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According to statistics supplied by the South African Police Service the number of rapes increased with 20,6% between 1994 and 2002 (see the web page of the South African Police Service www. Saps .gov.za). NICRO also maintains that only one out of every 20 cases of rape or attempted rape is reported. If this is indeed true, the implications are shocking.
If it is correct that only one out of every 20 rapes or attempted rapes is reported, one person is raped every 30,3 seconds somewhere in South Africa! Even with the official number of 52 107 cases per year, it reflects an incidence of one rape every 10 minutes!
It is also of great concern that a large number of rape victims are children. This is often due to a misconception in the community that intercourse with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS.
A survey of 163 alleged rape victims in the Cape Town region a number of years ago revealed that 46% of rape victims were younger than 20 years (5,6% younger than 10 years), 46% between the ages of 20 and 40, and the remainder older than 40 years.
No observable injuries were recorded in 33% of cases; tenderness and abrasions of the genitals in 37%; genital tears in 25%, and severe genital lacerations with or without extragenital traumatic lesions in 5%. Seventy-three per cent of the victims were allegedly assaulted by a single assailant.
The medical examination should commence as soon as the complainant (or a representative) has given consent. The examination must be thorough, taking particular note of even the most trivial of injuries, as well as the mental state of the victim. The appropriate specimens (eg vaginal smears, blood, pubic hair) must be routinely taken. It is often only much later, and usually at the trial, that the relevance of a particular observation or laboratory result relating to the victim or assailant is revealed. It is important to bear in mind that bruising may only appear some hours after the assault.
It is equally important to examine the alleged assailant thoroughly, both with regard to his physical and his mental state.
The examining doctor will not be in a position to say whether the complainant was raped from the medical findings alone. Although the very nature of the investigation demands a sympathetic approach, his or her function is to report objectively on the observations and to prepare him/ herself adequately to interpret these during evidence, avoiding at all stages and at all costs prejudgment of the case.
Note that section 335B of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 contains special provisions enabling a magistrate or, in cases of extreme urgency, even a policeman, to consent to medical examination of a minor who was probably a victim of a sexual offence. This may occur where, for example, a parent cannot be traced within a reasonable time, or unreasonably refuses to consent, or is himself or herself the suspected offender, or is deceased.
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