Coping with rape and sexual assualt

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Between April 2008 and March 2009 Nairobi Women’s Hospital recorded 2805 survivors of sexual violence. Of these, 91 per cent were women while 9 per cent were men.
Nairobi Women’s Hospital Deputy Programs Manager Alberta Wambua says the numbers indicate that women are most vulnerable. However, a large number of survivors are still unaccounted.

“Most of the people who come here live in Nairobi and its environs. These numbers cannot therefore be representative of the situation in the whole of Kenya,” Wambua observes.

When a man, woman or child who has been raped seek medical attention a rape kit is used to collect evidence and provide immediate medical attention. A rape kit is a collection of equipment used to collect evidence and preserve it for the government chemists. Evidence that is usually collected includes the perpetrator’s pubic hair and bodily fluids like sperm. The rape kit contains the Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), emergency contraceptive, Hepatitis B vaccine, antibiotics, a scalpel and gloves.

According to the World Health Organisation Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is short-term antiretroviral treatment to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure.

What do you if you are raped?
Victims of sexual abuse have to be tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, sexually transmitted infections STIs as well as pregnancy before any preventive drugs are administered.

How soon are the drugs administered?
The drugs must be given within 72 hours of abuse.

What happens when the results are negative?
The doctor will conduct tests for sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy (before the specified period elapses). If they are negative, the doctor will administer Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV, a Hepatitis B vaccine, antibiotics to prevent STIs and a pregnancy contraceptive (for women).

What happens if the survivor does not get medical attention in 72 hours?
It is very important for a survivor to get medical attention in 72 hours otherwise they are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

What other precautionary measures are taken?

The victim needs to go through three other subsequent HIV tests, at six weeks, three months and six months as a precautionary measure. The first PEP treatment will be administered for one month. The Hepatitis vaccine will be given again after one month and after six months.
In addition, the victim will also need to go through post exposure counselling to help them re-adjust.
 
What are some of the challenges the survivors face?
The PEP treatment sometimes disturbs survivors psychologically. Some ask why they need to take the medicine if they are HIV negative and it gets worse for the victims because of the mentality associated with HIV treatment. We however have to advise them to take this treatment as well as the follow-up treatment that needs to be done.

How do you tell when a survivor has moved one from their ordeal?

The victim’s ability to move on with their life is the greatest challenge. When victims who were abused in the past come up and tell us that they are getting married it shows they have been able to move on with their lives. It gives hope to other victims because they hear encouraging stories from people who suffered the same abuse and were able to pick up their lives.

Sexual violence can be extremely traumatising, It is very important that you seek immediate medical attention and further support to help you recover.

For help please call or visit the

Nairobi Women’s Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Centre
Argwings Kodhek Road, Hurlingham Nairobi
Tel: 254-020 2712886, 2726821/4/6/7, 2736845
Mobiles: 254-0722-760146, 0733-618353

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Sarah Wambui

Sarah is a graduate of Daystar University with a degree in Corporate Communication with a minor in Marketing. Her personal mantra is ‘”Always keep an open mind.”

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