Reporting the rape:
Whether you report the rape to the police is entirely up to you. Although this is the only way in which your rapist will be caught and prosecuted.
- It is best to report the rape/indecent assault as soon as possible (within the first 72 hours) as the police will need to collect evidence and you will need to undergo a medical examination. However, you can report a rape at any point – although evidence will only be able to be collected within the first 72 hours.
- One of the most natural reactions to being raped is washing, however, this will destroy vital evidence and seriously hamper your case. Although it will be difficult, you should also try to avoid going to the toilet or brushing your teeth (if you were forced to give oral sex)
- The first person you tell about the rape is called the first witness and they will need to make a statement to the police about your physical condition and emotional state. If possible, they should go with you to the police station.
- It is a good idea to go with a friend or family member for support.
- Take a change of clean clothing as your clothes will need to be taken in as evidence. If you change out of your clothes before going to the police, make sure that you put them in a paper (not plastic) bag. It is believed that plastic bags can cause degradation of biological material (such as semen) as a result of heat encountered in the bag. Even in the case of a paper bag, it is best if the bag is kept cool.
- Don’t drink any alcohol or take any sedatives before going to the police as you will need a clear head to make a statement.
- If you don’t want to go to the police station, you can call the police to come to your house instead. This will, however, probably take longer.
- Initially, you only need to give a brief statement about what happened and have the rape recorded in the occurrence book. Read over the statement and make sure it is correct before signing it. Then ask for a copy and have it verified. Later, after the medical examination, you can give a more detailed statement.
- The police will then ask you to sign a form (SAP 308) to consent to a medical examination by the District Surgeon. You can choose to be examined by a private doctor instead, but the doctor must be willing to testify in court and often general practitioners are inexperienced in taking rape kits.
- The police will then take you to the District Surgeon, but before they do so, make sure that you know the name of your investigating officer, case reference number (it will begin with ‘OB’ or ‘VB’), the name of the police station and a number you can call to check up on the progress of your case.
At the police station, you have the right to:
- make your statement in a private room
- make your statement to a female officer (if there is one)
- make your statement in your own language
- have a friend/family member with you for support
If you are unhappy with the police investigation you can lodge a complaint with the Independent Complaints Directorate (012 392 0400). The South African definition of rape is limited to “intentional unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent” (www.powa.co.za). This excludes forced anal and oral sex or penetration with an object/body part other than the penis. These acts are regarded as ‘indecent assault’ and carry a lower penalty. However, follow the same procedure if you are sexually ‘assaulted’ instead of ‘raped’.
What does a medical exam involve?
- When you go for your medical examination, it is important to tell the District Surgeon exactly what happened to you so that he or she can collect all the necessary evidence.
- The doctor will need to do a rape kit, which involves documenting any injuries, scrapings under the fingernails, evidence of sperm from your vagina and combing your pubic area for any possible DNA. They will also collect your clothing for evidence. This will all be documented on a J88 form, which they will then give to the police as evidence.
- No male officer may be present at the examination and once again, you have the right to have a friend or relative with you to support you.
- The District Surgeon probably won’t see to your other medical needs in which case you will have to see another doctor. Even if you don’t appear to be injured you may have sustained internal injuries or contracted a sexually-transmitted disease, the most frightening of which being HIV.
- You will need to get antiretrovirals to reduce the possibility of contracting HIV. These antiretrovirals, ‘post-exposure prophylaxis’ (PEP), need to be taken within 72 hours of being raped or they will not work. According to www.speakout.co.za, research has shown that 40 percent of rape survivors will become HIV positive if they do not get PEP in time.
- Before getting the medication, you will need to undergo an HIV test. Any HIV test should be accompanied by pre- and post-test counselling.
- Government policy is that if you are already HIV positive, you will not be given the antiretrovirals. There are three reasons for this — the first is that it won’t change your HIV status; the second is that the side effects of the drugs are unpleasant and can include renal or liver impairment; and the third is that doing so may lead to viral resistance, which will limit your future treatment options.
- The doctor will probably start you on the medication (a starter pack) while you wait for the results of the HIV test. If the results come back positive, you must stop taking the medication. If the results are negative, you must take the full 28-day course or it won’t work.
- You will need to take another HIV test after six weeks, three months, six months and a year. This is very important, as the initial test may produce a false negative.
- You can get the antiretrovirals free at state hospitals and some clinics (see www.rapeoutcry.co.za/resources/pep.doc for a detailed list of clinics). If the hospital you visit doesn’t have any, call the Aids Helpline (0800 012 322) and ask them where you can get the medication. You can also get antiretrovirals at most chemists with a prescription, however, this is rather expensive. Children can take these medications and only need the permission of a parent/guardian if they are less than 14 years of age.
- You also should ask your doctor for:
- antibiotic medicines to stop you from getting another Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
- the ‘morning after’ pill to stop you from getting pregnant
- medication that will prevent you getting Hepatitis B
- if you are already pregnant when you are raped, talk to the doctor about the possibilities of your unborn baby becoming infected with HIV