Since 2008, the Western Cape Working Group on Sexual Offences* has been monitoring the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act. The project used its research findings to create practical tools to improve outcomes for rape survivors. One such tool is the My Safe Card Z-CARD®.
The research showed evidence of the significant challenges faced by rape survivors when negotiating the criminal justice process, and in managing their physical health and psychosocial well being. One of the most important findings is the critical lack of information for victims of sexual offences including:
Sexual Offence survivors are not well informed about criminal justice procedures and do not know what steps to follow, both in terms of health and criminal justice, after a sexual offence has occurred.
Survivors often are not given or – given the trauma that they have experienced – do not remember critical information, such as the name of their investigating officer, their case number, or the names of the medical practitioners that they have seen.
Survivors are not always informed of when they should return to court, of postponements in their case, and of case outcomes.
Survivors are not informed of the outcome of bail hearings, and are therefore often re-traumatised when they see the perpetrator out on the street again.
Survivors are not given the correct information about how to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent the transmission of HIV. There are also significant barriers to completing the PEP regimen that could be ameliorated by providing information on the drug regime, its side-effects, the correct timing of taking follow-up doses, and ongoing outreach care. Many survivors also forget to attend follow-up appointments for PEP and therefore fail to complete the treatment.
The Western Cape Working Group on Sexual Offences contracted PocketMedia® Solutions to print the ‘My Safe Card’, which aims to fill the gaps by providing information that can help sexual offence survivors to manage and record information about their health and criminal justice processes.
“The Safe Card will empower rape survivors with the kind of information that will enable them to make informed choices and assist them to play the role expected of them in the State’s efforts to achieve convictions for rapists,” says Kathleen Dey, the director of Rape Crisis.
Prof. Lillian Artz of the Gender, Health & Justice Research Unit (UCT) adds, “The Safe Card represents what can be achieved when research evidence, collaborative partnerships and a concerted focus on the challenges faced by victims of sexual offences come together. We hope that the Safe Card will go some way towards helping victims of sexual offences navigate the sometimes daunting health and criminal justice systems after reporting rape.”
The card was funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and is being distributed to survivors through the partner organisations who see clients after sexual offences.
“We selected a Z-CARD® as we wanted a format that a survivor could keep close at hand and that was small enough to slip into a pocket, bra or wallet, where others can’t find it so that survivors can avoid being “exposed” as a victim of a sexual offence. We had all seen numerous documents printed in the Z-CARD® format, which made it an obvious choice,” adds Lillian.
“Being raped is an unexpected event in one’s life. The Safe Card might answer some of the questions you might have about the way forward, the way to justice, and the way to healing,” says Ada Buys, Unit Manager, PATCH Helderberg/Child Abuse Centre.
* Note: The Western Cape Working Group consists of the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit at UCT, the PATCH/ Helderberg Child Abuse Centre, Simelela, the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN