With the popularity of TV programmes like CSI, the public are becoming more aware of the important part forensics can play in solving crimes and securing convictions. There is however a great lack of training for medical doctors when it comes to the forensic examination of abuse and rape victims. This has often resulted in low convictions in such cases.
A group of medical practitioners from hospitals in Cape Town, as well as forensic social workers based at the Cape Town Child Protection Units was part of a group who received specialised training in Welgemoed last week. This training included subjects like Child Abuse, Injuries, Crime Kit and Anal Abuse and the focus of the training was to ensure that doctors know how to deal with the medical examination of a rape or an abuse victim. Dr Tromp Els, one of only a few forensic experts in this field travelled from Lichtenburg to do the training. Dr Els has done medical examinations on more than 3000 rape victims and was keen to share his wealth of knowledge.
Doctor Els shared his fear of South Africa not having enough forensic doctors who could testify and train new generations of doctors. He also stressed the responsibility of doctors to report any suspicious injury and to ensure the welfare of the victim. Stressing the legal implications of not reporting these crimes were Adv Lizelle Africa (NPA) who did a training session on the new legislation, court procedures and defence tactics. Many doctors are terrified to testify in court because they are unsure of what is expected from them. This often results in doctors not wanting to report suspected abuse.
Like the police, the doctors working in the casualty departments, are exposed to severe trauma, especially with child rape and abuse cases. It is often expected from them to establish a relationship with a child, gain the trust of that child and do a extremely traumatic medical examination of the rape victim – all of this within ten minutes. It is therefore essential that they need to be aware of what they are looking for, how to identify sexual abuse wounds and ensure minimum trauma to the child.
All the attendees could not stop speaking about the value of the course and were keen to take the knowledge back to their own hospitals. The two day course was ended of with a certificate ceremony and was made possible by the kind donation of Rotary Claremont.
Matla A Bana, a NGO established by ex-hostage Monique Strydom, works to minimise the secondary abuse that child victims suffer when they report crime. This charity works very closely with the police and legal justice system and reaches thousands of abused children every year.