The survivor is the most powerful resource the prosecutor has in proving the rapist’s guilt. She drives the process through her courage in coming forward and pursuing the case. It is because of her evidence, as the chief witness in the case, that the State may find the accused guilty and punish him.
At Rape Crisis, the experience of the rape survivor within the criminal justice system has always been central to our work. We call this aspect of our work the Road to Justice. Survivors often come into the trial process not knowing what is expected of them during the trial, not knowing who the different role players in the court are, and not knowing much about how the criminal justice system works. The survivor may also be traumatised by having to remember and so relive some of the experiences that she had during the rape. This often makes the trial a confusing and traumatic experience for her, which can prevent her from fulfilling her very important role in the trial.
Court support and pre-trial consultation are a part of a holistic system of services that Rape Crisis offers in order to support a survivor on the road to justice.
What is court support?
Our court supporters are based at five courts. They show survivors around the court room and explain complex processes and who the role players in the court room are. Court supporters make sure that survivors understand the role they are expected to play, and they offer survivors emotional support on the day. The services of a court supporter empower the survivor to play her vital role. It can also make the criminal justice process a less traumatic experience for her.
Rape Crisis court supporters are trained by the organisation in a rigorous and inspiring process that lasts several months. Our experienced staff lead a team of court supporters and offer them ongoing support, teaching, guidance and supervision.
Survivors who use our court support services are often referred to our counselling services so that they can get further emotional support on their road to recovery.
What is pre-trial consultation?
As part of our counselling service, we also include three sessions of pre-trial consultation to survivors who are attending counselling at Rape Crisis offices and who are taking cases to trial. This helps them to prepare emotionally for this extremely difficult ordeal. Pre-trial consultation takes place over several sessions in the weeks before the trial. It includes briefing and a follow-up with the counsellor after the survivor has had a consultation with the prosecutor involved in her case.
The purpose of pre-trial consultation is to give the rape survivor as much information as possible about the trial process. This is so that she clearly understands what to expect when she goes to court, the role that she has to play and how she can prepare herself for the trial. The pre-trial consultation tells the survivor about her rights and responsibilities regarding the trial. It also gives her a chance to raise any questions or concerns that she has about the trial.
All our court support and counselling services are offered free of charge.
Observatory: +27 (0)21 447 1467
Counselling line: +27 (0)21 447 9762
Athlone: +27 (0)21 684 1180
Counselling line: +27 (0)21 633 9229
Khayelitsha: +27 (0)21 361 9228
Counselling line: +27 (0)21 361 9085