open she would look up and wonder what are they doing here she didn’t know who they were. Did they have anything to do with the defence…what was going on? And it just undermined her all of the time.

She was assured that it was going to be a closed court. They were very explicit questions, very difficult to answer. She had to give information about what the rapist had done to her and she had to answer that in front of people she doesn’t know. She chose to have the closed court because it was such sensitive stuff that she had to speak about. Anyone would find difficulty in speaking about that at any stage, let alone under those circumstances, it was very hard. For her, and for me sitting there and knowing the distress that she was going through." Marlene Voss

"Some of our clients have never been inside a court building let alone a court room so they get shaken, anxious and want to get out of the room as soon as they could." – Ntombomzi Tinto

"In court the survivor felt too scared about seeing the perpetrator. While she’s sitting in the court it’s not only the perpetrator, she will be faced with the people, the family and the community people they will be in the court as well as around. They are allowed to be in the court, so she will be watched by the perpetrator and by the people who are family." - Joyce Doni


Support persons

I think that it was helpful to her that I was there because she had one person in the room that she could trust, everybody else in that court she did not know, even the prosecutor she’d only met that day. - Marlene

"The fact that so few clients even want to go to court shows how important it is that if they do go there is someone familiar physically present in the court room to support them and believe in them this can help them endure some of the despair they feel at facing cross examination" – Sarah-Jane Witter Observatory




"We’ve had clients who were dealt with by trained personnel and as a result they come through the criminal justice process with and incredibly positive attitude and their healing was markedly faster." – Emma Harvey volunteer counsellor

"I had a client who was raped by a group of men who alternated in raping her, when one was raping her anally one was asking to be sucked while the other was in front of her. The one being sucked ejaculated on her face and after the ordeal of being humiliated like that they broke a beer bottle and put it in her vagina and the damage to her insides was great. Her case did not proceed as the witnesses who saw this and assisted her at the time could not be found and her case ended up with her being charged for perjury as they claimed that it never took place." - Ntombomzi Tinto

"Right in the beginning of one case in particular we had to push so hard for it to be investigated, it took phone calls, it took formal letters, before the investigating officer made any attempt whatsoever to arrest the two rapists who are at this moment in prison awaiting trial. But it took about three months before they were arrested. Even though the investigating officer knew where to arrest them, and had been given all of the info possible about the case. It took strong-arm tactics on our part before he would do anything about it." – Marlene Voss

"Setting criteria for measuring whether cjs personnel did inform, consult, protect and empower complainants is vital, but more than that this process should be transparent and consistent. When we have complained about how our clients are treated our words went into a void, leaving us and our clients utterly disempowered. "– Ayesha Booley Observatory

"We had a case where a lot of time and money were spent taking a district surgeon to court – if he’d been properly trained he would not have made the grave errors that he did make." – Kathleen Dey counselling coordinator Observatory

"As most of them were raped by people they know, safety becomes crucial so they need the protection of the system, but it is saddening to find that some survivors chose to withdraw the cases as they feel that their safety is not safeguarded by the people that should make sure that if they report they will be cared for in the system. Some of our clients move to other parts of town to escape the stigma and the ridicule from people that think that she lied to be vindictive. The police should have an obligation to make sure that survivors are treated humanly when they enter the justice system so as to encourage women and children to report issues of violence." – Ntombomzi Tinto

"The survivor’s husband practically had to do the investigation, constantly following up on the investigating officer, they then went to prosecutor each time to find out what was going on. They informed the prosecutor of other areas that needed to be looked at and of other witnesses. She (the prosecutor) seemed to take very little care in the case and to me she didn’t ask questions that I would have imagined had bearing on the case, but of course they didn’t come from my perspective - but they are now questions that are going to be asked by the new prosecutor, so I assume that those questions should have been asked in the first place. The original prosecutor said that that the information was not necessary and that no other witnesses would be called for the case. They are now going to be called by the new prosecutor. This case is still proceeding. " – Marlene Voss

"More times than not, the survivor has no idea who his/her prosecutor will be from one court date to the next with the turn over of prosecutors being so rapid. This implies that the survivor needs to re-tell her story and causes anxiety because often they connect with one person, prepare themselves to meet with that person the next time, then to find out it’s a complete stranger. This unsettles them and impacts on their testimony." – Gaironiesa Jacobs


"From being scared they will just stay away and decide to do nothing about the case. We will be explaining to them that its no good dropping the case because of being scared, but that’s a tricky one because how are you going to protect her? You are sitting in an office, she is alone in the community. Then she will just decide to stay away and do nothing about the case even though the case was true, because she’s too scared even when the perpetrator is put behind bars there will be someone out in the community still watching that little girl, they will be so scared they just decide to drop it. The perpetrator still controls her because outside the jail there will be someone who is a friend, who’s family, who’s a gangster, whatever, they will always intimidate the girl so she will decide to stay away from the case. That’s what happens in the community." – Joyce Doni

"The contact with the accused in the hallways of the courthouse is not always kept to a minimum and this is extremely intimidating for the survivor and their family, friends and supporters. Sometimes they threatened and even when they report it to the investigating officer very little is done about it." Gaironiesa Jacobs


The waiting rooms are open and can be accessed by anyone. They are for children more than the adult survivor. f it’s a male survivor, will he feel comfortable or will the other female survivors feel comfortable? – Gaironiesa Jacobs