VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN OF SOUTH AFRICA?
Gender Based Violence (GBV), specifically against us women, is a violation of our personal human rights with rippling effects on our families, communities, societies, economy, the wellness of our nations, and the future of generations to come.
In South Africa alone, over 60% of our women experience physical abuse.
“When you beat our woman, you beat our nation,” President Cyril Ramaphosa declared during Women’s Month this August 2020.
Pandemic of Gender Based and Domestic Violence
During a time when we are fighting for our lives against COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves confronting yet another and even more present dangerous pandemic, that of gender based and domestic violence, which has risen exponentially during lockdown, not only on our African continent but world wide!
Millions of us women are abused, traumatized, and our very foundations shaken, as we reel from domestic abuse wondering what to do, who to seek help from, where to go, how to be safe, and always asking ourselves one question:
“WILL WE GET JUSTICE?”
Because no justice no peace, and for this reason we must get the vile hands of our violent men off our maternal necks.
Shock of Being Violated
The experience of being assaulted or abused is itself like a major earthquake, a devastating shock to our very being. But the aftershocks hurt us even more, namely the shocks from being repeatedly victimized by people we thought we could rely on for support and protection, in particular our country’s system we seek justice through.
Let The Truth Be Told
A violated woman seeking justice within the legal and judicial systems should be prepared to face an upward battle and many challenges.
As if gender based violence and domestic abuse itself is not enough, why do we have to continue to suffer while we try to protect ourselves and those in our care?
Abused by the System, Injustice Wins!
As long as corruption, incompetence, lack of compassion, lack of commitment to do the right thing, insensitivity, bullying, organized crime, and discrimination within the system and its web prevails, injustice will win.
Do we, with our beaten bodies, trodden on emotions and kicked at minds, cower, submit and bow down to the men who have attacked, demeaned and persecuted us?
Or do we take a stand against crime and injustice, because our female lives matter?
- We stand up!
- We rise, because we are Mothers of our nation.
- We empower ourselves, because we are Women of vision.
- We stand together, because we are Females of compassion.
We stand up, so no women, child or elder is ever again violated in our country. Getting Started on Our Journey to Stand tall
Let’s embark on our journey to justice and reshaping the future of our country, even as we struggle to heal physically, mentally and emotionally, and deal with the situation at home where we have to face the assailant who roams around free every day.
THE CHALLENGING ROAD AHEAD:
Every step of the way, from the moment we make an internal decision to seek protection and justice, we will be faced with enormous challenges.
Safe Place Of Shelter
Your first mode of action is to get out of the dangerous situation you and those under your care find yourselves in. Lock yourself in your home away from danger, or if the man lives with you, then get out.
Please equip yourself with the WIIN hotline, phone numbers and places of shelter you can contact and escape to.
Will the Police To Come To My Assistance?
The next step is reporting the crime. We’ve watched movies where the notable 911 call for help is made in USA. We’ve watched in awe at the speed at which the police appear on the scene.
When the Police Arrives In Africa
But in a developing country, especially during lockdown when you call your local police station, the scene is played in slow motion, really slow motion.
You’d be better off calling 10111
10111 is a better bet. When SAPs do arrive, be prepared for a lack of compassion and no sense of urgency. The movie will play out in reverse motion, if you are a woman of colour and the male perpetrator is of white privilege.
WHEN A WHITE MAN ASSAULTS A WOMAN OF COLOUR Automatic Impunity For A White Man
A white man, no matter his age or financial status, who assaults a woman of colour, as was my case, automatically and with impunity is put on a pedestal, and sheltered from the justice system.
Ladder of Justice
Know this, if the “justice ladder” along the way from SAPs arriving at your door, or listening to your story at the police station, to the lawyers and magistrates and prosecutors, is staffed with people of integrity, honour and loyalty to do the right thing and protect you, then gender based and domestic violence would have been a thing of the past!
But here we are today!
Our Failed Legal Justice System
But sadly the roadmap to justice is filled with deep holes, making your hope for justice much more difficult.
Women Get Onto A Steep Learning Curve
What you need to do is ensure you clamber out of that dark hole, and quickly get onto a steep learning curve. Arm yourself with knowledge, an empowered support system and unending inner strength.
EVIDENCE EVIDENCE EVIDENCE
If you’re lucky enough to have a competent compassionate female police officer be the first one to talk to you, as was in my case, and if she sees your injuries, she’ll issue you with a medico-legal form a J88 and advise you to go to your doctor and be examined.
“The J88 is a legal document that is completed by a medical doctor, documenting injuries sustained by a victim in any circumstance where a legal investigation is to follow. It may be the only objective information available in a legal case. It may be integral in: The charge itself.”
The medico-legal form might end up being your only real evidence against the perpetrator. Get examined as soon as possible, and make a copy of the form. Don’t trust the police officer or detective promising to make a copy for you! Because there may be corruption and bribery afoot!
