What to do if you've been sexually assaulted

Most people don't know what to do, whether to report to the police or go to the hospital.

In Summary

• Reporting is essential, and the first stop must be the police station, although many women fear an indifferent or hostile reception.

• The second step should be the hospital within 72 hours of the attack for medical treatment and to prevent HIV-Aids infection. 

It can be grueling to report SGBV cases.
It can be grueling to report SGBV cases.

After an assault, women are hurt and ashamed and many don't know what to do, whether to report to the police, go to the hospital, or do nothing at all.

But for their own good and that of other women, they must act, the sooner the better.

One may call an advocate to accompany them for moral support as they go to report the case. 

The Coalition of Violence Against Women (COVAW) said most people don't know whether a Sexual and Gender-Based Violence survivor should report first to the police station or to the hospital 


COVAW is a non-governmental organisation that works with vulnerable women and women who are survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. 

The Legal Programmes officer of the organisation Belgrade Okwiry said the survivor ought not to wash before she picks up the phone to report.

"The survivor also must not dispose of or wash the clothes she or he was wearing during the incident. The clothes should also not be kept in plastic or polythene bag," Okwiry said.

"keeping the clothes in polythene bags contaminates the evidence as there is interference with the quality of the samples on the clothes."

She said the first step is to report to the nearest police station. The incident will be recorded in the Occurrence Book. 

The survivor will obtain an OB number and record a statement.

At this point, the survivor is given a P3 form to be filled out at the hospital, recording injuries.

It is necessary if the case is to go to court.

Okwiry said the second stop at the hospital should be made within 72 hours for medical treatment. 

"The survivor is issued with p3 form 72-hour period for medical examination in order to prevent pregnancies and infections such as HIV/AIDS and other STDs," she said. 

She said a medical assessment will be done on the survivor and the p3/PRC form will be filled.

Hospitals have sterile bags to keep the clothes. 

At the hospital, the survivor will be examined, and injuries photographed and treated.

The survivor will then be allowed to shower and have a change of clothes. 

"After this, the survivor will report back to the police station with the filled p3 form to allow the police to start their investigations," she said. 

Okwiry said the police will then move to arrest the suspect and will be arraigned within 24 hours. 

In court, the suspect takes a plea.

At a preliminary hearing, the survivor will have a chance to give their testimony, and their witnesses and present any evidence they have to the court. 

The prosecutor will also present his submission, summarising the testimonies and evidence presented by the survivor. 

Okwiry said the court will then rule whether the accused has a case to answer or not.that

If the court finds that the accused has no case to answer, the accused is released.

"If found he has a case to answer, the trial proceeds to defence stage, "she said.

 At this point, the suspect will be called to present their evidence. 

"The defence will give their submission, summarising the testimonies and evidence presented." 

She said after the case is heard, judgment is entered, and a sentence is passed. 

"If found not guilty, the accused is acquitted, if guilty he is convicted and sentenced," she said.

Okwiry said that the referral pathways are only as good as the institutions set up to provide the services and proper coordination and cooperation among the institutions.

"Ultimately the support the survivors receive from society, greatly determines the reporting of such cases, the assistance they receive, and how far they go in the case management process."

Let it be known that reporting an SGBV case can be a long, grueling, public process. Anyone can attend the court hearing.

The defence lawyer can ask embarrassing questions such as exactly how the rape happened. 

It may be traumatising to recount the events. 

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