Rape emergency in Rustenburg- MSF

Rape emergency in Rustenburg- MSF Photo: AusAID

By Nomatter Ndebele

One in four women surveyed in the Rustenburg  area reports having been raped, according to a report released yesterday at the 1st South African National conference on Violence being held at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.

The Doctors without borders (MSF) report titled Untreated Violence: The need for patient-centred care for survivors of sexual violence in the platinum mining belt, detailed the results of a survey of over 800 women between the ages of 18 and 49.

Of those women in the survey who had reported being raped, 40.5% of women stated they had been raped by a non-partner only, 28.2% by a partner only and 31.2% said they had experienced rape by both a non-partner and partner over the course of their lifetime.

The MSF report said that the over 800 women in the study were representative of women in the area. Based on the survey findings, they estimate that  around 11 000 women and girls are raped each year in the Rustenburg Municipality. 95% of the women in the survey who said they had been raped also said they did not report it at a healthcare facility. Only 4% of women told a counsellor and only 3% told a social worker that they had been raped.

According to crime stats SA, there were 166 cases of sexual violence reported in 2015 in the Rustenburg Municipality – which amounts to 9.3% of cases in the Northwest.

Kernel Sabata Mokgwuabone of the Rustenburg SAPS said that the department had always maintained that “One case is one case too many. As the police, we are doing our best to work with structures like community forums or anyone else that wants to assist in curbing the incidents of sexual violence”

Lack of services

Rustenburg is located in the Bojanala Health district and according to the North West Province Department of health, of the 783 health facilities in the district, only 11 facilities provide post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection, and support forensic examination for rape survivors.

MSF Epidemiologist Sarah-Jane Steele, explained that one of the issues aligned with these high incidents of rape was that opportunities to reduce serious health impacts of rape were being missed. “The majority of women we interviewed don’t even know that such treatment (PEP) exists, services close to where they live are sorely lacking and lack of financial independence may make access difficult even when services are present,” she said.

In light of this MSF has called on the South African Government to roll out a comprehensive and widely accessible medical and psychosocial response that addresses and removes the barriers to accessing a basic package of health care services for victims of Sexual violence, not just in Rustenburg, but across the country.

According to MSF medical Co-ordinator Amir Shroufi  a patient centred approach to rape and sexual violence that prioritises the medical and psychosocial needs of survivors is what is needed to curb the problem. “All rape survivors should receive access to comprehensive medical and psychosocial services to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and other infectious diseases, preventing unwanted pregnancy, addressing psychological distress and linking the patient to appropriate social support,” he said.