The recent spate of rapes and murders across the province has jolted our nation and we are all called upon to join hands in addressing the problem.
Western Cape Department of Social Development in this financial year transferred just over R15 million to NGOs in the Victim Empowerment sector to work with victims of violent crimes, an increase from R7 million in 2008/2009 which has particularly benefited NGOs that render support services to rape victims in vulnerable communities. This is helping victims to recover from violence inflicted upon them, physically and psychologically.
Of course, the bigger challenge for government and for civil society is to begin to address the underlying causes of violent crime in our country. The 2008 National Youth Lifestyle Study by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention found that many young people are growing up witnessing violence and criminal activities in their communities, yet 74% of young people questioned in the study believed adults in their communities were setting a good example. In a 2009 study conducted by Professor Rachel Jewkes, head of the Women’s Research Unit of South Africa’s Medical Research Council, 62 percent of surveyed boys over age 11 said they believed that forcing someone to have sex was not an act of violence.
These findings speak to a growing culture wherein violence and abuse are seen as the norm. For this reason, the Western Cape Government is working together with the NGO sector to promote the development of strong, resilient families, with a focus on the role of fathers, and to encourage men to take the lead in rejecting violence and abuse against women. We have made youth leadership development a priority in this regard, and our youth strategy speaks extensively to equipping young people with skills to reject violence and destructive behaviours. This government has initiated a series of programmes that will provide young people with the necessary services, opportunities and support they need to deal effectively with the challenges of everyday life in South Africa.
We also take cognizance of the link between drug and alcohol abuse and violent crimes as was highlighted in the community meeting in Bredasdorp this weekend, and in fact we have nearly doubled our budget for the reduction of drug and alcohol related harms over the past three years, from R42 million, to over R77 million this year.
The need to speak out and break the silence has once again been highlighted. Rape and sexual crimes must be reported to the police. We encourage victims to report these crimes – and to tell police about suspected rapists.
Every police precinct in the Western Cape has a Victim Support Room (totalling 149 province-wide) where victims of rape can report crimes and give their statements in a safe and victim-friendly environment. Victim-support volunteers, which have been trained in a joint partnership between Community Safety, Social Development and SAPS, will assist the victim through the police reporting process. Victims may, in most circumstances, take a family member or friend with them to give a statement, in their home language.
Social workers are also available to provide counselling for rape victims and their families and can be contacted by visiting any local Social Development Office or by calling the Western Cape Government Social Development’s toll free line on 0800 220-250. The Women Abuse Helpline is also available on 0800 150 150.
Rape, domestic violence and violence against women are not women’s issues, they are everyone’s issues. Women’s safety ultimately affects everyone in society and communities must stand together to prevent sexual crimes and support victims.
We also echo the sentiments of several industry leaders for the reinstatement of the specialised sexual offences courts. This on its own will not solve the rape situation, but it is vital to provide a deterrent to would-be rapists and sends a clear message that rapists will be arrested and convicted if they commit this offence.
While some individuals have most distastefully capitalised on the death of Anene Booysen for political gain, the Western Cape Government is committed to working with all stakeholders to tackle the scourge of violent crimes against women and children. We acknowledge that there is much work to be done and that it will take the active and committed participation of everybody if we are to make serious inroads into this problem.