Perceptions of the conviction rate of reported adult female rape in Verulam, Durban.
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As rape is ranked as one of the most prevalent crimes in South Africa, its causes and consequences have become the subject of a large body of research. However, statistics and research on what happens after a rape report are rare. An estimated 7 percent of sexual offence cases that were reported to the police in 2012/13 resulted in a conviction, suggesting that there are major problems in the system that are restricting victims from obtaining justice. With a paucity of research having been done on the process of a rape report to the conviction stage, it seems relevant that research on the outcome of rape reports deserves attention. Therefore, regardless of the relatively small scale of this research, it was at attempt to fill this void. Based on a qualitative research methodology, the study focused on establishing which factors hinder the achievement of a high conviction rate of rape perpetrators in Verulam, Durban. The research focused on reported adult female rape in a four-year period from 2009 to 2013. Fifteen criminal justice personnel participated in this study by answering a semi-structured, open-ended questionnaire. A 5 percent conviction rate within the study period was identified, illustrating that rape victims are the most marginalised victims in society. Content data analysis indicated that the requirements for a conviction largely consist of extra-legal factors such as corroborative evidence, having qualified personnel, consistency, and court attendance. What is not surprising is that 'rape myths' and stereotyped notions are very active in the system; for example, if a woman sustains physical injuries or reported the violation soon after it occurred, she is deemed to be a ‘genuine’ rape victim. The fact that accused persons abscond from court proceedings whilst on bail was one of the obstacles highlighted by the respondents. Avoiding this obstacle can be achieved through an assessment of the South African legal system. Another major obstacle identified was the issue of the lack of expertise within the criminal justice system (CJS). However, there is potential to improve the conviction rate and a promising suggestion is specialisation in rape cases, specifically in terms of rape investigation, prosecution, and magistrates adjudicating the matter. For a positive change in the conviction rates and ensuring that victims attain justice, the actual implementation of the recommendations put forward in this study is necessary. However, further research is crucial, particularly research that can offer explanations for victims failing to attend court proceedings and for withdrawing their cases.