What To Do In The Event Of Sexual Assault (Rape)

Whilst it is frightening and horrendous that we in SA have the need to have to educate people on what to do in the event of Rape, or to even contemplate the possibility of being raped, the following information may ensure that the Rapist is brought to justice through the proper collection of evidence. What strikes one most when reading the following section is that the victim is subjected to even further trauma and suffering throughout the ordeal of being examined after the attack, and it is for this reason that we believe it is essential that the Medical Examiners handling the case are properly informed insofar as KNOWING what they are doing when collecting evidence from a Rape Victim, and above all, are compassionate; furthermore it is important that the victim or family member or friend of the victim know what to expect and what the victim’s rights are during the examination. Knowledge is power and Empowering.

Some important facts to remember:

  • Rape can happen to anyone – a male or female, of any age, race, class, nationality or religious affiliation
  • No one asks to be raped no matter what they wear, where they are, what they have done or whether they have been using drugs or alcohol
  • You can be raped by a stranger or someone you trust
  • Rape is about power and control, not sex
  • Rape is a crime of power not passion
  • Rape is abuse of your human rights and is against the law

This a guide for survivors of rape and sexual assault developed by the Department of Health.

What a Rape Victim Can Do

Collection of Evidence

It is important for the victim to put on her underwear and even pants after the incident, until help arrives/until she can get to a medical examiner. The  reason for this there is gravity challenge (as semen drains away from the body, this at least allow it to be trapped by the pants etc). This works hand in hand with a knowledgeable Social Worker/ Psychologist/ Counsellor/ member of the public to a Police Official who will ensure that the pants are taken from the victim to be swabbed for semen. Oftentimes, due to the victim feeling so violated, she is inclined to leave the panties at the crime scene – if the victim is able to collect everything from the crime scene, including condoms if used, then this can be used as crucial and valuable evidence. It is important to note that this would not break the chain of custody as the victim herself is in fact the crime scene. In order to maintain this chain of custody, it is best not to remove any other evidence from the crime scene, nor change out of the clothes worn at the time of the attack so as to preserve all evidence. If however, this has already been done, ensure that any evidence such as the pants/condom is stored within a paper envelope, paper bag  or cardboard box. The collection of evidence must then be given to the Medical Examiner who will package it and seal it properly and send on for examination to the Forensic Science Laboratory. It is believed that bags made of plastic material cause degradation of biological Material e.g. liquid semen as a result of the heat encountered in the bag. For this reason it is better to store in a paper bag/envelope and in a cool area as far as is possible – of course, if  there is only a plastic container/bag available, rather use this than leave evidence at the crime scene, but then ensure that it is kept cool.


Reporting the Rape

As soon as possible after the attack, the victim must first report to the nearest Police Station to report the Rape (the victim may specify that a female investigating officer take her particulars). The IO will open a docket and take a statement as well as take down the victim's personal particulars and a brief description of what happened. The victim may  provide a further statement to the IO at another time if she/he feels too traumatised to give a full description of what occurred. The victim will then be taken to a District Surgeon or Hospital for examination – the hospital where the victim will be examined will have to  be a Government Hospital and not a Private Hospital.

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The Medical Examiner

Once the victim has been taken or has reached a Medical Examiner (The victim is entitled to insist on the Medical Examiner being a female) they will collect evidence and store it with what is known as a SAECK – this is a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit  which is sometimes referred to as a “Crime Kit” or a “Rape Kit”. The SAECK, whilst vitally important and extremely well thought out, can unfortunately be complicated to use – it is made up of several components, and often, if the medical examiner is unfamiliar with the contents, they will take time to read and follow the instructions contained therein,  as stipulated. It is believed that in many instances, a substantial amount of evidence is potentially lost at this point, due to the Medical examiners being in a rush to complete the job. This is also exacerbated by the failure of the examiner to follow the instructions of the SAECK correctly – it is oftentimes reported that an Ano-Rectal swab has been used as a Vaginal Swab or Vice Versa. On the other hand the SAECK has Finger nail Swabs designed like toothpicks, for use under the fingers and it is disturbing to report that there have been some instances where examiners have used these Finger Nail swabs as Vaginal swabs.. It would obviously help if more Nurses were trained for the collection of evidence too, and hopefully the website http://www.sexualassaultkits.co.za detailing how to use a SAECK will be scrutinised by both medical officers and nurses alike for a better and more comprehensive understanding of how to properly utilise the SAECK.

The victim must insist that she is examined by a doctor as soon as possible  and the victim must be encouraged to assist the doctor by providing information, such as, if there has been vaginal, anal or oral penetration, any licking or bite marks, if the attacker was injured during the attack or if you scratched the attacker during the attack.

NB: Extra clothing should be taken when visiting the doctor for medical examination after the attack as the clothing that the victim wore during the attack will be retained for proper collection of evidence.

Anti-Retro Virals (ARV's)

The victim is entitled to receive FREE ARV’s for the prevention of HIV as soon after the Rape as possible. It is imperative that these ARV’s are taken as soon as possible after the attack to ensure maximum effect. ARV’s will be given to the victim immediately after examination and a blood sample will be drawn from the victim at the time to test for HIV. A further blood sample will need to be taken 3 months later to retest for HIV. The 2nd blood sample may be taken by a Private Dr who must then ensure that the results are supplied to the first doctor.

What is a Sexual Assault Kit?


