Sexual violence and assault - what happens next
Did you know - globally about 1 in 3 (30%) women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Violence against women and children has come into focus as we observe the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which started on 25 November.
Estimates published by the World Health Organization indicate that almost one third (27%) of women worldwide aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship, report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
The trauma following sexual violence, or a sexual assault is significant. They may experience feelings of shame and fear. But help is available.
Sister Edna Plaatjies is a staff nurse who works at the Thuthuzela Centre based at Karl Bremer Hospital. Thuthuzela Care Centres are a joint effort between the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Department of Health. The TCC serves as a one-stop service for victims to report cases and for the NPA to do the necessary collection of evidence, to ensure the successful prosecution against these perpetrators of sexual and Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases.
Sr Plaatjies says staff know that visiting a police station or health centre can be intimidating, but staff will do their best to support you. “If you don’t feel comfortable visiting your local police station, you can go to your nearest Thuthuzela Centre or health facility. We will ensure that the help you need is brought to you. Our centres are open every day, including public holidays, 24-hours a day. This service is free and open to all.”
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A SEXUAL ASSAULT?
Your safety is important. If you are in immediate danger, call someone you trust or SAPS at 10111 immediately. Once you are safe, consider reaching out to your support group or someone you trust. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds. Some survivors may be afraid of opening to their family due to stigma attached to sexual violence. When you are ready, remember that you don’t need to deal with your experience on your own,” says Sr Plaatjies.
Below is the procedure to be followed after an incident of rape and/or sexual assault (these services are free):
- A survivor can report the case to SAPS, a Thuthuzela Centre or a designated health care facility, who should contact the specialised detective unit (FCS).
- The investigating officer from the specialised unit will take statements from the survivor (or parent/guardian in case of a minor).
- The survivor will be taken to the relevant health care facility for a medical examination, collection of forensic evidence and further medical treatment. If you visit a Thuthuzela Centre, your medical examination and statement will be taken there. You will receive treatment which includes provision of post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV-infection and other STIs, as well as pregnancy prevention. It is important to take your medication as advised by a healthcare worker.
- If the survivor decides not to lay a charge with the police, the survivor still has the right to be examined and receive free medical treatment and advice at the clinic.
- If the alleged incident occurred less than 72 hours ago, the survivor should be advised not to wash/bath or change clothing until the evidence collection has been completed.
- You will receive appointments for follow-ups at a healthcare facility.
DO YOUR BEST TO TAKE MEDICATION
It is important that you take the medication as prescribed, even over weekend. If you realise that you have skipped a dosage, take it once you remember. But do not take a double dosage if you only realise it when you have to take your next dosage. If you forget to take your pills for two days or longer, talk to a healthcare worker. By taking the medication at the right time and by not skipping any pills, it ensures the effectiveness of the medication. It is important to develop a routine for the 28 days to take the HIV-prevention medication. Please make use of the pill diary/timetable provided to help you to remember to take the medication.
OTHER SUPPORT OPTIONS
These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties and more. A healthcare worker at a clinic or Thuthuzela Centre can ensure that you receive counselling and other support.
“Healthcare workers are trained to support you. I know that our survivors experience many challenges and may even experience challenges within their families. A survivor may experience a series of feelings, including guilt. It’s our jobs to help you work through your feelings,” says Sr Plaatjies.
If you have any questions about your care, please speak to a healthcare worker.
WHERE TO FIND A TCC
You can visit a local clinic for support or reach out to support staff at the following Thuthuzela Centres:
- Atlantis TCC, Wesfleur Hospital – 021 816 8537
- George TCC, George Hospital – 044 802 4406
- Heideveld TCC, Heideveld CDC – 021 699 3246
- Karl Bremer TCC, Karl Bremer Hospital – 021 918 1321 or 021 918 1983
- Khayelitsha TCC, Khayelitsha Hospital – 021 360 4570 or 021 360 4704
- Paarl TCC, Paarl Hospital – 021 860 2521
- Victoria TCC, Victoria Hospital – 021 799 1235
- Worcester TCC, Worcester Hospital – 023 348 1294
Remember, you are not alone. We are ready to support you.