Rape is a violent crime in which a person uses sexual acts to intentionally harm another.
The period of time immediately after the incident is critical for rape survivors for many reasons:
Getting emotional support immediately can help a survivor to recover psychologically. Support can come from a loved one or a professional service provider such as a nurse, a doctor, or a trained rape counsellor. A survivor is likely to be in shock after the attack and will benefit from practical advice and reliable information.
Medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Certain medications must be taken within 72 hours (three days) of the incident to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
Steps to take after the rape
This is a Tool Kit by Rape Crisis
1. Go to a safe place
Do this as soon as possible. Go home, or to someone you trust (a friend, family member, or another trusted person).
If you choose to go straight to the police they can open a case immediately and take you to a forensic unit, or if you are injured they can take you to the hospital or call an ambulance. You do not have to go to the police or report the rape if you do not feel comfortable doing so.
2. Speak to someone that you trust
The first person you tell about the incident will sometimes be asked to go to court to support your testimony – this person is called the ‘first contact witness’. If this person is a stranger, write down their contact details. This is important because if you decide to report the rape the police will need to find that person and talk to them as part of the investigation.
3. Get medical attention
It is best to receive medical attention within 72 hours of the incident.
Even if you do not report the rape, it is still important to get checked by a medical professional as soon as possible after the incident. However, even if the attack occurred some time ago, you can still get a checkup.
You can access free medical treatment at a Thuthuzela Care Centre. You will be given the option of laying a criminal charge at these centres, however you will still receive medical attention if you do not wish to open a case.
A Thuthuzela Care Centre is a designated forensic and medical service centre, available to rape survivors as an emergency service in the 72 hours immediately after a rape. They can be found at 54 hospitals across South Africa.
Netcare Hospitals also provide multifaceted treatment and support free of charge to adults and children of all genders.
You can also go to your own doctor, a government hospital or any clinic. Tell the doctor or nurse that you have been raped and need medical assistance.
4. Infection prevention and treatment
Medication that prevents HIV infection should be taken as soon as possible after the incident – within three days of exposure. You will be asked for your permission before an HIV test is done. If you are HIV-negative you will be given antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to prevent HIV infection. The ARVs form part of a group of medicines called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP consists of ARVs, emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and antibiotics to prevent certain other diseases. It is very important that you take the entire 28-day course of ARV medication. The medication might cause some unpleasant side effects, but don’t stop taking it until the course is complete. You should also think about having another HIV test after three months, as the HI virus can take up to three months to be detected.
In case of infection with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the doctor should put you on a course of antibiotics. If you have any discomfort, itching or discharge after the rape, return to your doctor as you may need a further course of antibiotics to treat an STI.
5. Ask for emergency contraception
Emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) will stop you from getting pregnant if you are not using any preventative methods. This medicine has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of the rape. The medication might make you feel sick, or your period may come earlier or later than usual, or it may be more painful than usual.
If you become pregnant as a result of the rape, you may choose to have an abortion, or a termination of pregnancy (TOP) at a government hospital or clinic. District clinics will perform abortions up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Major hospitals and some private clinics will perform abortions at up to 20 weeks.
6. Take time off work or school if you need time to recover
If you need time off work or school to recover physically, or to deal with emotional trauma or side effects from medication, ask your doctor to give you a medical certificate.
7. Decide whether you want to report the rape to the police
You may not be able to make this decision immediately. However, if you want to report the case, SAPS can be called to the hospital.
Even if you are not sure whether you wish to lay a charge, it is better to have the forensic examination (Rape Kit) done, so that the doctor can gather physical evidence for you if you decide to lay a charge later. Physical evidence such as the rapist’s blood, semen or hair will be lost if you don’t have the forensic examination done as soon as possible after the rape.
You will be examined by a clinical forensic practitioner, which is a nurse or doctor who has been specially trained to gather evidence of crimes and offer medical treatment. The examination may take a long time, and you may want someone you trust to be with you.
If you are in need of counseling, contact Rape Crisis.
Their helplines operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, offering free counseling and advice.
You can also get support via WhatsApp:
English: 021 447 9762
isiXhosa: 021 361 9085
Afrikaans: 021 633 9229
WhatsApp: 083 222 5164