Blind SA says sexually assaulted blind and partially sighted women are being turned away at police stations after being told they are unable to identify their attackers.
Secretary of the organisation, Irene Azwifaneli Mashele, said these women face secondary victimisation and abuse once they fall victim to sexual assault, by not only the police but those in their community too.
“They get asked questions like ‘how will you identify the perpetrator?’ Some would ask how do people like you get raped.
“The police stations don’t have resources to help blind people report the cases and police are not trained to help people with sight disabilities.
“In the end, their cases are not attended to or resolved,” said Mashele.
Mashele added that there has been no effort made by police or social services to try and address the matter, and that blind and partially sighted women should be given a fair chance.
“These women can recognise voices and scents so if they identify a suspect, the DNA should be tested against the suspect to see if they are culprits.
“The government should provide resources to help blind women in police stations and officials should treat us with respect,” said Mashele.
Officials were not trained to deal with such cases, she added, but all this could be changed with a “how can I help you?”
A petition was started by Blind SA to assist blind and partially sighted women speak up against secondary victimisation at police stations.
Blind SA member Livhuwani Marubini said the organisation has been conducting several workshops where women have come forward to share their experiences.
These women said that there was no respect given to victims when reporting a case of sexual assault.
“As a woman with a disability, you already have people judging you; now you have people judging you even further. They don’t expect people with a disability to be independent so you are asked questions like why were you alone?”
She said the women recalled how they were told they could not be assisted because they were unable to identify their alleged perpetrators.
“They are not giving women a fair chance by asking what alternative ways can this be done.”
Marubini said officials and those working at police stations did not serve differently abled, and that they needed to be trained and equipped to deal with such cases as well as to do so in a dignified manner.
“For any disability, the worst thing we face is judgement.”
A request for comment from police was made but had not been received before going to print.