South Africa, sexual violence, sexual violence reporting, rape, rape reporting, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, policing, police capacity, chieftaincy, physical space, rural sexual violence, townships, HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS rape reporting


Why is sexual violence more pervasive in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa than in the Northern Cape Province? Most research surrounding sexual violence in South Africa attempts to answer why rape happens, but doesn’t attempt to understand why individuals choose to report sexual violence crimes to police. This paper looks at three variables—chieftaincy and regional identity, physical space, and medical clinics—to explain why people do or do not turn towards the police to report rape. The tradition of chieftaincy in the Eastern Cape was constitutionalized with the rise of the African National Congress. Customary law is still used in this region, but is sexist, so women choose to report to the police. The Northern Cape doesn’t have a tradition of chieftaincy, but developed a Black Consciousness Movement during Apartheid that became obsolete when democracy was installed. Coloureds in the Northern Cape have become disillusioned with the ANC, and don’t trust the police because they are an extension of the government. In the Eastern Cape, informal townships are pervasive. Police have resorted to arbitrary violence in attempts to regulate and manage crime. In the Northern Cape there are formal settlements, which are easier to manage. However, the legacy of racist policing still persists, and the Northern Cape also experiences police brutality. This influences how individuals in both provinces perceive police, increasing mistrust of the police and the creation of community alternatives. Medical facilities in the Northern and Eastern Capes don’t have the resources to address sexual violence victims. Practitioners in the Eastern Cape do not perceive rape to be a serious crime, which has significant implications for how rapes are dealt with. Sexual violence is not unique to South Africa. The ways in which police and other institutions such as medical facilities intersect are important to understand, and should work together to stop sexual violence. Further, the brutal ways communities in South Africa are regulated and managed by police suggests a failure in Western policing that should be questioned, and further challenged.


University of Puget Sound

Faculty Advisor

Bill Haltom

Publication Date

Spring 3-5-2016






Politics & Government


Comparative Politics

Subject Area

Civic and Community Engagement | Comparative Politics | Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence | Gender and Sexuality | Medicine and Health | Place and Environment | Political Science | Race and Ethnicity | Urban Studies