"Rape: the new scourge of the Cape Flats"

By Di Caelers 

Shock statistics show that GF Jooste Hospital in Manenberg treats an average of 100 girls and women every month who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

The youngest patient doctors have seen was just six months old, and the oldest 82.

The horror levels of rape and sexual assault on the Cape Flats were exposed starkly during a rape trial in the Wynberg regional court last week when Dr Roy Chuunga, who heads the Thuthuzela Project at the hospital, said that since the start of the project in 2000, 2 900 rape and sexual assault survivors had undergone treatment there.

Speaking out this week on the depth of the crisis, Chuunga said the rapes and sexual assault incidents resulted in a huge medical and emotional burden on hospital staff.

Each case, aside from the emotional effect on staff, took between one and a half and two hours to deal with. Many patients had been brutally assaulted, and doctors also had the vital task of collecting forensic evidence.

The Thuthuzela (meaning "to comfort" in Xhosa) Project was started five years ago at GF Jooste by the National Prosecuting Authority, in response to the high incidence of rape and sexual assault on women in Manenberg, Heideveld, Nyanga, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.

Chuunga said that when the project started they had seen an average of 40 sexual assault cases a month. Last year their area of coverage was extended and they now saw an average of 100. Most sought treatment after hours and at weekends.

"For a junior doctor, treating each of these women can take as long as two hours, and that can be cut by about half an hour if the doctor is experienced like I am," he said.

"First and foremost we have to look after the health needs of that person, and then we give them medication to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV."

"We collect forensic evidence throughout in accordance with a special rape kit that we get from the police."

But Chuunga made it clear that the emotional strain on staff was enormous, especially when they started dealing with cases involving child victims last year.

"I think it's so hard because when you see a child who has been sexually assaulted, and you listen to the story of what happened, you realise that that situation can happen to anyone," he said.

"That's when staff start thinking about their own children's safety, and things get very difficult."

One case that had remained with him for a long time was the gang-rape of a car accident victim who had a broken leg and a fractured pelvis.

"She and her boyfriend had crashed their car and they thought these five men were coming to help them. But instead she was raped by each of them. You just wonder how a person can actually do such a thing to another person," Chuunga said.


This article was originally published on page 1 of The Cape Argus on June 28, 2005

Published on the Web by IOL on 2005-06-28 09:58:00

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