Woodstock police station has no rape kits, say activists fighting gender-based violence.
The kits are used to collect DNA evidence from a rape victim, but SA Women Fight Back (SAWFB) says when it surveyed 35 police stations recently it found only seven had enough and Woodstock was one of the stations that said it had none.
However, Woodstock police station has denied this.
SAWFB is questioning statistics the police presented to Parliament’s portfolio committee on police on Wednesday August 26.
According to the presentation, there is a backlog of 28 465 DNA samples in gender-based violence cases and there is no shortage of rape kits at police stations.
SAWFB referred to a DA statement, released a few days before the presentation, that claimed the backlog of DNA cases was much bigger.
“I am reliably informed that the situation has worsened and that the backlog has now exploded to nearly 100 000 DNA case exhibits which have not been finalised,” said the party’s spokesman on police issues, Andrew Whitfield.
In January, Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed a contract worth almost R500 million had been awarded to Acino Forensics, a company that specialises in DNA evidence collection and crime-scene kits.
SAWFB spokesman Bronwyn Litkie said several police stations they had called “did not know what a rape kit was”.
Ms Litkie said SAPS had a responsibility to check stations were adequately stocked with the rape kits.
“As each station is unique, and some stations receive far more cases than others, it is also the stations’ job to anticipate having enough at all times. This is their job.”
Ms Litkie said the rape kits played a crucial role in collecting evidence that could be the difference between a rapist going to jail or going free.
“Time is really of the essence here, and we see so many cases being thrown out because of insufficient evidence,” she said.
It took great courage for
someone who had endured the trauma of rape to press charges, she said.
“These women and girls then go to report these crimes and are turned away because the people who are there to serve and protect turn them away. It is an insult to our human rights as well an insult to women’s dignity.”
Woodstock police’s acting station commander Lieutenant Colonel Alroy van der Berg denied the station had no kits. The station had the kits, he said, and it worked closely with the Cape Town Central Police’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences(FCS) unit.
“Whenever we receive a rape victim, we will take her to the victim-friendly room where she can be isolated.”
The victim was taken to Groote Schuur, the nearest hospital, where a medical professional used the rape kit, he said.
The kits have evidence-collection bags for hair, clothing and trace evidence as well as oral and genital swabs.
The Cape Town Central Police Station’s FCS unit took over for rape cases reported to Woodstock that involved minors, he said.
Claremont police station commander, Colonel Maree Louw and Pinelands station commander Lieutenant Colonel Anton van der Berg said both their FCS units had rape kits.
“The rape kits are normally sealed and we do not open it and it’s taken by the detective to the medical facility where they open it,” Colonel Louw said.
Rondebosch police spokesman Warrant Officer Lyndon Sisam said the station had rape kits but no FCS unit.
“The standard protocol is for a FCS unit member from Claremont police station to come to the station with a rape kit and they take the complainant to Victoria Hospital which serves our station.”
Ms Litkie said it was important for the police to be properly equipped so they could help victims in a dignified way.
“In a perfect world, given the statistics of gender-based violence in South Africa, each station should be equipped with their own FCS unit, that is manned 24/7, as well as have trauma counsellors, social workers, and legal professionals.”