In a remote part of the Eastern Cape, rape victims find a warm, sympathetic place where professionals are trained to support and care for them.
Victims of rape in the Lusikisiki area have access to the best care at the St Elizabeth Thuthuzela Care Centre.
The centre, which opened in 2011, is accessible 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It is fully staffed and equipped to offer the best care, said St Elizabeth Thuthuzela Care Centre Co-ordinator Bulelwa Lali.
Lali said the centre has four government entities under its roof. These are the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which oversees the centre and also prosecutes suspected rapists; the South African Police Service, which investigates rape cases; the Department of Health, which conducts medical examinations; and the Department of Social Development, which conducts psychological and social needs tests.
Two nurses, one a rape forensic specialist, and two social workers work alongside Lali, who is a National Prosecuting Authority employee.
The centre welcomes walk-in patients and also assists those referred by the police.
According to Community Development Worker Nomagcisa Sikwata, the centre has helped secure convictions in local rape cases. “It has been very helpful. Whenever a rape case is reported, I contact them and they will be there in no time.”
One of nine in the Eastern Cape and over 50 in the country, the centre services Lusikisiki and surrounding towns. Lali said victims range from children to the elderly, women and men.
Lali explained that the centre’s forensic nurse collects DNA from victims, which becomes key evidence should there be a trial. This is why it is important for rape victims to visit places of help within 72 hours and before taking a bath.
If it is decided that it is not safe for a rape victim to return to their home, a place of safety will be found for them.
Lali said when children, people over the age of 60 and people living with a mental illness are assaulted, a social worker will do a home visit to determine if the environment is suitable for them.
To get help from the St Elizabeth Thuthuzela Care Centre, call 039 253 5052.