The iThemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre was established in March 2005 at the Benoni Central Methodist Church by Philip Stoneman, who was working as a chaplain in the emergency services chaplaincy in Benoni, after going out to scenes of violence and sexual assault, and noting problems faced by trauma survivors. Some of the problems identified were:
- No crisis intervention and no short, medium and long term trauma counselling available for survivors of violent crime, sexual violence and domestic violence.
- No immediate medical, forensic or emotional assistance provided to survivors of sexual violence
- No follow ups at a central venue for survivors of sexual violence.
- Compassionate fatigue and negative resilience of frontline workers, social workers and emergency services personnel.
- Some survivors of sexual violence waiting up 12 hours for medical, forensic and interventive trauma support.
- Investigators of sexual offences not able to investigate offences immediately as time was being used to obtain medical and forensic assistance for survivors of sexual offences.
- No central point available to provide all necessary requirements’ for support of survivor, i.e.: Survivor taken to three separate venues for forensic and medical examination, blood tests and trauma counseling.
- Conditions in emergency trauma units were not conducive to prioritization of sexual assault cases, resulting in forensic documentation and evidence being compromised leading to a lower conviction rate.
- No central database of statistics for greater Benoni region, which did not allow for identification of trends to inform service delivery.
- In addition to the above mentioned problems, the Benoni Regional Court was advised in 2004 that the services of the District Surgeons for sexual offences would no longer be available and provincial hospitals would be utilized for sexual assault examinations.
In response to this crisis and the needs noted above, the iThemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre was established in 2005. At its inception, the centre was originally intended to service 10 (ten) cases a month. In the first month the centre was overwhelmed with 52 rape cases, and in the first year of operation the centre assisted with 411 rape cases, more than 1 case a day. The judiciary has complimented the centre on the high standard of forensic evidence provided to the courts.
*iThemba no longer provides a medico-legal function to the community due to funding constraints, however with new corporate governance systems and structures that have been recently implemented, we are confident we will be able to provide such services in 2016