Thuthuzela Care Centres are one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary trauma for the victim, to improve conviction rates and to reduce the cycle time for finalising cases. Patients don't have to move from one place to another to get help; they are offered the necessary services at one place with all the required resources.
Thuthuzela Care Centres operate in public hospitals in communities where the incidence of rape is particularly high and they are also linked to the Sexual Offences Courts which is a new and unique South African anti-rape intervention. As part of the strategy, the specialised Sexual Offences Courts are staffed with a committed cadre of prosecutors, social workers, investigating officers, magistrates, health professionals and police officers. The courts are located in close proximity to the Care Centres.
The Thuthuzela’s integrated approach to rape care is one of respect, comfort, restoring dignity and ensuring justice for children and women who are victims of sexual violence. To receive dignified treatment; after reporting the crime, the victims are removed from the crowds at the police station to a more victim-friendly environment, then transported by ambulance to a Thuthuzela one stop care centre at a nearby hospital.
Once at the centre, the survivors receive comfort and crisis counselling from a trained counsellor. After counselling, they are taken to a quiet, private space where they are welcomed by the site coordinator and a doctor to conduct a medical examination. The doctor then provides the patient with information on the procedures to be performed and a consent form to be signed for medical examination and blood specimens.
After completing the medical examination, the patient is provided with follow-up dates for counselling with the psychologist and briefing about the procedure of the judicial system is explained by the site coordinator. Survivors are assisted until their cases are closed.
As a medical doctor, my role is to make sure that patients who experience sexual assault, domestic violence and those under the influence of alcohol are seen and examined. It is very important to engage with my patients and make sure you gain their trust as you go through the examination.
Survivors most of the time, are very reserved and do not want to disclose information and open up. It is therefore very crucial to approach them in a calm manner and remember that we do not want them to undergo secondary trauma. As a medical doctor I am also expected to represent the patient in court as a witness and to make sure I give valuable evidence in court.
There are a lot of success stories that we see with our survivors getting justice being served and seeing their perpetrators being convicted. They are able to easily become heroes because they have been able to overcome their fears. It is with great pleasure that I am part of the team that assists these ladies to change.