Rape – what to do if this happens to you or one of your loved ones
Rape is a particularly horrific and invasive crime and many victims do not know what to do when it happens. Rape is sexual penetration that is not consensual but sexual assault is also a horrific experience.
Victims are not just women – men also suffer rape.
In 1998, Stats SA issued a report called “Victims of crime survey” in this 277 013 rapes were committed and looked at. 45.4% of victims were raped by relatives or people they knew, 17% were committed by acquaintances and the rest were unknown. 47% of these were raped in their own home.
Throughout South Africa, according to the South African Police Service, from April 2010 to Mar 2011 66,196 sexual offences were reported to the police. 13,987 of these were in Gauteng.
People Opposed to Women Abuse estimate that only 2.8% of rapes are reported, so these figures can be terrifying. We need to understand that rape is in our community and that people exposed to it do not in any way ask for it, but need support and help.
People don’t report for many reasons – because of humiliation and shame, fear of reprisals, not being sure of whether they will be believed, and not wanting to expose themselves again.
So it is important for victims of rape to know what they should do to take care of themselves. The first thing to do is to get medical support. Sunninghill and Garden City Netcare hospitals in the Johannesburg area offer free rape support services to clients. They will handle the medical and police involvement so the victim can feel safe and comforted. Otherwise a victim can go to their local clinic or a hospital such as Baragwanath.
The biggest fear for a rape victim is HIV and it is important for a victim if they are not already HIV positive, to go to any clinic within 72 hours of the incident to get Anti Retrovirals. The sooner they go after the rape, the better. These medications are often supplied free.
There is also the fear of other sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Both of these fears need to be dealt with by a doctor or hospital.
When the rape happens the victim needs comfort, care and support. They do not need judgements. Most victims feel that somehow they are to blame for what happened to them and to judge someone at this time is devastating. No one is ever to blame when someone rapes them against their will.
Stages after a rape occurs:
· Make sure you are safe, and tell someone you need help who you can trust
· Do not wash yourself or your clothes. Put the clothes you were wearing in a paper bag or wrapped in newspaper. Do not use a plastic bag as that will destroy evidence. If you decide to report the rape, you need to have evidence available so it will be better to keep wearing the clothes until you have been examined. You do not have to open a case but you may change your mind later so it could be valuable.
· Take a change of clothing with you as your clothes will not be returned to you if you raise a case.
· Decide whether you want to ask for help from the police or go directly to a clinic or doctor. Take someone with you to care for you and to support you so you are not alone and they can protect you.
· Go to a clinic or your own doctor for HIV anti retrovirals and the morning after pregnancy pills, together with antibiotics for STD’s. If you go the Netcare clinics they will guide you through the process and call the police to assist you if you want that.
· Going through the medical examination is another humiliation, but it is important if you want to bring a case against someone.
· Rape is a trauma and so many of those who have been raped are suffering from shock and can often not focus on what is happening to them because of the distress and pain. What they need is love and care and the acceptance of themselves.
Counselling is available from LifeLine Johannesburg and other LifeLine Centres. We assist a client in deciding what to do when they have been raped and how to deal with it. We have a very comprehensive referral database. We will offer face to face counselling to help the client deal with the shock and trauma of what has happened. The saddest part of a rape case is that the client feels that they will never be the same carefree person they used to be. Counselling helps them to regain their faith in themselves and is a very important part of the healing process. Don’t isolate yourself by dealing with it alone.
Call LifeLine in Johannesburg 011 728 1347, Alexandra 011 443 3555, Soweto 011 988 0155.
LifeLine Nationally 0861322322