POLICE RELUCTANT TO TAKE STATEMENT /OPEN CHARGE The police may not regard your situation as serious enough or worthy enough of their time to interview you thoroughly. This happens especially if the officer does not want to spend his/her time writing a report thereafter, or himself has an issue with women!
SAPs may not even tell you that you have an option to lay a charge, as was in my case.
If the assailant has fled the scene, the police may not pursue him, as happened to me.
“We’ll come back when he returns to his house.”
Don’t take for granted everything the police tells you. For instance, “No need to give us a statement now, or open a charge, we’ll wait until he gets back to his house.”
The police won’t come back to you, unless you contact them again and again for the rest of the day and even for days!
At the same time, they will begin to mock you within the police precinct making you into a laughing stock because of the number of times you called them for help.
For some reason, SAPs don’t take domestic violence seriously, unless you are dead!
Providing a Police Statement to open a charge
When the police finally sit down with you and start putting pen to paper as you tell them what happened, they will be distracted by their phones more than several times.
It means that your and their line of thoughts will be disrupted. When you are injured, physically in pain, and traumatized mentally and emotionally from the assault, you will have to stay focused on ensuring that statement is correctly taken down.
The warrant officer will be rushed to get the statement over with, and as it will most likely be your first time at all of this, you rely on the officer to guide you through so everything that needs to be said is said and penned into the statement.
Sadly, I didn’t realize my gullibility until in hindsight!
Before you sign the statement, be sure to take the time to read it a few times, before you sign. And if the officer tells you not to worry, he will write the “other details on the other form, later,” please don’t take his word for it.
There is no other form…I fell into his trap!
And if someone else in your house witnessed the assault, be sure the officer takes his/her statement, even if he says there is no need! Yet another trap I fell into.
Finally the officer will tell you that he will submit his written document to the police station, for someone to input it into a charge docket, and that you will be notified when the case is opened, and you will be told who the detective for your case will be.
And so the waiting game begins.
WHEN FAMILY MEMBER OR TRUSTED FRIEND TURNS AGAINST YOU? In the meanwhile, what if your family member or a trusted friend turns against you, because you’ve decided to file charges against your attacker/abuser?
Perhaps he/she feels that you will bring shame to the family name by washing dirty linen in public!
Be prepared for arguments if people around you view you as the “less knowledgeable weaker gender.”
Emotional battles with relatives and friends can drain you. You’d be wise to surround yourself with people who don’t demean you even more.
Charge Docket Opened Detective Assigned
You’ll receive notification when your case has been assigned a number and a detective. Take note of that number.
The role of the detective is to investigate the case thoroughly, gather evidence, uncover the truth, and interview everyone involved. But this happens only if he/she is competent and committed to the justice system.
The detective if good, can discern between a false witness and an actual witness, but sadly most detectives want to complete the task at hand, rather than do justice to it with the best of their ability.
Ensure that the detective has every piece of evidence that you submitted or will submit for the case. He should submit the completed charge docket with the evidence to the prosecutor. But be warned, detectives can be bribed, and your original evidence can disappear.
PROSECUTOR DETERMINES IF YOUR CASE IS STRONG ENOUGH FOR COURT
If there are gaps in the investigation, the prosecutor will request the detective to gather the information. Finally the prosecutor makes a decision if the case will proceed to court. No dishonest person is above corruption or bribery! Pray that your prosecutor lives with integrity and serves justice.
Your life is in the hands of the detective and the prosecutor. If either fails to uncover the truth and ensure justice is served, the perpetrator will remain at large.
If the prosecutor decides against the case, you have the right to know on what grounds, and to receive a report of the decision. You have the option to appeal the decision.
You are unprotected and financially strained
If SAPS has not already arrested the perpetrator, they may tell you to apply for a protection order while the charge is being investigated.
It’s all new to you, and as you wait in long social distance lines outside the court, you pray for justice. But don’t rely on the court clerks to help you in completing the application for protection order. They are not trained to do so.
Take the form home and complete it while you are thinking clearly. Be sure to add the names of children or people in your household to be protected under the protection order.
Include videos, photos, and any piece of evidence you have to verify that the assault or violence occurred or is occurring. Be sure to check that the clerk has filed the application form together with the evidence.
NO INTERIM PROTECTION ORDER, PERPETRATOR CAN STOP PROTECTION ORDER
The magistrate makes a decision whether to reject the application, provide an interim protection order while the final order is being investigated, or provide an court interdict requesting the perpetrator tell the court why the order not be granted.
Don’t be surprised when the perpetrator pulls out every possible bullying and persecution tactics, false witnesses, and community support to discredit, defame and shame you into dropping the protection order.
MAGISTRATE DRAGS THE CASE ON AT YOUR EXPENSE
Finally when the court hearing dawns, and you find yourself lawyerless facing the opposition, don’t be surprised when the magistrate entertains the perpetrators hot shot lawyer’s false affidavits, untruths and tactics to dismiss the protection order.
Don’t be surprised when you are ridiculed and humiliated by the opposition lawyer and the magistrate, in front of the perpetrator!
