Whether a victim or witness, when reporting an incident of sexual assault, the South African Police Services are trained and expected to treat assault victims with respect, empathy and professionalism.
The Role of the South African Police Service
All reports or allegations of sexual assault should be treated as offences until the opposite is proven, and any such offence information must be given immediate attention. The SAPS* will take such reports by telephone or in person at a station.
Reporting Sexual Assault in Person
- No matter whether the offence is reported in the same area as the police station or at an alternate station, the case must be dealt with by the station where the offence is being reported. A docket will be opened and the case transferred to the victim’s local station once all necessary steps have been completed.
- The victim should be asked if medical assistance is required, and if so this should be arranged as priority.
- The officer on duty should introduce him/herself and explain their role in the investigation. The victim should then be taken to a quiet area, away from the main desk before any basic details are requested.
- The officer on duty must remain with the victim until the investigating officer arrives – who will escort the victim to an accredited healthcare practitioner and then to a place where s/he feels safe.
- The investigating officer will take a statement on completion of the medical examination. A male officer may not be present during the physical examination of a female victim. Depending on circumstances either a nurse or a female officer may need to be present.
- The return of articles seized may be requested after the conclusion of the criminal case.
A child victim:
- When the victim of sexual assault is a minor, the child should be accompanied by an accountable adult such as a parent or guardian.
- The Child Protection Unit or specialised worker must be contacted.
- In this instance, the perpetrator must be arrested or the minor secured by taking him/her to a place of safety.
- If the initial report is made by an adult, the child must not be present so as not to be influenced in any way. The child should not be left alone while the report is being made.
- Permission for a medical examination must be garnered from a parent or guardian. If the aforementioned are alleged to be involved in the assault, permission will be requested from a headmaster, teacher or magistrate. If none of these are available a commissioned police official may grant permission for the medical examination.
Reporting Sexual Assault by Telephone
As a victim
- The caller must provide the address from where the call is being made – and where the assault happened.
- A patrol vehicle must be sent to the victim’s address immediately to secure the crime scene and assist the victim.
- It must also be ascertained as to whether the caller is in any immediate danger and if an ambulance is needed.
- It is important that the victim not change clothing or wash, as evidence could be lost.
As a witness
- The caller must provide the address of where the assault happened and where the victim can be found.
- Let the SAPS know if the victim is in immediate danger as a patrol vehicle must be sent to the crime scene.
- Ascertain whether medical assistance is needed (without touching anything) and relay the info to the SAPS – an ambulance will be sent if necessary.
- The witness must remain with the victim, while not touching anything or allowing the victim to wash.
Please note that this is a summarised version of the SAPS Support to Victims of Sexual Offences manifesto. For the full document please read the National Policy Guidelines for Victims of Sexual Offences.
Contact your local South African Police Service Station here.
*SAPS: South African Police Service