It is an understatement that the aftermath of rape is a physically and emotionally difficult time for a victim.
In fact, it is so physically and emotionally traumatic, that many rape victims choose to suffer the physical pain and the feelings of vulnerability, fear, guilt and shame, in isolation and silence.
Whilst this might be a common reaction, there is no need for a survivor of rape to go through the trauma alone. Instead, there is hope and assistance for survivors of rape at Harare’s Adult and Adolescent Rape Clinic (AARC).
AARC offers support to female and male survivors of rape aged 13 years-old and above. Located at Parirenyatwa hospital in Ward C9, the AARC has skilled counsellors who provide comprehensive support to survivors.
The Clinic offers confidential support and advice – both medical and psychological – to survivors, with no obligation on a survivor to thereafter go to the police or tell their families. Many rape survivors don’t report incidences of rape fearing the triggering of flashbacks or initiating negative family dynamics.
An HIV test is conducted and if the survivor has managed to visit AARC within 72 hours after the assault, they are given post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection. The AARC also offers pregnancy testing, and referrals for legal advice.
“All our services are free, and in the eventuality that the survivor falls pregnant as a result of the rape, we can organize a legal and safe termination here at Parirenyatwa,” says Dr. Ginny Iliff, chairperson of AARC.
If a survivor decides to press charges, AARC will assist them by filling out a Sexual Assault Affidavit form, which enables the police to open a docket. A carbon copy of the affidavit is kept under lock and key at AARC for use if the original one goes missing. In cases where survivors ‘seroconvert’ (when someone changes from HIV negative to HIV positive after a period of time) this evidence can be brought to court together with the affidavit.
Counselling is offered for survivors for at least three months to prevent long-term mental health problems. AARC has an open-door policy which allows survivors to come through as long as they feel they need support. AARC clinic manager Rudo Mashingaidze, says healing processes differ with each person and that some receive counselling for over a year.
Mashingaidze expressed concern over a recurring pattern in society where rape is being perpetrated by someone familiar to the victim – family members, a spouse, friends or neighbours. Rape by strangers unknown to the survivors also occurs, as well as organized rape, usually against men. She also noted the spiking of rape figures during the time when O’ level and A’ level students await their results. This could be attributed to the fact that students are restless and in need of money so are easily lured by rapists under the guise of job offers only to find themselves the victims of sexual assault.
“With rape, you don’t need a forest, four walls and a roof or a dark alley. Random incidences of rape can happen anywhere even with people passing by, after dropping off at your bus stop or while walking by a maize field. People need to be on the lookout,” warned Mashingaidze.
In the event that you are raped you should visit AARC within 72 hours to prevent HIV infection. If possible, avoid bathing before reporting. Clothes worn at the time of the rape should not be washed or discarded as they are important evidence against the rapist.
AARC was established in 2009 in response to the lack of appropriate facilities for a comprehensive and sensitive medico-legal service for adult rape survivors in Harare. Prior to AARC, survivors were attended to in the busy casualty department of the hospital which did not allow for privacy or sensitivity. AARC also has branches in Norton and Chitungwiza.
Unfortunately, the clinic is currently facing serious financial challenges. They have run out of funds to continue operations and will shut down operations at the end of February if they fail to secure financial assistance.
The AARC is located in Ward C9 at Parirenyatwa Hospital. They are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4.30pm. They can be reached on 2918266, and 0775 672 770 or 0733 406 291. You can also get in touch with them through their Facebook page: “ARC.”
Image: Members of the AARC Team in Gweru
Image credit: AARC