Dear Police Officer, don't look away
This year the focus of Independent Media's annual #dontlookaway campaign during the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is #talk2yourboys. The goal is to focus on the male youth, educate and teach boys to become better men and in so doing, break the cycle of gender-based violence. Today we are talking to police officers.
Dear Police Officer...
- Do you lack the skills and knowledge of police processes when dealing with complaints of domestic violence, rape or sexual assault?
- Do you fail to show concern towards a female victim when domestic violence is reported and do you fail to treat it as a high priority?
- Do you expect rape victims to make their statement in the presence of the public in the charge office, instead of somewhere private like a Victim-Friends Room (VFR)?
- Do you assume the GBV victim can converse in your own language, and leave it up to them to make sense of the processes that will be followed? Do you suggest to victims of domestic violence that they should go home and try to work things out with their abusive partners?
- Do you make judgments on the way the victim was dressed, that she had been drinking alcohol when she was raped?
- Do you fail to ensure that any victim of domestic violence/GBV is able to report the details of the assault in a safe and secure environment without fearing victimisation - directly on the scene or subsequently?
- Do you fall short in giving the victim verbal information on the services available to her, both at the police station and local victim support organisations?
- Do you fail or lack the urgency to accurately record the assault and injuries as reported by a woman?
- When people come to report a woman or child missing, do you tell them to return after 48 hours have passed?
Our women and men in blue are there to serve, but far too often they fall terribly short when it comes to gender-based violence.
This is especially true in cases of domestic violence where police officers turn women away, telling them to go back home and “talk it through”, placing them at great risk of being further assaulted, or even killed.
At the extreme end of this abysmal gender prejudice is women being asked by police officers what they were wearing when they were raped, and whether they had been drinking – this at the very time that these women have endured unimaginable violence and violation.
This secondary victimisation has forced the police to tackle this, and other issues around GBV where citizens are not taken seriously, or treated in a way that makes them unwilling to turn to the law when their rights have been violated.
The SAPS is pushing its Men For Change structure and aims to train cops to treat GBV seriously, and those reporting violence against women with dignity and respect.
Police Minister Bheki Cele told police trainees recently: “Never turn a woman away, and don’t turn away anyone who reports abuse and advise them to go back home and negotiate, you are not social workers, your job is to investigate, make arrests and ensure victims are safe from the perpetrators.”
Organisations advocating proper treatment of those subjected to GBV have welcomed the initiative, but believe compelling words of motivation fall well short of the goal of ending violence against women. #dontlookaway
Take the police officer's pledge
I take great pride in being a policeman/policewoman, and I honour my pledge to serve and protect the public regardless of their station in life, their race, religion or gender.
I pledge that I will do my utmost to help create a safer society for women to live in by treating every incident perpetrated against a woman or child, every assault or rape with the highest priority.
More crucially, I pledge that obtaining the necessary evidence needed to secure the conviction of the perpetrator/s will be given the highest priority. I promise that if you have been the target of GBV or have been raped, I will treat you with dignity, I will ensure you are made as comfortable as possible, and that you will be allowed to make your statement in private, away from the public eye.
I further promise that you and your family will be off ered the best possible support and counselling available.
Furthermore, community policing is a cornerstone of my work as a police officer, and I pledge to work with our community to make sure that everything possible is being done to improve services to victims of GBV.
I pledge to ensure that myself and my fellow police officers #dontlookaway
* GET INVOLVED! Take one of our pledges and send your video via Whatsapp to 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.