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Rape: what to do when it happens

Victims of rape are often unsure how to react, what to do and where to go. If you have been raped, you must report the case to the South African Police Service (SAPS) or to a Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) at a clinic near you as soon as you can.

Victims of rape have been encouraged to report the case to a police station or Thuthuzela Care Centre where they can get the necessary support and help they need.Rape refers to a situation in which any person sexually penetrates you, using their genital organs or any object, without your consent.

It is important to note that rape is not gender- specific and includes all forms of sexual penetration.

You must not shower, bath, eat, drink, wash your hands or brush your teeth immediately after being raped. You must wait to be examined by a doctor first.

At the SAPS station you will be supported by a female official and taken to a victimfriendly waiting room.

Your docket will be allocated to the Family, Child and Sexual Offences Unit of SAPS, who will collect the necessary evidence. Forensic evidence such as DNA is especially crucial when dealing with under age victims.

The investigating officer has to visit the scene of the crime to seize possible exhibits such as used condoms, bed sheets, clothing, etc.

Thuthuzela Care Centres

TCCs are based at primary healthcare centres such as public hospitals or clinics close to communities where rape happens frequently.

These centres have been up by the National Prosecution Authority’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs to stop women and children from being victimised and to improve prosecution in cases involving sexual offences, maintenance, child justice and domestic violence.

TCCs also aim to ease the pain of rape survivors, who are often retraumatised as they tell their stories or provide evidence to investigators and counsellors, and help cut down the time it takes to finalise cases.

What to expect

When you go to a TCC you will be offered:

  • Immediate trauma counselling.
  • Medical examination.
  • Post-exposure medication to prevent HIV infection.
  • Referral for counselling.

The TCC staff will give you support from the moment you report the case.

The site coordinator will supply you with a safety plan consisting of all relevant contact numbers of the investigating officer, the TCC and the case docket details. Some TCCs remain open daily for 24 hours.

Medical examination

You will be examined by a doctor and informed about the procedures that will be performed. You will be asked to sign a consent form for medical examination and blood specimens. The doctor will look for forensic evidence, which will be used in court to prove that you were raped by a particular person.

If the medical examination takes place within 72 hours of the rape, DNA tests will be done and post-exposure drugs are administered, after which you are offered the opportunity to take a bath or shower and change into clean clothes.

The investigating officer at the centre will then take your statement. You will receive the appropriate medication and a follow-up date for further medical treatment before being taken home. The TCC will also put you in touch with the prosecutor who will contact you within 21 days of reporting the matter.

Court preparation

All children must be assisted by an intermediary to testify in court. A court preparation officer will introduce you to the court environment and will also explain the intermediary system to you, if it is a case where an intermediary may be used.

On the day of the trial, you will be kept in a friendly waiting room, removed from all other witnesses and accused persons.

Rape is a serious and violent crime. It is up to you as a victim to report the crime and make sure that the rapists are arrested.

For more information contact the National Prosecuting Authority on 012 845 6000.