Correspondent, Our children, our future
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (VFU) plays a pivotal role in the fight against gender-based violence, most importantly violence perpetrated against children.
The VFU was established specifically to police violence against women and children, particularly sexual offences and domestic violence.
The department is staffed by trained personnel who are equipped to handle vulnerable witnesses.
VFU investigators are responsible for investigation, arrest of offenders, docket compilation and any necessary referrals.
The VFU officer is responsible for supporting the survivor throughout the process, from the time of reporting to trial.
Below are some of the VFU officers’ responsibilities.
It is the responsibility of the VFU officer to escort the victim for medical examination and to explain to the victim what to expect and the process that will follow.
The escorting officer is also responsible for ensuring maintenance of the chain of evidence.
The VFU officer should make sure that the survivor or witness is adequately prepared for their court appearance, to enable the survivor or witness to become familiar with the courtroom and procedures in which they are expected to participate.
The investigators are in charge of transporting the rape kits (specimen) to the Department of Forensic Science.
Below are guidelines to be followed by the police when handling cases of sexual abuse and violence:
Every report of sexual violence should be treated as a priority.
The police are expected to ensure that the survivor receives timely access to medical examination, treatment and access to PEP and emergency contraception within 72 hours of the incident.
It is important to know that:
A victim may report at any police station at any time and no victim should be turned away.
All sexual violence, abuse cases must be investigated by a Victim Friendly Unit Officer and the investigation must not be delayed for any reason.
The privacy of the victim should be respected at all times by all parties.
In cases involving child victims, witnesses or if the alleged offender has a disability or is a minor, specific measures should be taken to ensure that they are supported to actively participate in the justice process.
Where an alleged perpetrator lives in the same home or community as the victim, it is preferable for the victim to be supported to remain in their home.
However, the court may order the perpetrator to find alternative accommodation or bail may be denied.
Removal of a child to a place of safety should be considered at a last resort.
Where the perpetrator has been granted bail the investigating officer should ensure the safety of the survivor.
Where the alleged perpetrator is a child, special measures must be taken by the investigating officer in close liaison with a probation officer to ensure that the guiding principles are adhered to, including the best interests of the child concerned.
The child’s right to privacy, dignity, safety and the rights of accused persons must be respected.
The article was prepared by Justice for Children Trust (JCT). The article series seeks to educate and inform the populace on the Protocol on the Multi- Sectoral Management of Sexual Abuse and Violence in Zimbabwe, through popularising how survivors of sexual abuse and violence can use the protocol as they seek protection.