What to do when you are raped

Wednesday, 17 May 2017: “South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence and rape in the world. These crimes happen every day and all night across our country. The reality of rape and what it means for victims must remain top of mind as we grapple with the overwhelming rape culture in our society and how to change it,” says Palesa Khambi, Right to Care’s Group Marketing Manager.


Rape is a crime committed through a sexual act without the consent or agreement between one or more of the people involved. It is traumatic, humiliating and has life changing consequences. You can be raped by a stranger, by someone you know including a teacher, pastor, relative, parent or sibling, or by someone you are going out with. You can even be raped by your spouse.


“Gender based violence including rape encompasses explicit violence including murder, the removal of someone’s autonomy, degradation and victimisation. It also contributes directly to increasing the incidence of HIV, which is where Right to Care’s focus lies. Right to Care delivers prevention, care, and treatment services for HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and TB. Dealing with HIV and STI prevention means we need to consider gender based violence and rape prevention.”


Khambi explains, “Further contributing to the rape culture in South Africa are myths such as:

  • women who wear revealing clothing or stay out late at bars are inviting rape;
  • a woman can prevent rape if she tries hard enough;
  • people who drink or take drugs are inviting rape;
  • women lie about being raped to get revenge on men.

Someone’s choice of clothing, their choice to drink alcohol, their choice to be flirtatious, or their silence are not crimes. Rape is a crime.”


While women bear the brunt of gender-based violence, men can be raped too. Some people still believe that gay men and women deserve to be raped. She says the force used by a rapist to subdue a male victim is often much more violent than that used towards a woman. Manipulation is also often used to control and overpower younger boys and teenagers.


What to do when raped

  1. Get to a safe place.
  2. Tell someone you know whom you can trust.
  3. Do not wash yourself or throw away your clothes as there might be hair, blood or semen on your body or clothes that can be used as evidence to convict your attacker. Keep the clothes wrapped in newspaper, not a plastic bag, which can damage the evidence. Keep the toilet paper if you go to the toilet because it may contain evidence. Let it dry and put it in an envelope or paper bag – not a plastic bag.
  4. Go to the nearest hospital, clinic or Thuthuzela Care Centre as soon as possible. Do not wait longer than 72 hours. Try not to eat or drink until you have seen a doctor. The doctor needs to collect blood and semen samples from your body before you bath of shower in case you want to lay a charge. This is forensic evidence that will be used to prosecute the rapist.
  5. The doctor will write his report on a J88 form, which is used in court. Make two copies of the J88 form after the doctor has filled it out. One is for the police, the other for yourself.
  6. Lay a charge if you choose to – the police cannot tell you whether or not it is correct to lay a charge. Ask for the station commander if the police on the charge desk are not listening to you.
  7. You have the right to report the rape at any police station, no matter where the rape took place. If you can get to the police station close to where the incident took place, the police may have a better chance of gathering the evidence and catching the perpetrator.

The police should take you to a private room and you can request a female officer.

  1. You can report the rape up to 20 years after it occurred, but the sooner you report, the better chance the police have to gather evidence and arrest the perpetrator.
  2. Tell the police if you fear revenge or intimidation from the rapist and ask that the rapist is not allowed out on bail.
  3. Write down the case number and the name and number of the police officer in charge of your case. Ask for a copy of your police statement. The police must put your case number on the J88 form, then stamp and sign it and give it to you.
  4. Ask for the number of a local counselling service to give you support.


“The issue of under reporting remains a challenge in quantifying and monitoring levels of gender based violence and rape. Through our partnerships with funders, government, civil society, traditional and religious leaders, we encourage every victim of gender based violence or rape to report the crime.


Says Khambi: “Right to Care works with both the Department of Health and the Department of Correctional Services to prevent gender based violence, rape and HIV. Thuthuzela Care Centres are playing an important role in dealing with the aftermath of rape and providing best practice post violence care to victims. These one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary trauma for the victim, to improve conviction rates and to reduce the cycle time for finalising cases. They operate in public hospitals in communities where the incidence of rape is high and they are also linked to the sexual offences courts which is a new South African anti-rape intervention.”


Khambi says that more initiatives like DREAMS are required to deal with the scourge of rape and violence. “The goal of DREAMS, which Right to Care is part of, is to help girls develop into determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-free, mentored, and safe women. DREAMS addresses the structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase girls’ HIV risk, including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and a lack of education.


“Many adolescent girls and young women lack opportunities and are devalued because of gender bias, leading them to be seen as unworthy of investment or protection. Social isolation, economic disadvantage, discriminatory cultural norms, orphanhood, gender-based violence, and school drop-out all contribute to girls’ vulnerability to HIV.”




Right to Care is a non-profit organisation that supports and delivers prevention, care, and treatment services for HIV and TB. Through technical assistance, Right to Care supports private sector, the Department of Health and the Department of Correctional Services. In addition, through direct service delivery, Right to Care treats patients for HIV, TB, cervical cancer, and sexually transmitted infections.





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