#Omotoso Trial: Justice system appalling for sexual violence victims

I got cross last week – twice – on the same day. Then I got really cross this week.

The first was the story of William Segodisho’s abuser finally apologising to him. The retired priest broke his silence decades after preying and serially abusing him while he was a street kid.

What made me just as angry was the claim by certain media outlets was that they’d just broken the story, when in fact it was broken by colleague Shain Germaner months ago after Segodisho approached him following the sterling work Shain had done reporting other cases of child abuse. But enough about the professionalism of some journalists – that’s a column in and of itself sadly.

No one believed Segodisho at the time. It’s the same fight that Mario D’Offizi fought when he broke his silence about the criminal deviance of Bishop Reginald Orsmond, the revered founder of Boys Town. But this isn’t just about perverted priests – it’s exactly what the victims of tennis Frankenstein Bob Hewitt had to endure – or the victims of paedophile philanthropist Sydney Frankel.

It’s no different for the boys at Parktown – not just now with their convicted coach Collan Rex, but also the illegal hostel initiations that went on before

Trying to get justice for the sins that were perpetrated on them is a harrowing experience for any victim – especially when they’re young, already feeling physically defiled and having to go up against a system whose default is to protect the abusers, almost at any cost.

In Hewitt’s case, some of the victims had to fight against their own parents. In the Parktown case, Pene Kimber who blew the whistle on her son’s hostel initiation was ostracised by the school community. Instead of actually looking within, the school community’s answer was to have stickers printed and placed on their car back windows or bumpers proclaiming Proudly Parktonian.

It’s a boast that must ring terribly hollow now.

But they’re not alone. We have this epidemic of sexual violence because we – as a community – don’t act when we should, we don’t believe the victims because it threatens the very structure of what we believe.

When there is someone brave enough to withstand the pressure, press charges and take the stand – they get eviscerated in court. This week, we saw just how appalling the system is. Rape accused pastor Timothy Omotso’s counsel Peter Daubermann went for complainant Cheryl Zondi like an attack dog.

Daubermann behaved like a pig. He was a bully – but that’s what he’s paid to do, that’s how the South African criminal justice system works. The rich pastor got a vicious advocate to revictimize her to disprove her claims because the onus is on the state has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Anything less than that – as Jacob Zuma will remind us – is enough to put the pastor straight back in the pulpit.

Let’s get outraged, but let’s do it properly. Let’s change the system for Cheryl Zondi, let’s start believing the victims.

Most of all, let’s start seeing real justice in real time, not decades later.

Originally published on 20 October 2018 in the Saturday Star