A reported 42 289 people were raped between April 2019 and March 2020, according to crime statistics from the South African Police Force. These are only the incidents that were reported, and much more likely went by without any action.

The sad reality in South Africa is that rape is a very real and true threat, mostly to South African women and girls.

As heartbreaking as it is, it is important to know your rights and what to do in the event of this terrible incident.

If you or someone who know has been the victim of rape, the most important thing to do is to have the evidence collected so that you can effectively open a case against the perpetrator when you are ready to do so.

Netcare has 37 Sexual Assault Centres in operation throughout the country, dedicated to providing professional healthcare and compassion to survivors of rape.

The Netcare Sexual Assault Centres offer free counselling to men, women and children immediately after rape and for a year thereafter, irrespective of whether the rape survivor is medically insured or not. If necessary, anti-pregnancy medication and antiretroviral therapy are also offered.

Netcare also provides free rape kits for those in need. Simply head to your closest Netcare and they will use the rape kit to collect all forensic evidence. Even if you don’t open a case, the evidence will be kept until you gather the courage to open a case.

This is incredibly important because even if the victim feels in that moment that they do not want to press charges, they might change their minds later. Taking these steps beforehand will allow you to preserve evidence and thus strengthen your case.

How to preserve the evidence:

After the incident, it is imperative not to:

– Wash any part of the body including hands, because the blood and skin of the attacker might be under the victim’s fingernails.

– Use the toilet.

– Drink anything or brush your teeth.

– Brush hair, as pieces of evidence may have gathered there.

– Change clothes.

– Clean or disturb anything in the area where the rape took place.

If you have no choice but to change clothes or have any other evidence relevant to the case, place each item in a separate paper bag or envelope. Do not use plastic, as it degrades evidence and could render it useless.

Please visit www.netcare.co.za to find your nearest Netcare Sexual Assault Centre.

Assistance can also be obtained for men, women and children from LifeLine’s Rape Crisis Centre on 0861322322 or from the Women Abuse Helpline on 0800150150.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rebecca Linder/Released

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