Picture: luctheo/Pixabay
A rape case that has been dragging on for seven years has shone the light on the difficulties of victims with intellectual disabilities to get justice.

In 2012, a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was raped, allegedly by a family friend. Since then, the case has been dragging on because the now 14-year-old has a speech impediment.

The accused, Elvin Davids, allegedly raped the 7-year-old girl in Upington in the Northern Cape in August 2012. Davids was the male friend of a family member of the girl.

A social worker Inge Reichert, who was previously involved with the Association for Persons with Disabilities (APD), was assigned to the case to investigate the fitness of the child’s mother’s parental duties.

“This was motivated by the mother’s alcohol abuse which prevented her from properly caring for her three children. The girl, who cannot be named as she is a minor and in foster care, was placed in safety care for six months.

“She shared the details about the rape with her foster parent who alerted me to the abuse,” said Reichert.

The girl’s biological mother opened a case in Upington in August 2012, but limited help was offered to the girl.

“No initial action was taken because the unfair and discriminatory assumption was made that the victim would not be a reliable or credible witness due to her severe cerebral palsy, and speech impediment,” said Reichert.

Northern Cape National Prosecuting Authority regional communication manager Phaladi Shuping said the case dragged on because it took time before the girl could make a statement, due to the severity of her disability.

“Even after the matter was reported to the police, it could not be brought before the court because the complainant first stated that the accused used a finger and later said penis,” said Shuping.

The National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) intervened in the case in 2013 when the NCPD’s national director Therina Wentzel- Du Toit got attorneys involved on a pro bono basis.

The NCPD then approached the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) who assessed the girl in January 2017, and it was found that she could communicate using a tablet that was specially programmed in Afrikaans.

Shuping confirmed that the State used the equipment to assist the girl to communicate in court.

0“But the prosecutor had to first make an application to the court for this equipment to be used, because it has never been used in South African courts before. Also the complainant had to have training in Pretoria to enable her to use the equipment,” he said.

The court proceedings finally commenced in March where Professor Kerstin Tönsing, an associate professor and programme manager at the CAAC, testified on the role of alternative or augmentative communication. The girl’s speech therapist also testified on the use of the aid.

Reichert said the accused was arrested in Bloemfontein, but the case was again delayed as the accused was hospitalised for tuberculosis (TB).

The case was postponed to February 17, 2020 after the accused did not arrive at court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

@Chulu_M