Janelle Laato shared her harrowing ordeal with News24.

PHOTO: Marvin Charles/News24

  • Gender-based violence advocacy groups say the police have failed women in the country.
  • A woman from Cape Town spoke about being a victim of domestic violencet by the hands of her former partner.
  • Police in the Western Cape say they have launched training to educate officers about the plight of victims of GBV.

A Cape Town woman who says she suffered domestic violence at the hands of her ex-partner believes the plight of women will never be solved as long as the justice system continues to let their abusers go free.

Janelle Laato said that after suffering in silence, she finally gathered the courage to report her partner to the police in 2019, but instead of justice, she got more hardship when her case disappeared and her case was dismissed.

Last December, Laato said her case was temporarily withdrawn, and in January she began demanding that it be taken to court, but to no avail.

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It was also at this time that she approached the Action Society, which took over her case.

In the weeks that followed, Action Society learned that her ID card was missing.

Laatoe said she was beaten, bruised and forced to endure the pain on her own.

She said too many women had been victimized by a justice system that still discriminated against them, and too many women bore the scars of abuse, while perpetrators got away unscathed.

She added:

I think I can speak for many women who have been let down by the system.

Laatoe said it was not easy to open a case against her partner as even the police were not very helpful.

“From the moment I entered the police station, my battle with the policewoman, who was taking my statement, had already begun.”

She said her statement was abbreviated and completely summarized, which was used to undermine her version of events.

“I feel like my injury was downplayed.”

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She adds that while her partner was arrested, she was unprepared for the secondary violence she would suffer from a “flawed criminal justice system.”

“I was not only misled by the police, but also by the entire court process. The DA should never have let them take my case out of court. Why was it temporarily withdrawn and not simply shelved when they wanted a further investigation to be carried out?”

Laattoe said she feared her abuser would walk free without consequences or remorse.

After her ex also hurt other women, she said:

If I was taken seriously, he would never have been able to hurt more women.

Action Society said on Tuesday that the case had finally been found.

Action Society public safety director Ian Cameron said they would be lodging a complaint with police watchdog IPID.

“We will not allow incompetence and corruption at the highest level to deprive us of our motivation to fight for the victims of GBV. We are meeting with our legal team to pursue IPID’s complaint against the senior members who ‘lost’ the cases,” he said.

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The country has been gripped by horrific stories of women murdered by their partners.

Weighing in on police ineffectiveness, lawyer Bernadine Bachar, director of the Saartje Baartman Center for Women and Children, said government agencies must be held accountable for not failing South African women.

“They need to take responsibility for their shortcomings and work with communities to ensure that women are not killed or raped.”

Bachar added that the police had betrayed the women of South Africa.

She said:

We need police officers trained to deal with GBV. We need the resources of police stations to adequately deal with GBV. More needs to be done at every level, starting with the immediate replacement of Bheki Chele.

The Helen Suzman Foundation also said in a statement on Women’s Day that the high level of gender-based violence in the country means that for too many women, “the rights to freedom and security of the person, bodily integrity and dignity exist only as aspirations.”

Asked for comment, Western Cape Police Commissioner Thembisile Patekile said he was ready to meet with victims who felt they had been failed by the police.

“We wish we knew who these women were because in our work we would like to provide assistance to victims of crime. We do not accept substandard service, but we must be aware of these issues. We are starting on all fronts to teach our members to be sensitive to survivors of GBV,” he said.

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