Embedding Rights into Practice: Challenges in Psycho-Legal Assessments of Complainants with Intellectual Disability in Cases of Sexual Abuse in South Africa

  • Beverley Dickman


This chapter critically examines the role of the psychologist undertaking psycho-legal assessments of complainants with intellectual disabilities in cases of sexual assault in South Africa. I describe challenges to citizenship rights faced by complainants in an overburdened justice system. Assessment of competence to act as a witness and assessment of capacity to consent to sexual intercourse are discussed, in the context of current South African legislation. Psycho-legal assessments facilitate access to the justice system. Paradoxically, these reports may label complainants in ways that limit citizenship rights, particularly when the complainant is presented as having the mental age of a child. I suggest assessment approaches that limit intrusion, facilitate autonomous decision-making, and participation in the legal process and acknowledge the civic contribution of the complainant.


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Personal Communications

  1. Advocate Retha Meintjes, Deputy Director, National Prosecuting Authority, President of SAPSAC.Google Scholar
  2. Susan Manson, Consultant Psychologist, Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment Programme, Cape Mental Health.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beverley Dickman
    • 1
  1. 1.Cape TownSouth Africa

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