A few weeks ago, a young lady, aged 17, who was employed to work as a housemaid was left home alone with the gardener. When the owner of the house returned a few hours later she found the young lady crying and traumatised. After questioning her she learnt that the gardener had raped the girl. The girl said she wanted to report the matter to the police and she was escorted by her employer to the police station. Upon asking the gardener what he had done all he could do was say ‘I am sorry’. At no point did he deny the allegation against him.
The police were informed and two female officers came and arrested him. I was shocked later on to hear that this young lady gave her statement to the police and was told to come back the next day when they would take her to the rape clinic. Shocking as it may be, she returned to the police station the next day and was then taken to the rape clinic.
Various NGOs have been working tirelessly to ensure that women are educated about what to do when they are raped. To then have the police, who are supposed to be more knowledgeable, tell someone that they would take them to the clinic the next day is disheartening.
Women are encouraged to report a rape immediately so they can then be taken to a hospital or clinic. The hospital or clinic staff will use what is called an evidence kit which affords the opportunity to collect any DNA that may have been left by the suspect.The examination usually contains a head to toe examination of the victim. The victim is advised not to bath before going to the clinic and also to keep the clothes she had been wearing when she was raped. This is critical as it will be used for evidence in a rape case. Victims are given medication for the prevention of HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and any other medical care required. This is best if given within 72 hours of the rape, but victims are encouraged to report expeditiously.
It is disappointing to learn that police officers who are supposed to be trained in how to deal with rape cases are still telling victims to return the next day to go to the clinic. But, maybe I am being too harsh on these police officers. The questions perhaps should be; do the police officers know what to do when a person has reported a rape? Do they understand the importance of the time element?
It may not be a surprise then that this case never made it very far. The young man was released within a few days and the particulars of his release were never related to the public. The young lady disappeared from the community and many were left to speculate what had transpired.
Though the details of what transpired in the end were a mystery I cannot help but wonder whether the actions of the officers contributed to the outcome and how many times they continue delaying any action in cases of rape?