Police ombud reveals poor treatment of GBV victims in Western Cape

The Western Cape government wants to see an improvement in how victims of gender-based violence are treated at police stations. Stock photo.
The Western Cape government wants to see an improvement in how victims of gender-based violence are treated at police stations. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/meeruf

Imagine walking into a police station battered and bruised by a spouse or partner and having to narrate your ordeal in public without being afforded privacy.

According to a report compiled by the Western Cape police ombudsman, this has been the case for many victims of gender-based violence (GBV).

The report, was requested by the provincial department of community safety in April.

It found that:

  • 80% of victims were not interviewed in private;
  • 60% of complainants and victims were not afforded an opportunity to offer information during the investigation or trial ;
  • 80% of victims were not informed of their rights to protection from any threat of harassment or intimidation;
  • 60% of victims were not informed of available support services in their community; and
  • none of the victims were told how to apply for monetary compensation when they had suffered damages or financial loss.

Community safety MEC Albert Fritz said this was a huge cause for concern, especially when it came to protecting victims.

“We know victims of gender-based violence are not receiving the appropriate service and treatment at police stations. Police are keen to improve the service and that is why they have established family violence, child protection and sexual offences (FCS) units. The FCS has already done significant work, but more needs to be done, and the update from the ombudsman gives us a closer glimpse into exactly what that means,” Fritz said.

Fritz said the ombud's report also revealed that the protocols and standard operating procedures for police officers when dealing with such cases exist, but implementation is slow.

The report revealed that human and other resources to sustain the police victim empowerment programme, which ensured victims received all the services, was lacking. It recommended relationships needed to be established or existing ones strengthened with local NGOs that handle GBV cases.

Fritz welcomed the report: “I will engage the provincial police commissioner to see if there are practical ways in which we can overcome some of the challenges.”

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