Most of all don’t be surprised when the magistrate does not watch the videos or photos you submitted or viewed the medico-legal reports!
Finally don’t be surprised when the magistrate drags on the hearing for protection order into many court appearances for months on end at your expense, while your life and those ones under your care remain at risk.
These are the harsh realities of the weak, inefficient systems we have to contend with in South Africa.
LAWYER SWINDLES YOU AND DRAG CASE ON
According to the law, you are allowed to apply for a protection order without a lawyer and without a charge case.
Sadly, when the magistrate sees you on your own, beside the perpetrators hot-shot lawyer, you will be made invisible and voiceless. His lawyer will prevail in a magnificent performance qualifying for an Emmy award!
What you will see unfold in the courtroom will be a drama movie in the making, with legal rhetoric being bandied left and right, half of which you cannot understand, the other half of which you are not allowed to defend while you are branded into the aggressor!
LAWYER OUT TO DRAIN YOUR MONEY
Lawyers will creep out of the cracks to assist you, pretending to be pro-bono or legal aid, taking advantage of your desperation.
Be suspicious of your lawyer,
- if he doesn’t talk about the cost of hiring him,
- doesn’t set up a consultation,
- doesn’t ask for and review every piece of evidence,
- doesn’t have the time to talk to you,
- talks to you in a demeaning manner,
- reprimands you if you ask questions,
- threatens to stop representing you if you don’t agree to him dragging out the hearings,
- after the court hearing, suddenly hits you with a bill while making you believe he was legal aid,
- or ultimately if you suspect him of working to lose your case.
Apply for legal aid if you fit the requirements of earning less than R8000 a month, and not owning property. If you are blessed with a competent and committed activist lawyer, your chances of getting the protection order are very strong.
Learn more about the situation as you wait.
WHEN THE PERPETRATOR’S COMMUNITY PERSECUTE YOU
Living in your same home within the same violent environment and community will be no easy task. When the perpetrator lives in the same household or nearby, your life will be turned inside out, while you wait for the prosecutor to make a decision
about the charge case, and the magistrate to protect you with a protection order in the interim!
Bribery and Corruption
The perpetrator will engage in horrible strategies and tactics to paint the picture that he is the poor victim and that you are an evil, malicious, conniving, shameful, irreligious woman who has a personal vendetta against him.
If he has powerful connections in the community, he will turn them against you, and you will be victimized at every turn.
Community Gangs Up Against You to Protect the Perpetrator
If the perpetrator is well liked in your community, the community leaders will be highly organized to protect him at your expense. They will be able to stop the police from entering the community to come to your aid! As was in my case.
Police Side with Perpetrator
Powerful men have deep insider connections within the police.
- Be warned when unmarked police vehicles appear when you are assaulted! ∙ Be aware when the “police” threaten to arrest you if you call the police station again!
- Be careful when the “police” shout at you to “mind your own business and stay locked in your house/room!”
- Be especially conscious when the police smile, while the perpetrator’s accomplices and friends gather in front of the police and shout to you, “Stop wasting the polices’ time, they can’t do anything to us.”
- Be prepared for challenges when the group continue shouting, “We have the best lawyers in the country, you cannot win against us.”
COLONIALISM ALIVE AND WELL IN SAPS AND JUSTICE SYTEM
When you, a woman of colour call SAPs to investigate domestic violence perpetrated by a white man against you, and they refuse to come, or cut the call you know there will be challenges in pursuing justice.
When you sit down your exhausted, injured black or brown body in the courtroom alone, lawyerless, facing the white perpetrator and his hot-shot white lawyer, even with a non-white magistrate, be prepared for racism focused on setting the perpetrator free! The white man continues to be worshipped and submitted to even by tokens in high places!
Sadly, 26 years post apartheid in our beloved South Africa, the white man rules behind the scenes of everything, from the economy to legal and justice systems. You’ll see this evidenced when he violates a Black, Indian or Coloured person in our country, and more so when the victim is a women of colour!
RISING ABOVE THE CHALLENGES AND CARVING A BETTER LIFE AND BETTER FUTURE
Given all the challenges we need to be prepared to face when we are victims of gender based or domestic violence, we should motivate ourselves to learn how to seek and get justice, protect ourselves, regain our footing, uplift our quality of life, prosper in the future, and help support and empower our sisters in doing the same.
Our ultimate goal should be to eradicate violence against girls and women within our families, communities, societies and country. Only we want to do so, and only we can lead the way to accomplish this essential vision.
Dear reader, this blog article is only an overview of some of the many issues we face as women violated by our men. There are so many more issues if you have children under your care, seeking a divorce with custody, or a single parent….I’ve provided my personal challenges as a single women protecting an elder in my family.
Your situation may be different.
Let’s go further and through the chat and comments engage in a discussion about the challenges you are facing in your journey for protection and justice and how we can together have justice served on the men who violate us as shamelessly together with their neighbourhood friends, and as their accomplices in the legal and justice systems drag the future of our country down.
We eagerly await your comments and discussions.