Roles and responsibilities of forensic social workers in the family violence sexual offences unit
South Africa, notwithstanding her comprehensive legislation, has disturbingly high figures of child sexual violence. These crimes and the low conviction rates should put any role-player within the field of sexual violence to shame. Concerns are raised that, unless trained professionals deal with child sexual abuse victims, we will fail to protect children from abuse and fail in our quest for justice. The South African police, in its efforts to prioritize crimes against women and children, employed forensic social workers. This article presents the results of an explorative study of the role and responsibilities of the forensic social worker in the SAPS. Data was collected from three groups of participants (forensic social workers, state prosecutors and police investigating officers) according to a mixed method approach. Both qualitative (semi-structured interviews) and quantitative (statistical data) methods were therefore employed. The forensic process is designed to answer a question of relevance to the legal system, which makes the role of the forensic social worker very specific. If role players in the field of child sexual offences, however, are not entirely familiar with what 'forensic social work entails, it could not only complicate matters for the forensic social workers, but it could also mean that their services are not used optimally and effectively. The findings of the study indicate that forensic social workers make a valuable contribution to the successful investigation of child sexual offences; however, in the absence of adequate continuous training, supervision and consultation, they could fail in providing a proficient service.
- Humanities