Break the silence on rape

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Open Door Crisis Centre founder Thora Mansfield.PHOTO: supplied
Open Door Crisis Centre founder Thora Mansfield.PHOTO: supplied

SOUTH Africa has one of the highest reported rates of sexual violence in the world, this despite many cases going unreported due to the fact that victims are often forced not to report perpetrators.

It is heart-breaking to read about a person being raped by a family member, a neighbour or a close family friend. In most cases, especially if the perpetrator is related to the victim, most families choose not to report the incident to the police.

However, they don’t realise the potential for trauma this holds, nor how this can affect the person for the rest of their life.

Pinetown SAPS communication officer BJ Manqele said he believes that a rape case is worse than a murder case because a rape victim is left with a lifetime of trauma which often leads to depression.

“As police, we receive a lot of rape cases and what’s most saddening and disgusting is when we learn that an old man has raped a child. The worst part is when the family tries to protect the perpetrator instead of supporting the victim. The victim is left with fear, trauma, depression and trust issues.

“If someone opens a rape case, it is then transferred to the Pinetown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) department where the case is investigated. The FCS department officials help the victims by referring them to relevant counselling offices within provincial hospitals. They also receive medical treatment and examinations,” Manqele said.

Manqele advised the public to report rape immediately, regardless of whether it happened a long time ago or whether it is recent.

“Rape is a very serious offence, therefore it is important to report it. If a person is intimidated, or scared to report the incident, we advise them to speak to somebody they trust — our motto is ‘talk until somebody listens’. In that way you will break the silence” Manqele said.

The Open Door Crisis Care Centre is an organisation that deals with cases of rape, domestic violence and child abuse every day.

Open Door Crisis Centre founder Thora Mansfield said statistics for rape vary however it is estimated that one women is raped every 23 seconds in South Africa, with one women in four being victims of domestic violence and one women being killed every six days.

“Whether it is one every 23 seconds or one in total — it is one too many.

“There are several types of recognised rape, from friend rape, date rape, drug rape, gang rape, premeditated rape, just to name a few.

“Regardless of the type of rape that occurs, the survivor’s physical and emotional well being is violated and his/her beliefs and assumptions about self, others, and the world are shattered.”

She added that, when a person is raped, their normal ways of coping may not work.

“The person has to find new ways of coping as victims can feel a range emotions, such as intense, unpredictable emotional expressions of anger, shaking, feelings of fear and more. They may struggle to concentrate, appearing to be sleeping or daydreaming, as they struggle to make sense of what happened. They may not be able to remember all the details.

“Survivors may struggle with flashbacks, which may develop into post trauma if there is no strong support structure, which could lead to acute stress disorder,” she said.

She said, if a man or women is raped, they need to follow a definite procedure within a specific time frame to access the proper support and medication, which includes checking whether the victim is HIV positive or not.

If the victim is HIV positive she will receive an antibiotic for sexually transmitted diseases, a morning after pill to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and, in the case of not being positive, to prevent HIV/Aids.

“The case must immediately be reported to their local police station within the magisterial district where the rape occurred.

“Female rape or sexual assault survivors are able to give their statements to a female police officer, in private. Should there not be a police woman on duty there may be delays in giving a statement. The victim will then be given a case number.

“The survivor may request a companion. Rape survivors can also go directly to Thuthuzela Rape centres, which are situated at government hospitals, where they will be attended to by a district surgeon. It is preferable to go directly to services.

“Trauma debriefing may be necessary to assist with the healing process. The Open Door offers free trauma debriefing for victims,” she said.

THE RAPE CRISIS WEBSITE ADVISES WOMEN ON WHAT TO DO IF THEY ARE RAPED:

•Get to a safe place. Do this as soon as possible.

•Tell someone. It may be very difficult for you to tell someone what has happened to you, but it’s important because this person can support your story and back you up in court.

•Do not wash yourself. There might be hair, blood or semen on your body or clothes that can be used as evidence of the rape.

•If you are injured, go straight to a hospital, community health centre or doctor.

•Report the rape. If you want to report the rape, go to the police station nearest to where the attack took place as soon as you can. Ask a friend or family member to go with you for support. Keep the name of the police officer in charge of your case and your case number.

•If you are afraid, if you fear retribution or intimidation by the rapist, make sure the police are aware of this and ask that the rapist be not allowed out on bail.

•Forensic examination- a doctor will examine every part of your body to find and collect samples of hair, blood or semen. This is part of the police investigation to gather medical evidence of the crime.

•Get support. Ask for pamphlets or booklets on rape and the number of a local counselling service to give you further support and advice about the police matter, court case and any other effects of the rape.

•Get treatment, whether or not you want to lay a charge, make sure that within 72 hours you take the Morning after Pill (MAP) to prevent pregnancy; an HIV test and antiretroviral treatment to prevent HIV infection; antibiotics to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI).

For more information on Open Door centre services phone 031 709 2679 during office hours or 084 409 2679 during after hours crisis line.

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