By Lindsay Henson, Executive Director, Lawyers against Abuse @LvA_SouthAfrica
Many are surprised to learn that South Africa boasts some of the most comprehensive and victim-centric legislation in the world around gender-based violence (GBV). Their surprise stems from the fact that the outcomes for many victims who pursue justice are not positive ones. In fact, recent research examining nearly 4 000 rape cases found:
Additionally, survey research conducted in Gauteng found that only 1 in 25 women report their rape to the police.
These disheartening statistics starkly contradict how the justice system was intended to support victims and greatly demonstrate the gaps in the system and the lack of confidence victims have in those meant to protect them. This is why LvA was created – to fill these gaps and to advocate for victims who typically have to take the daunting journey through the justice system alone.
LvA’s ability to provide these services is made possible through the support of the 1st for Women Foundation. For the past four years, LvA has been a proud partner and grateful recipient of the Foundation’s funding. Without the Foundation’s support, countless women and children would likely experience secondary victimisation as they moved through the justice system, and most would never see justice for the abuse they’ve endured.
Over the course of weeks, months, sometimes, years, our attorneys work directly with victims who have made the brave decision to take legal action against their abuser – whether by obtaining a protection order or opening a criminal case. For those seeking a protection order, an LvA attorney assists with the initial application, explains the submission and service procedures, and prepares them for and accompanies them to their hearings. For many of the women we serve, just knowing that LvA is in the courtroom provides the support they need to stand up to their abuser and demand justice.
Over the past three years, LvA has assisted 400 clients with a protection order, including Mpumi:
Mpumi’s boyfriend regularly beat her, including stabbing her multiple times, nearly killing her. Whenever she tried to leave, he would stalk her and threaten to kill her. Mpumi approached LvA for assistance with a protection order. While at Court, Mpumi’s ex-boyfriend was aggressive towards her before the hearing began. Fortunately, LvA’s attorney intervened and was successful in having a final protection order granted against him. Mpumi was extremely grateful for LvA’s support.
LvA has also supported over 80 clients over the last three years pursuing criminal cases of rape and assault. These services include:
Without this direct involvement, many of these cases would simply disappear within the system – resulting in no accountability for the perpetrator and no justice for the victim.
At 7, Khomba was raped by a man who runs a local tuck shop - a known serial rapist who targeted young clients. Khomba was referred to LvA who has been providing support over the past year, working closely with the investigating officer and prosecutor. Now, where there once was no accountability, the man was arrested and pled guilty when it became apparent that Khomba would be able to provide strong testimony against him. And Khomba, once a shy little girl, now runs to LvA for her drama therapy sessions and fills it with joy and laughter.
Thanks to the continued support of the 1st for Woman Foundation, LvA can support those who need it most.