This research study explores the experiences of adolescent girls testifying in a criminal court in cases of sexual abuse and rape in South Africa. Private and public narratives, such as the participants’ experiences in court, the court support system and the court process, were reported using conversations, collages and written letters. These were interpreted from a narrative perspective, within a social constructionist paradigm. Social constructionism posits that all behaviour is understood within a social context and people create their reality and world through social interaction, which in this study is the legal system. Narratives are constructions of the experiences of the participants during the preparation and testifying process. Their stories reflect both positive and ambivalent experiences, such as fear and relief, joy and sadness. The most noteworthy findings of the research were the following: • Support from court personnel and NGOs is important for adolescents when they are testifying. • The friendly environment and activities of the NGO contrasts favourably with the cold and adult environment of the court in which the NGO is based. • The court preparation programme is essential to help adolescents cope when testifying in a criminal court through addressing fears such as seeing the accused in court, not understanding the proceedings, and having to address adults in court. • The National Prosecuting Authority seems to be taking child witnesses more seriously through collaboration with outside organisations.
Dissertation (MA (Counselling Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2008.