What you need to know about rape forensic units

Experiencing rape or any sexual assault is traumatic. While many victims and survivors can (and do) overcome the associated trauma, for some, it's an emotional and physical injury that lasts for months or years leaving lifelong scars. Accessing services at a rape forensic unit

We want to help you on the road to physical, medical and emotional recovery. Together, the Western Cape Department of Health and other non-governmental organisations offer the following to rape and sexual assault survivors:

  • counselling,
  • medical advice,
  • tests and treatment, and
  • evidence collection, if the case is reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS). 

What are rape forensic units?

Rape forensic units were set-up to help assist victims and sexual assault. There are 4 rape forensic units available to the public in the bigger Cape Town area – situated at Karl Bremer Hospital, Khayelitsha Hospital, Mitchells Plain/Heideveld and Victoria Hospital. There’s also one in Atlantis at Wesfleur Hospital. 

Patients are seen according to the drainage areas (immediate surrounding areas) served by these units. For example, if the incident took place in the Mitchells Plain and surrounding areas, you’ll be referred to the forensic unit at Mitchells Plain hospital. After an ordeal, rape and sexual assault survivors from the indicated geographical drainage area will receive treatment and counselling at a hospital facility or at one of the other metro clinical forensic services drainage areas if the incident occurred in another location.
This means you'll be seen at the clinic according to where the incident happened, and not necessarily the closest one to where you live.

Getting the help you need

If you or someone close to you survived any type of sexual offence, we urge you to seek medical help as soon as possible after the incident. The sooner you go, the better. 
This will help with:

  •    evidence to be collected (where possible),
  •    medical tests which need to be done, and
  •    medication to prevent HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STI's) and an unwanted pregnancy.

All consultations are free of charge. 

The easiest way to access these services is to visit your closest day hospital or police station, who should contact the appropriate health care facility where these cases are attended to.  Usually, if a case is reported to SAPS, the specialised unit that deals with these cases will be contacted, and a detective will typically provide transport to the appropriate health care facility.

What should I do first if I’ve been raped or sexually assaulted?

Ideally, you should go to the nearest police station to report the case. The local police station will then contact the specialised unit of the police (FCS unit) who deals with these cases.  A detective of the relevant FCS unit will come to the police station to take statements and transport the survivor to the relevant forensic unit/Thuthuzela centre closest to where the incident took place. Here further management and evidence collection will take place.  In some cases, people will be referred from day hospitals, clinics, private GPs. 

The first 72 hours after the incident has occurred is the most important period for evidence collection. It’s important not to bath, wash, shower or change clothing as evidence may be destroyed. Specialists also advise that survivors avoid eating, drinking or brushing their teeth if there was any oral penetration.  Survivors are encouraged to bring any items of clothing, linen or towels which may contain bodily fluid or biological evidence along in order to collect evidence.  Specialists also advise survivors to avoid wiping the vulva (private parts) to prevent loss of evidence.

These services are available 24 hours a day at designated Department of Health facilities across the Western Cape.

Do I have to lay criminal charges at the police station immediately?

No. You have access to medical care and treatment whether you lay a charge with the police or not.  It's advisable to seek medical help as soon as possible.  You may however lay a charge at your local police station at any time. If the survivor is a child or a person with any mental impairment, a case must by law be opened with the police. 

What will happen at the clinic or hospital?

Depending on the circumstances and the time interval of the incident, the process may differ.  If a survivor is seen at a designated healthcare facility, such as a rape forensic unit or a Thuthuzela centre, the below services are provided free of charge irrespective of whether a case is opened with the police or not.

Thuthuzela Centers are one-stop facilities that have been introduced by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalisation of cases.

Thuthuzela Centres provide specialised victim-support services that are intended to reduce the secondary trauma of victims and currently operate in 4 public hospitals in the Western Cape close to communities where the incidence of rape is particularly.

  • Containment counselling by a trained Rape Crisis counsellor.
  • Interview by the attending doctor or sexual assault nurse examiner (medical history, history about the circumstances surrounding the alleged incident).
  • Medical tests: HIV, RPR (syphilis), pregnancy, tests for sexually transmitted diseases if indicated.
  • Medical examination and evidence collection from the body (general – look for injuries, anogenital examination – injuries, collect evidence, including clothing in some instances).
  •  Provision of post-exposure prophylaxis (action taken to prevent disease), based on test results, against pregnancy, HIV, STDs.
  • Treatment or referral for treatment of any other injuries.
  • Offered a bath, comfort pack.
  • Follow-up visits are arranged at 1 week, 6 weeks and 3 months (to repeat medical tests).



Metro clinic forensic services drainage areas




Victoria Hospital  (Wynberg)


Karl Bremer (Goodwood)


Mitchell's Plain Hospital


Heideveld Clinic


Khayelitsha Hospital (Khayelitsha)


 Service provider


Clinical Forensic Unit







 Contact details


 Tel: (021) 799 1235



 Tel: (021) 918 1321



 Tel:  (021) 637 9431/  (021) 699 0474



 Tel: (021) 360 4293



Drainage area


Cape Town

Southern Suburbs

Northern Atlantic Seaboard



Northern Suburbs



Cape Flats


























The content on this page was last updated on 23 March 2017