The following section deals with the collection of evidence from  a sexual assault patient and is an extract from the follwing website http://www.sexualassaultkits.co.za/ which has been set up by the manufacturers of the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECKS). It is hoped that the below section and aforesaid website, detailing how to use a SAECK will be scrutinised by both medical officers and nurses alike for a better and more comprehensive understanding of how to properly utilise the SAECK. The evidence collected from a sexual assault patient is key in ensuring that forensic evidence collected can ultimately lead to the prosecution of the perpetrator or the exoneration of the wrongly accused.

Instructions to the patient

The patient must first report to the nearest police station in order to report the incident so that an official case can be opened. Only then can the collection of physical evidence proceed. This will ensure that the necessary evidence collection kits are obtained.

The patient should be advised not to do the following:

  • Change or wash clothing
  • Shower, bathe, douche or wipe
  • Wash hands or clean your fingernails
  • Eat, drink or smoke
  • Brush your teeth or rinse mouth
  • Touch or remove anything from the crime scene
  • Empty the garbage can or bag
  • Not to flush the toilet
  • If possible not to urinate or defecate. If the patient must urinate before a urine sample can be obtained he / she must urinate in a clean jar or in a container with a lid

Request the patient to bring along a set of replacement clothing, including shoes, if possible.

Note – if the patient has done any of the above, document it, and still proceed with the evidence collection.

Instructions to the healthcare practitioner regarding the attending police officer

It is not necessary for the police officer to be present during the evidence collection procedure. Instruct the police officer to wait outside and continue with the examination. When the procedure is completed hand the collected evidence to the attending police officer and remember to sign the relevant documentation for transfer of evidence.

Photographing the patient

The patient may be photographed to help the healthcare practitioner remember important information such as bruises, bite marks, appearance of the patient or the state of clothing worn. To identify the patient the healthcare practitioner can stick a barcode from the outer box onto the patient’s body.

Paediatric Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit

A Paediatric Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit is available for the collection of evidence from patients up to the age of 12 years.

General Notes

  • The SAECK has been designed to lead the healthcare practitioner through the seven steps of evidence collection from a patient of sexual assault. The items needed for each step are packed into a separate peel pouch. 
  • Always wear powder-free gloves when working with body fluid deposits and when collecting a reference blood sample. Change gloves when necessary in order to prevent contamination.
  • Each sexual assault evidence collection kit has a unique set of barcodes and therefore components from different evidence collection kits must never be mixed and matched.

Evidence Collection from a Patient of Sexual Assault

Every sexual assault patient must at least be examined using a sexual assault evidence collection kit. A clothing collection kit can be used to collect additional items of clothing from the patient. The body fluid evidence collection kit can be used to collect extra body fluid deposits from the patient’s body.

Using the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit

The sexual assault evidence collection kit box is sealed with one tamper-evident seal that must be broken to access the kit. If this seal is not intact do not use the kit. If there is a red dot on the outer packaging of an evidence collection kit, it is an indication that this specific kit was subjected to additional quality control procedures. Open the sexual assault evidence collection kit by breaking the tamper-evident seal.

The contents of the sexual assault evidence collection kit are as follows:

  • User Guide
  • Triplicate Form
  • Duplicate J88
  • Collection of Evidence Form
  • Seven peel pouches containing the items for evidence collection and packaging for the 7 steps

Three tamper-evident seals to seal the kit after evidence collection


Any person (“A”) who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a Complaint (“B”) without the consent of “B” is guilty of the offence of rape.


1. Unlawfully
2. Intentionally
3. Sexual Penetration
4. Without Consent




Attend the crime scene immediately. Attend crime scene immediately. Search and process crime scene in consultation with the crime scene investigator.
Cordon off the scene and ensure that no unauthorized persons enter the crime scene. Take over crime scene from 1st member and receive briefing. Search and collect any physical evidence on crime scene e.g hair, semen, blood cigarette butts, fingerprints, footprints etc.
Interview the complainant / victim. Minors must be interviewed in the presence of their parents/guardian. Record their full particulars. Interview the Complainant and obtain detailed statement. Minors have to be interviewed in the presence of their parents or guardian. Hand in any exhibits found on the scene into SAPS 13.
Request additional human resources to assist in securing the crime scene when necessary. Take victim for medical examination together with SAPS 308, J88 and applicable sexual assault crime kit. (NB. Complainant may consult with his/her private Medical Practitioner). Take photographs / video footage of the crime scene. Compile plan and key to plan.
Summon all role players to crime scene, eg. Detective, LCRC, FSL, etc. Arrange for Victim support. Take photographs of the injuries of the victim.
Arrange for medical treatment if the victim is injured. Interview the reporter and obtain detailed statement. Avoid contamination at all times.
Arrange for victim support. Obtain full description and particulars of suspect. If on crime scene arrest.
Obtain full description and particulars of suspect. If on crime scene arrest. Obtain detailed witnesses statement.
Hand over crime scene to first detective on the scene. Arrange for ID Kits to be compiled if victim / witnesses are able to identify suspect(s).
Submit statement regarding crime scene and condition of victim immediately. Obtain statement of person to whom the complainant (victim) first reported the crime.
Remain on scene and assist the crime scene investigation team to manage the scene. Obtain exhibits, J88, Sexual Assault Crime Kit from doctor. Hand exhibits into SAPS 13.
Summons the forensic expert to crime scene.
Conduct a thorough search of the crime scene together with forensic expert.
Hand in any exhibits from scene into SAPS 13.
Avoid contamination at all times.


If this crime is committed in conjunction with any other crime the hints of the other crime scene must also be followed.