A Brick Wall: Recreating The Path Rape Survivors Must Tread Through The Criminal Justice System

The journey outlined by the exhibition “A Brick Wall:  Rape And The Criminal Justice System” begins with Gerhard Marx’s video “And There in the Dust”, a powerful and graphic retelling of what set you on this path in the first place. Imagine, if you will, that you are one of nine hundred women and girls.

Only 1 in 9 women reports being raped to the police. Of the hundred of who do, each room represents a step in your journey through the criminal justice system.

Room 1: The police station

picture of police station

This room includes footage of actual encounters in police stations, shot with hidden cameras





Only half, or 50%, of you will progress past the police station. This is because no arrest will have been made in your matter.


Room 2: The medico-legal examination

photo of a medical examination room

There will no visit to this room for those of you who report 72 hours or more after the rape took place



For those of you who are examined, two-thirds (67%) will have a crime kit completed – but only half of you (51%) will have your crime kits sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis.
Finally, only two out of your group of one hundred (2%) will actually have your crime kit analysed and a report made available to the court.


Room 3: The Court

room with red tape positioned as an obstacle to walking

You'll be caught in a maze of red tape

If you had reported a rape in Gauteng, only one in six (17%) of your group will actually make it into room.

Others of you will have had cases withdrawn due to statements not having been taken, analysis of the DNA evidence not having been completed, insufficient evidence having been obtained, your docket being lost and witnesses not being available. You might also have given up at this point and withdrawn your matter.

Only four of you (4%), or one in twenty-five, will leave this room with your case having resulted in a conviction for rape (although a further two of you (2%) will see your attacker convicted of another lesser crime, such as statutory rape or assault).

Read actual extracts from rape trials in this room. These will give you some sense of how the courts treat your experience.

photos of women's faces

Think about the rights that have been trampled upon in the course of this journey

But we do not. Sexual violence lays waste to what it means to be human.

It strips victims of a sense of worth and value and corrodes the self, as well as relationships with others.

It blunts aspirations, drains pleasure and meaning from life and creates a diminished shadow existence.


Room 4: Making South Africa safer for women

The photographs in this room were taken by women from across greater Johannesburg who range in age from 14 – 67. The photographs the women took can be seen on the Seeing Through a Safety Lens page

Each woman attended a photography workshop and then went out into her neighbourhood to capture what made her feel safe or at risk.

This sample of their work begins to highlight what needs to be done to make South Africa a safer place that lives up to the rights in the Constitution:

“The rights to dignity, to privacy and the integrity of every person are basic to the ethos of the Constitution and to any defensible civilisation.

Women in this country are entitled to the protection of these rights. They have a legitimate claim to walk peacefully on the streets, to enjoy their shopping and their entertainment, to go and come from work, and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of their homes without the fear, the apprehension and the insecurity which constantly diminishes the quality and enjoyment of their lives.” (S v Chapman 1997 (2) SACR 3 (SCA)

The exhibition also marks the launch of the Shukumisa Campaign which aims to shake up the way sexual offences are dealt with in South Africa.

The Campaign offers everyone the opportunity to contribute to improving the treatment of rape survivors by the criminal justice system.
*All statistics taken from the 2008 study Tracking Justice: The attrition of rape cases through the criminal justice system in Gauteng by L. Vetten, R. Jewkes, R. Fuller, N. Christofides, L. Loots L and O. Dunseith of the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC), South African Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).

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  • About Tshwaranang

    Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre is a multi-disciplinary centre that promotes the rights of women to live free of violence and have access to adequate and appropriate services. This is done through the provision of free legal services and litigation, public education, research and advocacy.
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    Braamfontein 2017
    South Africa

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