It is never your fault. Nobody deserves to be raped. Nothing you have done means that you caused the rape.
• Get to a safe place. It is important that your safety is your number one priority.
• Tell someone you trust what happened. This person may be asked to support your evidence in court, and is known as the ‘first report witness’. If the first person you tell is a stranger, try to write down their details, and remember their name.This way the police will be able to contact them.
• If you have to change your clothes, put your clothing in a paper bag. A paper bag keeps the evidence intact, whereas a plastic bag will affect evidence.
• If you are going to report your rape, do not wash yourself even if you really want to. At the health facility they will collect evidence from your body, which could assist the investigation.
• Try not to eat or drink if your mouth has come into contact with the alleged perpetrator’s body or penis.
• Even if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs, you still have a right to report the rape. Do not let this stop you from accessing help.
Reporting the rape to the police
You don’t have to decide if you are going to report the rape to the police straight away. It is your right to report up to twenty years after the event.
But, evidence is most able to be collected soon after the rape (within three days). Reporting within three days also increases the chances that the police are able to catch the alleged perpetrator.
Go to a health centre for care
• If you are injured, go straight to a health facility (hospital, your doctor, community health centre) for treatment.
• If you are at a police station, they can call an ambulance for you to take you to the health care facility.
• Tell the health care worker that you have been raped, and they will assist you with getting medication that can prevent the transmission of HIV if you are currently HIV negative. These medicines are only effective within 72 hours of exposure to HIV, and are most effective within eight hours of the rape, so it is important that you try to visit a health care facility as soon as possible.
• They will also treat any injuries you have. If you decide to report the rape, the health care worker can call the police to the health care facility.
Get medical attention
To prevent infection from any injuries, and to issue medication to prevent HIV transmission and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) transmission
· To prevent possible pregnancy
· To collect evidence
Reporting the rape to the police can be scary for both women and men. It is a good idea to go to a health facility first to get your injuries treated, and to get Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV transmission. The sooner a doctor examines you, the sooner they will be able to find proof of the rape (for example hair, skin cells, and semen from the alleged rapist).
You also have the option of going straight to police station first. See Part 3 of the series for more information.
If you are at a health care centre and want to report
· If possible, call a friend or family member to come and be with you whilst waiting to be examined and afterwards. Ask if they can bring some spare clean clothes for you.
· The health care worker can call a police officer to come to the health facility. If you decide to report, at the health facility they will also collect forensic evidence from your body. It is your right to ask questions, and to be treated with respect.
· If you need to go to the bathroom or are having your period, keep any toilet paper, sanitary towels, or tampons as they may contain evidence. These should be placed in an envelope or paper packet when dry.
· If you think you have been drugged, tell the health care worker and s/he will test your urine and blood for evidence.
· If you have eaten or drunk anything after the rape, tell the doctor so that s/he is aware of this when you are examined. If you were not raped orally, tell the doctor so that you can take medication against infection.
The forensic examination
· At the health care facility the doctor (district surgeon) will conduct what is known as the forensic examination. This examination is for the purpose of looking for evidence of the rape on your body including in your hair, and genital and anal regions. The doctor should inform you of what they are going to do to you.
· The doctor will ask you about your medical history, and about what happened during the rape.
· Your clothes will also be taken from you in order to collect evidence from them as well. It is important that if you have taken off your clothes that you have put them in a paper bag, or wrapped them in newspaper.
· After the examination you will have the opportunity to bath or shower, brush your teeth, and eat something. If the police officer has come to the health facility, s/he will ask you questions ideally in a private room.
After you have visited the health facility it is important to listen to information about when you should return for a check up, and to collect more PEP medication if you are HIV negative.
Talking to the police: You have the option of reporting a rape, or reporting a rape and laying a charge.
You have the right to speak to a female police officer. Sometimes special detectives who deal with reports of sexual offences are not based at every station and may take some time to arrive.
Delays in reporting cannot be used against you in court, but the sooner you report the rape, the easier it is to collect evidence, and catch the perpetrator.
Reporting without laying a charge
If you decide to report without laying a charge the police officer must record the report in the occurrence book and give you an occurrence book number (OB number).
Reporting and laying a charge
Ideally your statement should be taken in a private room by an officer of the same gender as you. If you are very upset, are drunk or drugged, or are injured, they make take a preliminary statement and then take a second statement when you are feeling better.
• If you decide to report the rape to the police, you must go to the station nearest to where the rape happened. Take a friend or family member with you for support.
• Ideally take a notebook with you to write down the details and telephone numbers of those who assisted you, as well as your case number. If you are afraid that the alleged rapist(s) will come after you, tell the police this. This may make it less likely that the alleged rapist(s) is allowed out on bail after being arrested.
• The police will ask you details about what happened to you and will write this all down. It is your right to do so in your home language, and the police should get someone to assist you with this. Do not sign your statement until you are happy with it, and that it says exactly what you have said.
• It is your right to get a copy of any statements you make from the police.
• When giving details of the rape it is important to tell the police if you were drunk or under the influence of drugs. This will not be used against you. If you are drunk or on drugs you cannot consent to sex.
• You have the right to ask that the alleged rapist be tested for HIV at the state’s expense if he is caught. Remember to take PEP medicine as the doctor prescribed it, even if the test comes back negative.
• If the police say you cannot report your rape, do not give up. It is your right to report, even if the rape happened a long time ago. If they still refuse, go to another station and explain what happened. You can then make a complaint about this.
When a case has been opened
• An investigating officer (IO) will take over your case. The police should give you the IO’s contact details.
• If the perpetrator is arrested, the IO has a responsibility to inform you.
• If bail is granted, the IO has a responsibility to inform you.
• If you have to identify the perpetrator, you should be made to feel safe by the police. This may happen in an identity parade if you can recognise the perpetrator, or via mug shots or an identikit if you don’t know them.
If you would like to find out more about the process of reporting a rape, watch the virtual tour of the criminal justice system here.