What to do if you are a victim of sexual assault?

Col Ellappen advises that the complainant should try to obtain as much information as possible in order for the successful apprehension of the suspect.

The risk of rape has become an alarming concern among parents and residents in the community and the world over and the rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world.

Sexual violence is the use of force or manipulation to get someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity without his or her consent.

Chatsworth SAPS Cluster Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit’s commander, Col KS Ellappen, who is working in the unit for the past 15 years, said the complainant should immediately go the police station after the crime against him/her has been committed so that the relevant procedures which follow will assist in the successful apprehension and conviction of the suspect.

ALSO READ: Know your rights and report sexual violence

Reporting a rape

  • Report to the nearest police station.
  • The police officer on duty will attend to the complaint and the complainant has a right to tell the officer that the complaint is sensitive in nature and should be addressed privately.
  • The officer will then have to establish the facts and the victim is referred to the Thuthuzela Care Centre based at the RK Khan Hospital in Croftdene.
  • The complainant will be assisted by a police officer, doctor, nurse and social worker.
  • The complainant will be interviewed in private.
  • Once the information obtained from the complainant the complainant will be examined by a district surgeon.
  • A social worker will be assigned to the complainant.
  • If it is determined during the interview that the complainant can identify the perpetrator, the complainant will be required to accompany police officers to correctly identify the perpetrator.
  • Direct contact between the perpetrator and the complainant will be minimised during the identification.

Reporting a rape or sexual offence committed against a minor

  • In terms of Section 54 of the Sexual Offences Act, any individual who is aware of a rape they are obligated to report it, more especially if the victim is a child.
  • Any member of the public who does not report the incident can be charged with the contravention of Section 54 of the Sexual Offences Act.
  • Members of the public can remain anonymous when reporting a sexual offence or rape.
  • The person reporting incidents relating to children must be factual and be able to provide police officers with concrete information which can assist them in helping the child.
  • Injuries and witnessed incidents of abuse or rape should be clarified when reporting incidents.
  • A good description of the crime should be provided.
  • Information at hand should include – date, time, place.

Preserving evidence

  • The crime should be reported immediately.
  • The complainant should not have a bath or change their clothing before being examined by the district surgeon.
  • If there is a need to change clothing, the clothing, including underwear, should be put into a bag, preferably a paper bag, and taken to the police station.
  • Physical evidence is secured within the first 72 hours of the crime and biological evidence breaks down after 72 hours making it difficult to obtain the relevant evidence.
  • The complainant should try to obtain all the relevant information in order for the successful apprehension of the suspect. For example try to take note of vehicle registration number, description of the perpetrator including skin colour, height, weight, scars, description of the scene of crime, tattoos, etc.

ALSO READ: Investigators secure various convictions for crimes against women and children

Col KS Ellappen said there are three crime scenes in terms of rape:

  1. The victim’s body.
  2. The place of the crime.
  3. The suspects’ body.

The rights of the rape complainant

  • The complainant has a right to be treated fairly, in a humane manner, with a high degree of compassion, understanding, caring and privacy.
  • To be given the best possible assistance and service.
  • To see a district surgeon.
  • To be referred to a social worker.
  • To HIV treatment.
  • Demand that the accused is tested for HIV.
  • A fair criminal process.
  • To be updated throughout the length of the criminal investigation until the case is finalised.

For advice or to report a rape or sexual crime, Col Ellappen can be contacted on 031 451-4212 or 083-468-5037.

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  AUTHOR
Yoshini Perumal
Journalist

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