RAPE SURVIVORS: 5 WAYS TO STRENGTHEN EVIDENCE IN COURT TO SECURE CONVICTION OF RAPISTS.
It is no longer news that there has been an upsurge of Rape and Sexual Violence cases in Nigeria especially with the recent outburst of survivors coming out to share their stories; this no doubt, was prompted by the campaigns to ‘End rape’, which went viral on social media platforms following the rape and murder of a 22- year old lady in church premises where she had gone to read on the 1st of June, 2020.
Although, many argue that rape incidents have always been an epidemic living with us for a long time which only recently caught the attention of mainstream media as well as social media. Either way, it is important to note that sexual violence and rape has become a pandemic within a global pandemic, which requires effective strategies to ensure an increase in the rate of convictions of full-blown rapists and deter imminent or intending rapists from this heinous crime.
Recently, a reasonable number of key stakeholders suggested strategies that could reduce the number of rape cases, such as:
- Stiffer punishment for convicted rapists, like a death sentence or castration;
- Passing new laws or improving existing laws on rape and sexual violence;
- Proper training of the boy-child to understand consent and shun rape;
- Proper training of the girl child to dress decently, exhibit better moral standards, and learn to defend themselves from rapist; among others.
Although, some of these primary and secondary preventive strategies may be very effective, others seem unnecessary and quite insensitive to survivors. While looking at creating new laws or even amending the existing laws that provide for rape and sexual violence, like the Violence against persons Act, Child’s Rights Act, Criminal Code, etc. It is very important to maximize these existing laws to secure more rape convictions.
How many of these rape cases get reported in the first place? How many of these reported cases get to court? It is evident that the security agencies need to be trained to respond better to complaints of rape and sexual violence, but many times the family of survivors enables the rape culture by begging to settle the matter within the family or the communities. True, rape is a criminal matter between the defendant and the state government but if the complainant does not cooperate with an investigation, the matter can be frustrated or sabotaged out of court, despite the government’s effort to take up the case.
To get the most out of our existing laws, the following are steps to take to ensure a higher chance of Rapists’ conviction in Court, in the event of rape:
- Confide in someone (support system); this person can be your family or friend. Anyone who can stand by you to provide moral support for you, who trust you and you trust in return. It is important to say that the justice process in Nigeria can be tedious and having your support system stand by you the whole time would be comforting.
- Take pictures of yourself, as graphic as it could be. Keep any torn cloth or underwear caused by the incident. If possible, do not take a shower; just wear new cloth.
- Make a report to the Nigerian Police or the Nigerian Security Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC). Tell them you would like to report a case of rape and have your statement written down. It is advisable that you don’t narrate your ordeal at the counter because most of the time, officers at the counter are not trained to respond to this type of complaint. They would give you a statement that you would take to a government-owned hospital, where a medical report and PEP would be administered to you.
- Ensure you visit the hospital, as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after the incident happened. This is because evidence of this nature is time-bound and can be lost with time. This process is to establish penetration and a lack of consent.
- Contact a non-governmental organization that can support you legally and also provides psycho-social support. This is important to ensure the case is not swept under the carpet. Citizens’ gavel provides pro bono legal support all through the case and they can also provide psycho-social support through partner organizations.
With the above in place, the case would most likely get to court and also increase the chances of the rapist conviction.
Note: This article is only for enlightenment and awareness.
Jennifer Way is a Gender Rights Associate at Citizens’ Gavel Foundation for Social Justice, Oyo State, Nigeria. She can be reached at Jennifer@gavel.ng.