What to do after you’ve been raped

With hundreds of women being raped everyday in South Africa, today I thought I’d share some of my views on some things to do after you have been raped. Whilst this is not an easy subject, it is an important one. Especially because  when statistics show that over 1.2 million women and children are raped every year.

It’s truly shocking and as a young woman you feel unsafe and unprotected in a country with laws that promise to take care of you. It was also reported that a  percentage of rape cases are not reported, meaning there are a lot of women who are raped and suffer in silence and don’t report the rape. Something needs to change and until then, let’s be safe.

If you find yourself in this situation or know anyone who is, here’s what you need to do:

1. Get to a safe place: The first thing you should do if you are in any immediate danger is to get yourself to a safe place.

2. Tell someone what has happened: Once you are out of danger, tell the first person you see what has happened or contact someone you know and trust and tell them the whole story while it is fresh in your mind.

Although this can be difficult, it is very important because this person can help with the police investigation and later support your story in court. They are known as the first contact witness.

3. Preserve evidence of the rape: One thing many rape victims want to do after a rape is bath or shower. If you do, you run the risk of washing away all physical evidence of the rape. So whilst it may be hard not to, do not bath, shower or wash your clothes.

Doing this would get rid of blood, semen, saliva or hair that could be used as evidence of the rape. If you are injured, go straight to your nearest hospital, community health centre or doctor.

4. Decide whether you want to report the rape: You do not have to decide immediately whether to report the rape to the police. However it is still advised to get a physical exam by a doctor as soon as possible. This can help later on in your case, should you decide to report the rape.

If you decide to report the rape immediately to police, then officers must take your statement. The police will then take you to a health centre. This is where you will receive medical attention and undergo a forensic examination. If you do not report the rape, you can go directly to a health centre to get these services.

5.Get medicine to prevent unwanted pregnancies, HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs): After the forensic examination, the doctor will give you the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy and antibiotics to prevent possible STIs.

You will also be given an HIV test. If it is negative you will be given ARVs for 28 days to prevent contracting HIV. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

6.Get support to help you to recover: Surround yourself with loved ones who will help you to get through the ordeal. You can also get pamphlets and booklets on rape, and the number of a local counseling service. This is so you can get long term support and advice on various issues.

This includes the police report, a possible court case, and your own physical and emotional wellbeing. If you do fall pregnant or contract an STI it is important to seek follow up medical care.

What do you think about it? Share your thoughts!