A shocking report reveals that at least 11 000 women and girls in the Rustenburg district in the North West are raped each year, with 49% also being subjected to some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
The study conducted by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) via a household survey in 2015 also found that while one in four women have been raped at some point, very few ever seek medical care or make a police report.
The survey was conducted among 800 women between the ages of 18 and 49. “At 25% prevalence, the disease burden of sexual violence is substantial,” according to the report.
Sexual violence is a major problem in South Africa, with studies showing that up to one in four women have been raped in their lifetime.
Only a small proportion of rapes – as few as one in 25 – are reported to the police and many survivors never access care. “Sexual violence may cause HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and mental disorders. With prompt treatment by trained healthcare workers, the associated health consequences can be avoided or reduced.”
Providing sexual violence survivors with access to comprehensive care is thus a medical imperative, MSF said.
The department of health has designated 265 public healthcare facilities across all provinces to provide medical and psychological care to survivors of sexual violence, as well as the option of clinical forensic services.
But comprehensive medical and forensic care is still not widely available, MSF said.
“Urgent interventions are required to ensure access to services improves. “Designated facilities should provide survivors of sexual violence with care that addresses all possible health consequences.”
Since 2015, MSF has supported the North West department of health in providing patient-centred services for survivors of sexual violence in Bojanala District.
“In 2015, the North West department of health and MSF partnered to establish Kgomotso Care Centre in the Boitekong Community Health Centre in the Rustenburg Local Municipality of Bojanala Platinum District. In 2016, the department, supported by MSF, established two more care centres at Bapong and Letlhabile in Madibeng Local Municipality.”
To close the gaps in healthcare provision for sexual violence victims, MSF calls on the government to take urgent action in these arenas:
- To make public healthcare services for survivors’ medical, clinical forensic, mental health and social assistance needs more widely available.
- To train staff in the medical, psychological and social management of sexual violence.
- For social development and health departments to improve community awareness and use of sexual violence services.
- For the health, social development and justice departments to assess service gaps leading to a strategic plan by mid-2018.