Helping victims face the trauma of a rape trial

Published Oct 18, 2018


Cape Town - The rape and human trafficking trial of charismatic Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso has put the victims of sexual violence back in the spotlight. Cheryl Zondi testified for three days about the trauma and suffering she endured, allegedly at the hands of Omotoso. 

The cross-examination by Omotoso's defence attorney has been widely criticised but is exactly the type of grilling that rape victims endure in courtrooms if their cases do make it to trial.

Rape Crisis explains how a rape survivor can prepare for trial and how friends and family can help support them during this ordeal:

Our support is designed to assist rape survivors and other witnesses in navigating the difficult process of the rape trial. The court support service is part of what makes up the requirements for a sexual offences court. 

Court supporters show rape survivors into the empty courtroom before the start of the court proceedings and explain to them the layout of the court, who sits where and what their roles are: the magistrate, the prosecutor, the court orderly, the defence attorney, the accused rapist and so on. This helps bring a degree of certainty to an otherwise alienating process. 

Most survivors are already reliving all of the traumatic thoughts and feelings that they experienced during the rape, have probably been awake all night thinking about the trial, might have risen early and travelled far and many of them do not have English as their first language and so they will be sleep deprived, disorientated and anxious. 

Our court supporters are primed to sense this in each person they greet and to walk them through the steps that will calm them, focus them and make them feel more able to cope with the situation than they would have been had there been no court supporter there. 

Having friends and family members with them and waiting with them in the waiting room is helpful and also having the option of getting something to eat is helpful as there are often long delays.


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