If you are a woman in Cape Town you must feel very vulnerable. The recent spate of rapes and rape homicides that have struck at the heart of several quite diverse communities shows that there is no place safer for women than any other. You could be running in the Tokai forest, or close to your university, or going to the toilet in the middle of the night and someone might rape you. These recent examples in the media have made women more afraid than ever.
Yet in each of these three cases a suspect has been apprehended and is now in jail. So we are all safe again, right? The bad guys are locked up and the community is protected.
But of course this is not the end of the road either for the rapists or for the community. The pathway through the criminal justice system in these cases can be a long and winding road, from the forensic examination and analysis, to the arrest, to the investigation, to the trial. Where once again the community will need to get involved. What about those that will have to testify in court against the accused? The women in the community that gave them up, the men that witnessed something of what took place and who must now ensure through their evidence that the accused are not only locked up in the short term but are found guilty and sentenced to an appropriately longer imprisonment. How vulnerable will these witnesses feel as they take the stand, perhaps brushing past the accused as they take their place, making eye contact, speaking up, accusing? How safe will they feel then? What about their families? What about the rape survivor who must speak about deeply traumatic events under the gaze of the very person that traumatised her?