The moments right after a rape are very important from the point of view of the law and from the point of view of the rape survivor’s recovery from rape.
Deciding what to do about what has just happened can be extremely difficult if you are in shock or feeling bad.
From the point of view of the law, the sooner you can get to a police station or a hospital the better, because:
• the criminal has less chance to escape
• you may be able to remember more about the rape right afterwards
• there is physical evidence on your body that links the rapist to the crime, and this evidence can get lost quickly.
From the point of view of your recovery, there are medicines you need to take (to prevent pregnancy or disease) that only work within 72 hours (three days) after the event.
Remember that even if you don’t report the rape, you still have the right to free treatment to prevent HIV within 72 hours of the rape.
Steps to take after rape:
1. Go to a safe place as soon as possible.
2. Tell the first person you see and trust about what has happened. The first person you told about the rape will sometimes be asked to go to court to support your tory – this person is called the first contact itness. If this person is a stranger, write down or try and remember her or his name, telephone number and address. This is important if you decide to report the rape, as the police will need to
find that person and talk to her or him.
3. If you are badly hurt, go straight to a hospital or a doctor. The police can be called to the hospital if you want to report what has happened to you. The police can also take you to a hospital if you are hurt, or they can summon an ambulance.
4. If you are not HIV positive and you fear that you have been exposed to HIV, you need to receive medical attention within 72 hours (three days) of exposure. Some studies show that you are better protected if you receive medicine to prevent HIV infection within six to eight hours of exposure, so the sooner you receive medical attention, the better.
If you are HIV negative, the hospital or clinic will give you 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.
5. Decide whether you want to report the rape to the police. You may not feel like making this decision so soon after being raped. However, the sooner a doctor examines you, the more likely she or he is to find strong proof on your body or on your clothes, such as blood or semen from the person who raped you. Bruises and cuts will stay on your body for a while, but semen, hair, saliva and blood can be lost quickly.
If you were drunk at the time of the rape, don’t let this stop you from reporting the matter to the police or from getting medical treatment. Being drunk is not a crime; rape is. Remember that the law says that you can’t give consent while you’re very drunk.
Rape Crisis needs your help - donate and help a rape victim now
During the next 16 days, over 400 people will be sexually assaulted in the Western Cape. Most of the victims will have children, brothers and sisters, parents, even partners who will also be traumatised by the attack on their loved one.
In fact, rape is the leading cause of post traumatic stress related symptoms, over and above all other types of violence.
That's why we urgently need more skilled and highly trained counsellors at Rape Crisis – to support rape survivors and their families on the long road to recovery and justice.
Each volunteer – regardless of their financial situation – has to contribute R1500 towards their training as a sign of their commitment. That leaves a shortfall of R2500 per counsellor. And we hope to train 30 of them in the coming months!
Please consider making a donation to sponsor a rape counsellor's training. If you can manage the full R2500 sponsorship, it would be wonderful! But contributions of R1000, R500 or even R100 all add up; any amount you can spare towards this urgent need will be so gratefully received.