STATISTICS

For more statistics see: SA Police Service
Crime Statistics


Letter to President Mbeki about his questioning of the stats organisations use

There has been a great deal of furore around the rape statistics which are used to indicate the scale of the crisis in South Africa. There are a number of "versions" of the statistics being used, and these are sometimes being used rather loosely - I heard part of a debate in parliament last week, for instance, in which one parliamentarian claimed that there had been 1,6 million REPORTED rapes in 1998 (there were 49 280).

For 1998 only
  Actual rapes Per day Per hour Per minute
If 1 in 20 report 985600 2700 113 1.9
If 1 in 30 report 1478400 4050 169 2.8
If 1 in 35 report 1724800 4725 197 3.3

 

1996

1997

1998

Reported

50481

52160

49280

Referred to court

22889

24881

22189

Withdrawn

9148

10291

10455

Untraced

12372

13538

15030

Unfounded

1080

1042

861

Guilty

4309

4223

4394

Not guilty

3787

4277

4323

Withdrawn in court

8818

9857

10118

Settled

1228

1368

995

While Rape Crisis Cape Town agrees that we need to use statistics carefully and also that we need to be especially cautious with extrapolations, we believe that the critical issue is the undeniably high rate of rape in South Africa, not whether the actual figure is 20 or 30 times higher than the reported figure. In this regard, we would like to make a number of points.

Firstly, the narrow definition rape in South African law excludes the following from the reported statistics:

  • Rape of men and male children;
  • Oral rape;
  • Rape with objects.

In 1998, there were 49 280 reported rapes and 4 851 reported sexual assaults; when the 179 incest reports are added to these figures, we arrive at a total of 54 310. Many of these would more appropriately be reported as rapes if our definition of rape was less limited. Thus, the first point is that reported rape will likely be higher once the definition is broadened - something which is currently being looked at by the South African Law Commission.

According to Rape Crisis Cape Town statistics for the last three years, around 50% of our clients had reported the rape to the police. Of note here is that, precisely because they have come to speak with our counsellors, our clients are likelier to have reported the rape than not. So the second point to be made is that, from our own experience, we are confident that the actual rape figures are AT LEAST twice as high as the reported figures.

Zapiro - August 04, 1999
Copyright © Jonathan Shapiro

Marital rape is a seriously under-reported element of the rape statistics in South Africa. According to Vogelman and Eagle (1991), (in Social Justice, vol. 18, nos. 1 - 2, 199: Overcoming Endemic Violence Against Women), violence is present in 50% to 60% of marital relationships. This is likely to frequently involve rape as one of the components of violence within marriage. Further, within violent intimate relationship, rape is likely to recur.

Thus, the third point to be made is that rape within relationships is very high, and that women in violent intimate relationships are likely to be subjected to rape on an ongoing basis and over many years, and that most of these rapes are not reported.

The information revealed by a study conducted by Institute of Security Studies (ISS Monograph series No. 41, September 1999: Violence Against Women in Metropolitan South Africa), found that in only 29% of cases did women tell ANYONE (and not usually the police) of their experiences of violence, and as many as 41% had never told anyone at all. We are confident that, if this is the situation within metropolitan areas, the rate of reporting is likely to be even lower in rural areas.

A study by Lillian Artz (Institute of Criminology, UCT) on access to justice among rural women in the Southern Cape revealed that, among many other reasons that rural women do not report sexual violence, the lack of permanent police stations is a major factor. Our fourth point, therefore, is that, while rape is under-reported in metropolitan areas, this is exacerbated by even greater under-reporting in rural areas.

A study by CIETafrica in 1998 found that one in every three Johannesburg schoolgirls has experienced sexual violence at school and, of these, only 36% said they reported the episode to someone (again not necessarily the police).

The fifth point to be made is that , among young people who just starting their sexually active lives, there is both a high incidence of sexual violence AND a high level of under-reporting.

Finally, the figure of one rape every 26 seconds is based on a reporting rate of around 1 in 20, and not the 1 in 36 claimed by the South African Police Services in 1997. At Rape Crisis Cape Town we have preferred to take a more conservative view on the issue, and generally use the 1 in 20 extrapolation. (If there were 54 310 REPORTED rapes, indecent assaults and incest cases in 1998, and only 1 in 20 is reported, then the actual figure is 1 086 200, which is 2 976 rapes per day, or more than two a minute

We are not saying that the figure of 1 in 36 is either right or wrong. We are saying:



 

1994

1995

1996

1997

Reported to court

42429

47506

50481

52160

Referred

20961

21574

21863

 

Prosecutions

8553

8207

7544

 

As % of reported

20.16

17.28

14.94

 

Guilty

4311

3893

3697

 

Guilty as % of reported

10.16

8.19

7.32

 

Conviction rate

50.40

47.44

49.01

 

 



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