ADULT Rape Clinic on Friday launched a campaign to increase awareness on the importance of seeking medical services within 72 hours of sexual abuse among survivors of rape.
Launched in Mabvuku, Harare, this initiative supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Zimbabwe saw a concerted concern of this dire need involving the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Victim Friendly Unit, Family Support Trust, Musasa Project, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), Childline Zimbabwe, among others.
ARC co-director Ms Memory Kadhau in an interview said their organisation could anytime soon rebrand to reflect their scope of service provision to ages 0 years and above. She said they have learned most of the survivors are reporting late leading to their services appear redundant.
“We offer post rape services to survivors of sexual violence. We also offer psychosocial support. Today we are here launching the Hashtag 72 campaign encouraging victims of sexual violence to seek medical services within 72 hours or three days for the benefit of preventing HIV, Sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, offering them psychosocial counselling services. Why we are insisting on #72 it’s because most of the time survivors present after 72 hours. We are aiming to increase awareness on the benefits of reporting within 72 hours for us to provide post exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV,” Kadhau.
Kadhau said the high rate of rape victims coming whether late or in time for their medical services is in Mabvuku.
“We are looking at this campaign which we have just launched in Mabvuku because a high rate of survivors we see at ARC, Parirenyatwa C9 from here. We receive 60 percent of our survivors as adolescents and young women. Some will already be pregnant when they present. Of this 60 percent, 28 percent comes from Mabvuku, Caledonia and other surrounding area which is a big number for us.
“That is why we decided to talk about these issues encouraging them to come early to prevent teen pregnancies and these negative factors that come from being sexually abused. I think hashtag 72 is also going to be a prompt for us to start talking about prevention of sexual and gender based violence,” she said.
She said they want to challenge cultural,societal norms and believes harbouring and fueling sexual violence. “. One thing we are also encouraging is for survivors not to bath, or wash for preserving the evidence because we also do medical examination and collect forensic evidence and complete medical affidavits that will be presented in court.
“After they come, we collect the evidence, and the police start investigating the case, open a docket, talk to survivors’ for a statement and we give them the medical affidavit and we submit whatever we would have found to the forensic department. They talk and arrest the perpetrator within 24 hours. The police have challenges in terms of funding. In terms of working together we work really well which is commendable,” Kadhau said.
Kadhau bemoaned the low conviction rates of sexual crimes calling for stiffer deterrent penalties for pepertrators.
Netherlands Embassy in Zimbabwe Politics and Human Rights Officer Fortune Gwaze said they are fully supportive of initiatives fighting gender based violence. He encouraged survivors of SGBV to urgently seek medical services to avoid detrimental health complications.
“My word of encouragement is first of all saying to them, it’s not your fault that it happened to you. Secondly it’s important you seek medical services and know there is help all around you. You don’t have to be ashamed. You don’t have to self-blame. It’s difficult but you will be avoiding depression, resorting to substance abuse and at times even suicide. What we are saying is 72 hours from the medical side. You can do the 72 hours to minimize all these detrimental circumstances. It’s not that within the 72 hours we are forcing you to say report it and let this person be prosecuted. What we are saying is in 72 hours seek medical assistance, then legal and that other process you can open up as you feel the time is right to open up. Don’t be ashamed. There is help all around you when this happens to you,” Mr Gwaze said.
He urged men to respect women. “The man of violence loses valor. There is absolutely you gain or show by being violent. There is nothing you gain by inflicting pain or injury in another person. Also hitting a woman or hurting a woman, there is no justification whatsoever. So my encouragement when you feel the need to get violent, beat up a drum or a wall and that a woman is wearing whatever they have in any place is not an invitation that they want to be raped. So I encourage men to desist, to respect women and to be leaders in their families and communities,” he said.