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First Response Rape Protocol

What to do in the case of rape

Done in no time
Skill level basic

This is not a fun hack, but a very important one.

Rape is the crime of committing a sexual act with another, or sexual penetration of another, without consent.

South Africa has the highest rape incidence in the world. It is important to report rape, press charges and stay with the process until you get justice. Every rapist will continue to rape. No one deserves to be raped and you owe it to yourself and others to put rapists behind bars!

Published under CC:BY-SA by

Viva Foundation

Author · Meleney Kriel

First response

Understand what rape is

Rape is the crime of committing a sexual act with another, without consent.

  • when you, your loved-ones or property were threatened in any way
  • when the person raped is drunk, drugged, asleep, unconscious
  • when the person raped is under 12 years or mentally challenged
  • when the person raped is forced, black-mailed, coerced, or deceived
  • very important: Wearing a mini, drinking, going to a club or shebeen, being out late, or flirting are NOT crimes and does NOT mean consented to sex, or deserved to be raped!

If you are a survivor of this crime, learn how to fight your aggressor and what to expect from rape incidence to guilty verdict. If you know someone who has been raped, learn how to support her/him with this first response protocol.

Stay alive!

There is life after rape. It is up to you. You are the only one who can decide that you will not be a victim, but a survivor. The rape will not determine who you are, what kind of person you are, or what you do with your life in the future. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you stay alive.

Trust your instincts. Some rapists act kindly, but something inside you warns you that he will kill you to silence you as a witness. Other rapists are violent, they beat you into submission, but they may not kill you. There may be no way of knowing. Perhaps you are so ashamed or traumatised that in the moment it does not matter to you whether you live or die, but it does!

Stay alive at all cost. If it means be submissive, or if it means fight back or flee, do whatever it takes.

Gather and preserve evidence

No matter how much you want to wash yourself, do not do it! Don’t destroy evidence by cleaning yourself.
Your clothing, or any other articles that was used, or touched during the rape – it is all potential evidence and may have the DNA of the rapist on them (blood, semen, hair etc.). Other articles that can be associated with the rapists, or which others may have seen him wear, or use can also be evidence.

Do not use plastic to put the evidence in. Put it in a paper bag. Take pictures of bruises, injuries, the place you were raped.
Don’t drink anything (water, medicine, alcohol etc.). You may have been drugged by the rapist and a blood test will be necessary. You also want to remain focussed and your body and mouth will be examined for evidence.
The sooner and the more evidence you do gather, the greater chance of justice.

Tell someone you trust

The first person you tell is very important to the process of getting justice and getting healing from the trauma of the rape. This person can be called upon to testify and is called the First Contact Witness.

It is important that you tell the first person you trust and see that you have been raped. Tell them straight away in as much detail. If you were raped in a strange or deserted place and have to get help from a stranger, write down their name and contact number so that the police can get hold of them later. In such a case, you must also tell someone that can help you and comfort you later, such as a person you know well and whom you know is stable and trustworthy, a counsellor, a trusted teacher, church worker etc.

Police or hospital?

You should go to the police first, unless your injuries are life-threatening or such that you cannot walk to the police station. If you go to the hospital, you must insist that they call the police to come and get your statement. If you go to the police, they will take you to the hospital for examination.

The police station must be prepared to receive rape victims in private. You have the right to speak to a female officer, in private and you have the right to speak to someone in your own language.
You must overcome your fear of going to the police station as rape is a crime. It is an act that is against the laws of the country.
This crime has taken place. It is the responsibility of the police to respond and deal with crime.


At the hospital, you have to sign a Police Form 308 to give consent to the examination. You will give consent for a Clinical Forensic Practitioner to examine and gather evidence from your body. All evidence and findings will be captured on a Form J88 used later in court.

The hospital should have a rape counsellor to speak to you and assist you through the process. The nurse or doctor will use a rape evidence kit to gather and keep evidence and the doctor will treat you for injuries and shock. The examination is unpleasant and even traumatic. Particularly in the light of the fact that you have been raped, you will find the procedure invasive, but it is very necessary for many reasons. You need medical treatment and also for the process further along.

Tests and treatment

Apart from the initial examination you must get your blood and urine tested within 24 hours. If the rapists drugged you with the so-called ‘date-rape-drug’, or other substances to coerce you, the blood and urine test is important and must be done as soon as possible.

You must get PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) against HIV within 72 hours. This is very important as the rapist may have infected you with HIV. It is important that you return for medication and check-ups after the attack, as instructed by the doctor or nurse.

Criminal procedure

Report and lay charges

Report is simply telling the police what happened. Rape SHOULD BE reported! The police must record your report in their Occurrence Book (OB) and give you the OB number. Each occurrence has a number and you must obtain and keep that number when you report the crime.

Laying charges means you want to make a case. There is no time limit. The case does not cost you any money.


Once you have reported the crime and laid charges, the investigation starts. An Investigating Officer will be assigned to your case. Get his/her number and name. The Investigating Officer will take your statement and evidence. He/she will begin the investigation and the search for the rapists will begin.

The more information you provide the better. You must give a detailed statement and ask for a copy of your statement. Ask for a copy of your statement – the trial process is long and it is important that you remember what you said.

Arrest and line-up

Based on your information, evidence and testimony, the rapist or rapists, will be arrested. You must identify the rapist/rapists in a line-up behind one-way glass or from photos. You will be asked to come into the police station to do this, but you will not be expected to face the rapist in person.

Get a Protection Order

A Protection Order prevents the rapists from contacting you and your family. He will not be allowed to make contact with you and be arrested if he does. It is important to get a restraining order against the rapist/rapists.

Trial: Going to court

State Prosecutor

The State Prosecutor represents you and informs you of the trial details. This means the person who speaks on your behalf in court and presents your evidence and the case to the judge. You will meet with the State Prosecutor before the trial. Get the name and telephone number of the State Prosecutor. He/she must assist you and prepare you for the day you have to appear in court (which questions will be asked etc.)

Bail hearings

The rapist will have a bail hearing. “Bail” means that for a certain amount of money the rapist may be released until the trial (rest of the court procedures). You must be informed of this date and you can attend if you want to. If you wish to provide a statement to prevent him from being released on bail, you must tell your investigating officer, but it is not advised that you personally testify during this hearing.

Court dates are set

Postponements are common. Don’t give up, keep it up!

Start of court case

Evidence and testimonies for the State (you) and the rapist are heard.


If guilty - a date is set for sentencing. If not guilty - not enough evidence, you can still proceed with a civil case.


If found guilty the rapists could get up to 10-20 years in prison, starting immediately.

Don’t get discouraged along the way

Many survivors get discouraged or scared through the trial process and decide to not return or not continue the process. This is very bad, as it means that the rapist will go free. If the Prosecutor has already decided to proceed to court, it means that he/she thinks there is enough evidence to put the rapist in prison. If you give up, this process falls apart and the rapist will go free to rape other women, or children and grandmothers.

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Title picture by Nadine Shaabana. Unsplash license applies.

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