Seeking help after you've been raped
Rape is when someone uses their power, manipulation or force to intimidate, humiliate, exploit, degrade or control another. Rape diminishes a person's dignity and their human rights to safety, choice and consent. Rape a crime that should be reported to the police. The most important thing however, is to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible and protect yourself against unwanted pregnancy and STIs – including HIV. Whether it was by a stranger or someone you know, rape is a horrific ordeal that can make you feel ashamed, degraded and even guilty – wondering what you did to encourage such an act. Trust us, chomas, no matter how short your skirt is or how friendly you are, it’s not your fault. Often, rape isn’t even about sex so much as it about power. Rapists are usually cowardly individuals with their own insecurities. They are the guilty ones, not you. As awful as you feel after an incident, it’s important to think about your future and seek help immediately.
- Go somewhere safe and call someone you trust for help.
- Tell someone you can trust about what has happened to you. It may be extremely difficult or even overwhelming to speak out but having a trusted choma by your side can be of great comfort and support to you. You shouldn’t suffer in silence.
- After going through a rape, your most important concern is your physical and emotional well-being. So whether you wish to report the crime or not, you must go to your nearest clinic or hospital for medical attention. You’ll need to take the Morning After Pill to prevent pregnancy and get tested for HIV and receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection. For these treatments to be effective you need to take them within 72 hours, therefore this means seeking medical attention as soon after the rape as possible. The doctor will also give you an antibiotic to treat any STIs (sexually transmitted diseases).
- Reporting the crime and laying charges against the rapist is your decision at the end of the day. If you are going to report the crime, go to your nearest police station as soon as possible. You need to report it within three days for a better chance at gathering any evidence of the incident and building a stronger case against the rapist in court. Being drunk at the time of the rape, should not stop you from reporting the crime and getting the medical attention you need
- You may want to clean yourself up but don’t shower or wash your clothing just yet. There may be evidence like blood, semen and hair that can prove in a court of law that the rapist is guilty.
- Reporting the rape to the police, will mean that an investigation will take place. This will include a forensic examination. This is when the doctor will physically examine you to gather proof of the rape, i.e. traces of blood, hair or semen.
- Most public clinics have rape crisis centres, where services are freely and readily available. These include a counsellor that will help you deal with the immediate shock and trauma of the rape, and access to a social worker for on-going support.
- Counselling is essential to helping you deal with the emotional stress of what has happened to you. You can call the POWA (People Opposed to Woman Abuse) helpline on 083 765 1235. You can also contact the Stop Gender Abuse helpline on 0800 150 150. The Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust offers counselling services as well: 021 447-9762 (Observatory), 021 633 9229 (Athlone) and 021 361 9085 (Khayalitsha).
Remember chomas, rape is a crime – against your body and your heart. Ignoring it can lead to long-term physical and emotional effects. It’s not something you can magically get over, but talking to a choma or seeking counselling and support groups or talking to someone who has been through the same experience can help you realise that rape doesn’t define who you are.
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