Important Medical Steps to Take for Rape Victims

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Almost daily, there's a report of a young girl raped by an older man or a group of men; also, reports pop up every now and then about a young boy molested sexually by an older woman (in this case the older woman can be a maid in a house or a next-door neighbour. In both cases, the victim is threatened in so many ways by the culprits not to report what has been done to him or her. Even when the parents of the victims learn about what happened to their daughter or son, they are forced to bury it because of the societal stigma attached to victims of rape or the potential denial by the culprits and the eventual societal blame that will be laid on the family for an attempt to tarnish another person's image.

Hence, victims of rape keep mute and in the process, many of them develop a low self-esteem, with some having thoughts of committing suicide, and a few do end up attempting suicide. Most victims of rape become scarred for life and this affects almost every area of their life, especially when it comes to relationships.

Moreover, the tendency to bury cases of rape by the victims and their families predisposes them to unwanted pregnancy (for female victims), sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Therefore, it is extremely important that both the victims of rape and their families and the society at large change this ignorant attitude that encourages taking no action for cases of rape. Everyone needs to understand that the value of a girl doesn't lie in-between her legs nor does being raped change who the person is or what he or she is going to achieve in life. Victims of rape need full, unconditional support the same way accident victims require help.

Hence, parents should always discuss with their children on every aspect of their well-being; they should be ready to friendly answer their questions to gain their confidence; parents should also be very careful when it comes to leaving their children with other people.

To effectively avert the possible adverse effects of rape, families of rape victims should not judge them or encourage them to bury the incident. Instead, they should give these girls or boys all the necessary emotional support and then proceed to provide them with access to other essential services needed for their full healing.

For any case of rape, the following are very important for the effective healing of the victim after he or she has confided in the family for emotional support.

1. Emergency contraception for girls who are passed the age of puberty to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The parents of the girl can purchase Postinor 2 from any good pharmacy for her to take. Postinor 2 is highly effective at preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after an unprotected sex or after a woman has been raped.

2. Parents or guardians of rape victims should take them to a good clinic or hospital to see a doctor immediately for examination and tests for sexually transmitted infections. This will ensure treatment is started immediately if the rape victim contracted any sexually transmitted infections from being raped.

It is also important rape victims undergo HIV testing and be placed on what is known as post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV not later than 3 days after the rape incident. Post-exposure prophylaxis is a set of HIV drugs given to people (for example rape victims) who are exposed to blood or other bodily fluids from people (rapists) whose HIV status is unknown to reduce their risk of contracting the virus in the case such fluids were infected. The drugs are taken for one month after which the person returns to the hospital for another HIV test.

3. Families of rape victims should also ensure such girls or boys receive a professional psychological counselling and rehabilitation from a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist. They should accompany them to each of the counselling sessions with the clinical psychologist and unconditionally support them emotionally throughout.

Rape is a psychologically traumatic experience especially when there's no emotional support from the family of the victims and society at large. However, strong, unconditional emotional support from family, together with the above health measures, will enable rape victims to become not just survivors but conquerors. If you have been raped before, it doesn't change your worth or make you any less of a human.

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Published Thursday, May 11th 2017

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