Dealing with a terrible ordeal like rape is a devastating experience for any women. You need love and support to help you get through this.
The rape statistics in South Africa are shocking, and not even all cases are reported. If this happened to you, know that it is not your fault. Even if you wore sexy clothes when it happened or if you flirted with the rapist, it still didn’t give him the right to have sex with you against your will.
Confide in a friend or a counsellor and talk about your ordeal to help you to deal with it. Don’t try to cope with it on your own; you will need a shoulder to cry on and the company of someone you feel safe with. If you feel up to it, report the matter to the police immediately. Do not wash or try to clean yourself if you decide to lay a charge. The police has certain procedures that must be followed to be able to make a case against the rapist.
Police officers are trained in the correct procedure and to be sympathetic and professional in their conduct. A female police officer, if available at the particular station, will be appointed to help you through all the procedures.
The police will have the district surgeon examine you. This doctor will:
- Ask you what happened, for example if you were threatened with a weapon and if the rapist ejaculated
- Do a physical examination of your body, but also of your appearance to see, for example, if your clothes were torn
- Determine your emotional condition
- Take samples of semen, saliva or blood from the rapist that might have smeared on you, fingernail scrapings – in fact, of anything that might help to identify the rapist.
The reason for these examinations is not only to catch the criminal, but also to decide on the kind of treatment you need. The medical treatment may consist of antibiotics, after-sex contraception, medicines for HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases. They can also refer you for counselling to a rape support group, social worker or psychologist for treatment, or to a hospital or a safe place if there is danger of further assaults.
Even if you don’t want to lay a charge, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible to get treatment for possible pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
Many women who were victims of rape feel too ashamed and guilty to talk about it, but sharing your experience with a friend, a counsellor or other rape victims can help heal the psychological wounds.