What we know - and what we don't: Single and multiple perpetrator rape in South Africa

  • Rachel Jewkes
  • Lisa Vetten
  • Ruxana Jina
  • Nicola Christofides
  • Romi Sigsworth
  • Lizle Loots
Keywords: rape, multiple perpetrators, gang rape, policing, Gauteng, victims, reporting,


This article offers an analysis of 1 886 rape dockets opened at 70 police stations in Gauteng Province in 2003. Multiple perpetrator rape (‘gang rape’) constituted 16% of all cases. Most of these incidents started when the victim was outdoors, either alone or accompanied, and occurred in the open or in a public space. In contrast, single perpetrator rape mostly occurs in a home. A key finding was that fewer than 40% of victims of either single or multiple perpetrator rape indicated that they had verbally or physically resisted the attacker. Yet in most cases perpetrators were not armed. Further, an analysis of J88 forms showed many victims had no injuries other than genital or anal injury. Injuries to other parts of the body were only found in 27% of single and 35% of multiple perpetrator rape victims. Although most victims reported to the police within 72 hours of the rape, the arrest rate was low, particularly for multiple perpetrator rapes (39%). The study showed that there are very important differences between single perpetrator and multiple perpetrator rape. It also points to a mismatch between perpetrators’ accounts and police case reports, suggesting differences in under-reporting between these two types of rapes. Improvement of DNA testing and rape case arrests of multiple perpetrator rapes are matters of  urgency, and reasons for differences in low arrest rates should be the next step in the examination of multiple rape cases.

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