Health facilities fail rape survivors

Health facilities fail rape survivors

Three-quarters of public health facilities designated to provide medical or forensic care for survivors of sexual violence, are unable to do so. 

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In addition, there are very few forensic nurses as forensic nursing is still not recognised as a specialized skill by the SA Nursing Council or the health department, and the Free State University is the only place that offers training.

This is according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which released a report yesterday (29 Nov), exposing critical gaps in medical and forensic care for survivors of sexual violence.

In preparation for the report, “Untreated Violence: Critical gaps in medical and clinical forensic care for survivors of sexual violence in South Africa”, MSF called all 265 facilities designated to provide care for survivors of sexual assault. A quarter of facilities were unreachable.

In total, 167 (63%) participated in the survey and the main findings include:

  • Only 43 facilities (26,7%) provide the full medical component of the comprehensive package of care
  • Only 68 facilities (42%) reported all medical examination and treatments were available
  • 12 facilities (7%) reported they did not provide any services for survivors of sexual violence

Where clinical forensic services are available, they are provided exclusively by doctors in 74 of these facilities. Counselling and social assistance was not widely reportedly available. Only 27% of facilities provide access to a psychologist, while 28% are unable to provide access to a social worker 20% do not provide the clinical forensic services that enable survivors to pursue a legal case against their attacker.

MSF called on the Department of Health to “urgently address issues of access to health care for hundreds of thousands of people who each year experience sexual violence in South Africa”.

“National findings and MSF experience in North West suggest a need for more healthcare workers to be trained in caring for survivors of sexual violence,” says Cecilia Lamola, MSF forensic nurse and nurse mentor in Rustenburg. “Nurses should be trained to conduct forensic examinations with standard clinical care, and lay counsellors can be given skills to offer longer-term support for survivors,” she adds. – Health-e News.