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Myths and Stereotypes, Skills Deficits and Disengagement: Dee Smythe Explores Police Failure in Rape Unresolved

Rape UnresolvedUCT Press is proud to present Rape Unresolved by Dee Smythe

More than 1 000 women are raped in South Africa every day. Around 150 of those women will report the crime to the police. Fewer than 30 of the cases will be prosecuted and no more than 10 will result in a conviction. This translates into an overall conviction rate of 4-8 percent of reported cases. So what happens to all the other cases?

Rape Unresolved is concerned with the question of police discretion and how its exercise shapes the criminal justice response to rape in South Africa. Through a detailed, qualitative review of rape dockets and victim statements, as well as interviews with detectives, prosecutors, magistrates and rape counsellors, the author provides key insights into police responses to rape. A complex picture emerges, of myths and stereotypes, of skills deficits, of disengagement by police as well as victims. Responsibility for the investigation of the cases – and their ultimate failure – is shifted onto the complainants, who must constantly prove their commitment to the criminal justice process in order to be taken seriously.

The vast majority of rape victims who approach the criminal justice system in South Africa do not receive justice or protection. This book uncovers the faultline between the state’s rhetorical commitment to addressing sexual violence through legal guarantees and the actual application of these laws.

About the author

Dee Smythe is professor and director of the Centre for Law and Society in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town. She is also senior lecturer in the Department of Public Law. She is recently the co-editor of In search of equality: women, law and society in Africa (2014, UCT Press) and Marriage, Land and Custom (2014, Juta), and co-author (with Lillian Artz) of Should we consent? The politics of rape law reform in South Africa (2008, Juta).


List of acronyms
List of cases
List of statutes

CHAPTER 1 – Charges dropped: an introduction to attrition in South Africa
- Attrition points and processes
- Attrition in other crimes
- South African studies on rape and policing
- ‘Real rape’ and attrition
- Rape in South Africa
- Why does attrition matter?
- A note on terminology

CHAPTER 2 – Paper rich: rape in South African law and practice
- International and constitutional framework
- Enforcing state obligations
- Rape law in South Africa
- Statutory rape
- National policies
- National instruction on sexual offences
- Standing Order (general) 325: Closing of case dockets –
withdrawn, undetected, unfounded, responsibility.
- Prosecution
- Police dockets – what is in a docket? Limitations of dockets

CHAPTER 3 – The South African Police Service and the communities they police
- The South African Police
- The study ‘communities’
- Western Cape – Ocean View police jurisdiction; Simon’s Town police
jurisdiction; Muizenberg police jurisdiction; Fish Hoek police jurisdiction
- KwaZulu-Natal – Greytown police jurisdiction; Weenen police jurisdiction;
Tugela Ferry / Msinga police jurisdiction; Muden police jurisdiction

CHAPTER 4 – A sketch of the cases
- The complainant: age; employment status; relationship of
the complainant to the accused
- The perpetrator: age of the accused; employment status of the accused;
prior charges
- Nature of the offence: number of perpetrators; weapons; injury; condom use
- Context of the offence: where the offence occurred; day and time; alcohol
and drug use
- The investigation: reporting; first witness report; oversight
- Real rape

CHAPTER 5 – Recalcitrant victims
- Reporting rape: why do complainants report – or not?
- Insights from rape victims
- What do police expect of complainants?
- Victim non-cooperation

CHAPTER 6 – Complainant withdrawals
- The complexities of case withdrawal unpacked
- The regulatory framework
- Do relationships matter?
- Who withdraws complaints?
- Reasons given by complainants for case withdrawals
- Do the police play a role?
- Administrative withdrawals: unfounded; undetected

CHAPTER 7 – False complaints
- Research into false complaints
- Defining false complaints
- Malice and instrumentality: how police perceive false complaints
- Back to the numbers
- Scratching beneath the surface: prior victimisation; third-party
reports; adolescence; mental health problems; sex workers; telling lies

CHAPTER 8 – Refractory systems
- The regulatory framework
- Police work: the basics; victim experiences of reporting; statement-taking;
follow-up and investigation; visiting the crime scene; feedback
- Supervision and case management: detective commanders; prosecutors
- Corruption
- Stereotypes

CHAPTER 9 – Taking responsibility/apportioning blame
- Refractory systems?
- Victim responsibility
- Recalcitrant victims?

ANNEXURE 1 – Examining rape cases

- Negotiating access to data
- Narrowing down the investigation: research period; data collection; collecting rape stories; research sites
- Interviews
- Rape Crisis database
- Analysis


Book details


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