What to do if you've been raped?
By Dr Sindi
One of the most difficult situations that I have ever had to deal with as a medical doctor happened in December 2014. A young lady was raped by a family friend, and she was referred to me by telephone. This young lady was so traumatized and horrified by what had happened and all she wanted to do was to die. I managed to calm her down but the one thing I was not able to do was to get her to seek medical help. She felt that she would be jeopardizing her whole family life and school life. I know that if the perpetrator is someone that you know and trust, it makes it that much harder to even consider telling anyone. My message is around medical attention. Reporting the incident to the authorities such as the police is your decision to take. Whatever you decide - you MUST be seen by a medical doctor that has been trained in medico-legal matters.
What do I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
You need to get to your nearest hospital or clinic as soon as possible. We need to do a thorough medico-legal examination - which includes collecting as much fresh evidence from your body as we can. We have 72 hours in which to do this and that is why we want you to be seen as soon as possible.
Who will see me at the health care facility?
You have the right to be attended to by a health worker and police officer of the same gender as yourself. Such issues are always sensitive and you may feel more comfortable speaking to someone you can relate to. You will also be referred for proper trauma counselling.
What is the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit SAECK?
This is a box that contains all the material that will be used to collect evidence from your body after sexual assault. Please make sure that the kit is sealed when the health care professional brings it to the examination room. Only a specially trained MEDICAL DOCTOR can collect evidence from you. It is a long process and includes a thorough physical examination. You will also be asked to tell your story. Try to remember all the details as clearly as you can because whatever you report will be documented.
Will there be any blood tests performed?
Yes. You need to be tested for HIV immediately. This is so that we can give you medication to prevent HIV infection. You will get this medication if you test HIV negative. If you are female and of childbearing age, you will get emergency contraception to prevent any possibility of falling pregnant. You will also get syndromic treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Who will be present during the collection of evidence?
The medical doctor always conducts the examination with a nurse clinician present. Everything that is document is kept confidential. Even if you do not open a case against the perpetrator it is important for the collection of evidence to happen for the national DNA database. If you ever decide to open a case, at least there will be evidence. I hope that this helps you to understand the importance of reporting all cases of sexual abuse and/or assault - even if you are not going to open a case. We need to collect the evidence, and get you the appropriate medical and psychological attention.
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