By MICHELLE SOLOMON and ZIPO-ZENKOSI NCOKAZI
MANY police officers in the East London policing area do not know how to respond to rape cases, [an] investigation revealed.
The investigation also found that a few did not appear to know the legal definition of rape.
This week, [we] visited seven East London police stations and presented hypothetical rape scenarios to quiz police members on their readiness to deal with rape.
Only two police stations, Duncan Village and Buffalo Flats, had police officers that appeared ready to deal with the rape scenarios put to them, and were sensitive and concerned about the hypothetical victims.
At both police stations, members were sympathetic, sensitive and informed.
Presented with the findings to provincial South African Police Services (SAPS) spokesperson Brigadier Marinda Mills reacted with shock.
Mills agreed that some of the police officers seemed competent and sensitive about the issue, while officers at Fleet Street and Cambridge police stations did not know the internal procedures regarding rape.
Officers at both of these stations told [us] that cases of rape had to be opened with the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FSC) Unit in Southernwood.
When the Dispatch queried this with officers at the FSC unit, they said cases must be opened at police stations, but specialised FSC officers would investigate these cases.
Mills confirmed this, and said: “The police station is the first point of departure for any victim of crime and it is unclear why these hypothetical victims were referred directly to the FCS unit.
“We will certainly address this misconception among our members, and remind them of the protocols that must be followed.”
Mills added that she was concerned that an officer at the Cambridge police station, when presented with the hypothetical situation that the reporter’s 13-year-old niece was forced to give a man oral sex, claimed the scenario was not a rape case.
According to the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) of 2007, oral sex is a crime of rape.
Gonubie police station were also presented with the hypothetical 13-year-old niece scenario. When the offence was described to the officers, one responded: “But what is she crying about?”
Another citizen at the police station intervened to tell the officers what they should do. The officers seemed disinterested and unsympathetic, despite the hypothetical case involving a minor.
Mills said she found the response from Gonubie police station members “shocking”.
“As the management we regularly sensitise members on [service delivery] principles and human rights with a special focus on victims of crime, so it is disappointing to hear of such poor responses.”
Officers at several police stations were hostile to the newspaper, with a Beacon Bay officer refusing to assist .
Mills said she could understand why an officer would not want to engage with anyone other than the rape victim, but added that citizens have a right to information about the process.
Mills said: “Crimes against women and children are a priority and we have embarked on an awareness campaign to educate our communities and to ensure that the perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence crimes are brought to book.”