30/08/2017 16:30 SAST | Updated 30/08/2017 16:30 SAST

Six Reasons Why SA Rape Stats Are A Mess

There is gross under-reporting of rape, abuse and gender-based violence.

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1. The South African Police Service (SAPS) lumps together a range of crimes under the category "sexual offences", including 70 sub-categories ranging from rape to soliciting for sex and pornography. "This means that we can't tell if an offence is for sex work or child abuse," says Kath Dey, director of Rape Crisis, "so we don't know how and where to direct resources most effectively".

2. According to the latest official police stats, 116 people are raped every day. But there is gross under-reporting of rape, abuse and gender-based violence. The Medical Research Council has used a 1 in 13 ratio of women who report their rape or sexual assault to police. Dey says only half of the about 6000 people who use their Western Cape services annually have reported their rape or sexual assault to police.

3. There has been a decline in reported rape and sexual assault figures in the last few years – but this is not a positive sign. "Rather, it's telling us that fewer people feel they can trust the police. They don't trust that they will be treated with dignity and sensitivity or that their information will be taken down accurately and that they have a chance at proper investigation or justice," says Gareth Newham, from the Institute for Security Studies.

4. About 12 percent of "sexual offences" recorded by the police are for "sexual assault" but this category is so vague that it doesn't even capture specifics such as whether the victims were men, women or children.

5. Because of a lack of data, it's impossible to identify "hot spots", trends or patterns accurately and to make sure these places are properly policed.

6. Ultimately, tackling South Africa's rape crisis needs to comes down to a shift in policy that encourages and supports people to report rape. It has to be about political prioritisation, not distraction in parading distorted numbers. – Health-e News.

* This story is part of Izwi lami ('My Voice'), a sexual violence awareness campaign started by Health-e News. The campaign allows survivors to share their stories of surviving sexual violence through SMSing 'endrape' to 38006. This will also connect them with counselling services in their province and direct them to a campaign petition calling for packages of care to be provided for survivors in all health facilities across the country: . The SMS service is free and anonymous. -- Health-e