Rape survivors in South Africa: analysis of the baseline socio-demographic and health characteristics of a rape cohort
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Background: Little is known about women who have experienced a recent rape, and how they differ from women without this exposure. Identifying factors linked to rape is important for preventing rape and developing effective responses in countries like South Africa with high levels of sexual violence. Objective: To describe the socio-demographic and health profile of women recently exposed to rape and to compare them with a non-rape-exposed group.
Methods: The Rape Impact Cohort Evaluation Study (RICE) enrolled 852 women age 16–40 years exposed to rape from post-rape care centres in Durban (South Africa) and a control group of 853 women of the same age range who have never been exposed to rape recruited from public health services. Descriptive analyses include logistic regression modelling of socio-demographic characteristics associated with recent rape exposure.
Results: Women with recent rape reported poorer health and more intimate partner violence than those who were not raped. They had a lower likelihood of having completed school (Odds Ratio [OR] 0.46 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.24–0.87) and dependence on a government grant as a main source of income (OR 0.61: 95%CI 0.49–0.77). They were more likely to live in informal housing (OR 1.88 95%CI: 1.43–2.46) or rural areas (OR 2.24: 95%CI 1.61–3.07) than formal housing areas–however they were also more likely to report full-time employment (OR 4.24: 95%CI 2.73–6.57).
Conclusion: The study shows that structural factors, such as lower levels of education, poverty, and living in areas of poor infrastructure are associated with women’s vulnerability to rape. It also shows possible protection from rape afforded by the national financial safety net. It highlights the importance of safe transportation in commuting to work. Preventing rape is critical for enabling women’s full social and economic development, and structural interventions are key for reducing women’s vulnerability.
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