Women's experiences of and preferences for services after rape in South Africa: interview studyBMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38664.482060.55 (Published 26 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:209
All rapid responses
We read with interest the article “Women’s experiences of, and
preferences for, services after rape in South Africa: interview study (1).
It is interesting to note that women identify psychological support as a
priority. Throughout our careers in psychiatry as female clinicians we
have encountered many rape victims. We would like to supplement the good
efforts of Christofides et al. by adding these few points to the benefit
of the readers.
Firstly, in contrast to the wider perception, rape is a common
occurrence. One in every 6 women is likely to be raped during her lifetime
(2). The most at risk groups are adolescents and women under 25.These are
young women with their lives ahead of them and need support to normalize
their lives and to realize their full potential.
Secondly, there is a significant social stigma on rape victims,
transculturally. A study done in UK in 2005 showed a significant number of
people believed the victim to be responsible for the rape (3). With such
attitudes prevailing, it is understandable why the victims are reluctant
to seek help and why it becomes very important to prevent a “second rape”
of these vulnerable people at the health services.
Therefore, in a situation as rape, it is important to put adequate
emphasis on mental health along with physical health in order to prevent
the victims from being scarred for life. In a previous study (4), contact
with mental health professionals was perceived to be healing by 70% of the
rape victims that indicated the need for psychological support as is also
pointed out by this new study done in South Africa. This study further
points out that women are willing to face the inconvenience of travelling
far if they could receive psychological support. Therefore, while agreeing
with the importance of HIV prophylaxis, prevention of pregnancy and
treatment of sexually transmitted infections, we would like to emphasize
that equal or more weight be given to provision of professional
psychological support when planning and implementing rape services.
1. Christofides NJ, Muirhead D, Jewkes RK, Penn-Kekana L, Conco DN.
(2006). Women’s experiences of, and preferences for, services after rape
in South Africa: interview study. BMJ, 332, 209-212.
2. Petter LM, Whitehill DL, (1998) Management of Female Sexual
Assault. Am Fam Physician, 1998 Sep15; 58(4), 920-6,929-30
3. Amnesty International UK (2005) UK: New Poll finds a third of
people believe women who flirt partially responsible for being raped.
4. Campbell R, Wasco SM, Ahrens CE, Sefl T, Barnes HE. (2001)
Preventing the “Second Rape”: Rape Survivors’ Experiences with Community
Service Providers. J Interpers Violence, 16, 1239-1259.
Competing interests: No competing interests