The guide is a comprehensive booklet provided to court supporters who assist survivors going through the process of a rape trial.
The Court Support Project was put in place by the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust in 2007 with the aim of supporting rape survivors so that they take their trials to completion.
Rape survivors often have no prior experience of the court system, are not sure of the processes that will be followed, of who the different role players in court are and, most importantly, what is expected of them when they are called upon to testify.
The court supporter shares all of this information not only with the rape survivor but also any family members that are there to support her or to testify as witnesses in the case.
The booklet forms part of a larger project that includes the training of community based volunteers as court supporters who are then based on site at regional courts. Rape Crisis offers this service in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority and the Department of Social Development and as an adjunct to their three counselling services in Khayelitsha, Observatory and Athlone. Through the Road to Justice Project Rape Crisis also recruits and trains counsellors based at two Thuthuzela Care Centres in Cape Town seeing in excess of 5 000 rape survivors per year through all of these services combined. In addition Rape Crisis trains volunteers based at police stations around the province in how to support rape survivors coming to report rapes at their Community Service Centres.
The overall goal to increase the conviction rate by empowering and supporting survivors to complete their trials will lead to increased reporting rates for rape and decrease the rape rate over time as it challenges the impunity of rapists. Reporting figures, attrition rates and convictions will all be important measures of impact for this project as will the continued monitoring of what rape survivors have to say about the system and their lived experience of travelling along its complex paths. Rape Crisis would like to thank the Foundation for Human Rights for assisting with the costs of this publication.
Rape Crisis has a vision of a South Africa where the criminal justice system supports and empowers rape survivors in all its interventions. Their mission is to provide a bridge between survivors and the system so that more survivors report rape, survivors experience reduced secondary trauma within the system, the conviction rate improves, this acts as a deterrent to rapists and rape incidents decrease. They plan to achieve this through coordinated action between our three main programmes: (1) counselling, crisis containment and court support directly to survivors, (2) training and awareness programmes to civil society organisations, government partners and community groups and (3) advocating for law reform through partnerships in the sector.