In a nutshell
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign is a Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust advocacy project, which was started to hold government accountable to its promise to roll out sexual offences courts across the country to provide a victim-centred criminal justice system.
What we do
Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust has been supporting rape survivors for the past 40 years through our counselling and support services, but we have identified that change is needed in how the criminal justice system deals with rape cases. We started the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign because we believe that the government must make sure that, over time, all survivors of sexual violence have access to a sexual offences court. We want to make sure that there is a real change in the criminal justice system by holding government to its promise.
The Rape Survivors' Justice Campaign advocates for the planned and funded rollout of sexual offences courts. These courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system as well as increasing conviction rates for rape and decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors.
The idea of Sexual Offences Courts was developed in South Africa. Eventually, this concept earned recognition across the world as something highly efficient and effective in dealing with cases of sexual violence. In 2013, a new Sexual Offences Court Model was developed as a way to set out the requirements for other Sexual Offences Courts. Sexual Offences Courts are specialized courts that specifically deal with sexual offences and provide special services to survivors. These courts are sensitive to the survivor and help to: reduce the trauma; speed up cases; make better court judgements, thanks to better skilled court personnel; increase reporting of rape and increase convictions. Sexual Offences Courts have specially trained support personnel, prosecutors and magistrates as well as a special court room, a separate waiting room for adult witnesses/survivors, a separate waiting room for child witnesses/survivors, and a special testifying room with CCTV equipment.
How we do it
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign achieves change by following a multi-layered approach:
- We raise awareness among stakeholders about the campaign and the need for sexual offences courts. These stakeholders include the communities we work in and fellow members of various coalitions. We then mobilise our stakeholders to join us when we host public demonstrations or other events.
- Our lobbying activities focus on the government departments responsible for the rollout of sexual offences courts as well as the parliamentary structures responsible for overseeing the work of these government departments. In order to lobby these decision makers, we do constant research.
- In our efforts to raise awareness among stakeholders and lobbying decision makers, we make use of formal media and social media in order to amplify our message.
What we have achieved
- The primary legislation we lobbied for was signed into law in the second half of 2017 and the Department of Justice released the Draft Regulations on Sexual Offences Courts in December 2017 for public comment. This Draft Regulations document consisted of 54 regulations with several subsections and we provided the Department of Justice with detailed written comments on the regulations.
- We worked through all 54 regulations and their subsections and put forward our comments and recommendations on each regulation to the Department of Justice at a meeting that took place the 26th March 2018 in Pretoria.
- This meeting saw the RSJC team working with the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Police Service and the Department of Social Development to finalise the regulations for sexual offences courts. We worked through much of the detail with the aim of ensuring that the final regulations would result in money being spent on specialist services and personnel, as well as court infrastructure that will reduce secondary trauma to rape survivors. We believe that it is these kinds of details that will ultimately make it possible for survivors to experience a supportive criminal justice system.