This is from a Facebook post I put up earlier, and juxtaposes television with reality.
John Robbie had a caller on his radio show today, who was speaking about how her son and his girlfriend were mugged on the weekend. John went on to say that he hoped the muggers were caught and could be identified in an ID parade.
Something tripped inside me and I called in and told John that I wouldn’t wish an ID parade on my worst enemy. I went on to describe the reality of an ID parade in SA, for victims of crimes that are not sexual abuse (although apparently, if you’re only threatened with rape, and pushed about, that doesn’t qualify).
You will be made to walk BACKWARDS into a room, with the policeman’s hands on your shoulders, guiding your steps. This is to prevent the accused from alleging that the policeman in any way “guided” you towards a particular person. Think about it. You are walking BLIND into a room filled with people, some of whom may have been your assailants – the men who kicked you, punched you, placed guns in your mouth, assaulted and threatened your family.
If you haven’t yet lost bladder control (and believe me, I nearly did), you will find yourself in a room. At that point, the policeman steps away, and tells you to turn around. Before you do, you will feel them behind you. The smell of it hits you first – sweat, fear, adrenalin, unwashed bodies. You know that some of the people you are facing are plainclothes policemen, decoys, and some are criminals who have been pulled from awaiting trial cells. Many have not bathed in days. The smell is indescribable.
Next is the sound. You will hear the rush of blood in your ears, hear your heart beating, hear your breathing, ragged and uneven. You won’t hear anything else. It’s as if you’re in a vaccum, until the policeman says “please turn around”.
When you do, if you’re lucky, the first face you see won’t be that of one of your attackers. I wasn’t that lucky. The first face I saw was the man who took me into my bedroom and tried to throw me down on the bed and rape me, because I didn’t have enough gold to satisfy him.
They will be lined up against the wall. In my case, because we had four assailants, the line went down one side of the room, and along the wall on the far side. The light is bright, fluorescent, the windows are closed. The men will stand there, looking at you. Some will shuffle their feet and try to look down. They will be bare-headed, wearing beanies, caps. Some will grin at you, some look afraid. Some look defiant. Here and there is a blank look, as if the wearer of the face has already left this room. You wish you could, too.
No, there is no one-way glass between you. Not for you the role of protected voyeur, turning to a policeman and saying “Number four”. Our law requires a more interactive approach. You will be required to walk up to your assailant, if you can identify him, and place your hand on his left shoulder, and say “this man”.
Then, the policeman will ask you to stand alongside the man, hand still on his shoulder, and both of you must turn to the camera, in a bizarre parody of a friendly photoshoot, and he will take a photograph whilst you recite the litany of his crimes towards you, for another policeman to jot down.
Then that man, the very one you have damned before an array of policemen and who-knows-who-else, has to go back in line, whilst you seek out one or more of his accomplices.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
When you are finished, the policeman will thank you for your “co-operation” and you will be asked to leave. Try not to trip over the doorjamb on your way out. Try not to lose control of your bladder as you exit down the fire escape.
Try not to break down, into a heaving, retching, sobbing mess, on the grass outside, beneath the glare of the autumn sky, whilst a couple of cops on a smoke break look on.
Most of all, try not to think about what could happen if this matter does not go to trial, and they get out. Or it DOES go to trial, and something you have done or said wrong in The Room gets used against you. Just try not to think.
But vow to yourself that you will never co-operate with a police investigation again, which may require you to enter The Room.
Justice at work.