Getting there for many of the victims is a herculean task. They have to pass through Mai Musodzi Hall, a facility where many Zanu (PF) activists often accused of committing rape crimes hang around.
For many it’s a traumatic stretch. But once inside the clinic premises they start feeling very much at home.
Opened last month, the Edith Opperman Rape Clinic is helping rape victims recover from the trauma and de-humanising feeling that come with being raped.
The clinic ran by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is the first of its kind in Harare if not in Zimbabwe. It helps both the young and the old to deal with the effects of rape. Although there are other service providers to rape victims such as the Family Support Trust Clinic at Harare Hospital, Adult Rape Clinic and Parirenyatwa Hospital and Musasa Project in Harare City Centre, these offer help to a specific target of people. But the Mbare based clinic cuts across all ages. During a visit by Radio VOP this week, an elderly lady and two young girls identified as victims of rape could be seen going through counselling sessions.
In Zimbabwe rape is on the rise. According to the Harare Magistrates Court records, on average more than five rape cases are brought before the court on a daily bases. Daily newspapers often carry gory stories of rape and the trend seems to be on the rise.
Bianca Tolboom, the Project Coordinator in charge of the clinic and also looking at Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV), said the choice of the location of the clinic was natural.
“We did an assessment looking at where the clinic is needed most and Mbare was a natural choice. Here there is the country’s biggest market and bus stations and a lot of people pass through the place,” said Tolboom.
Most often rape victims take time to come out in the open as they are often threatened into deathly silence. Some are just too ashamed to come out in the open and tell it all because they feel much embarrassed by coming out than keeping it to themselves.
These are some of the reasons why not so many people have visited the clinic. Although these are early days, Tolboom feel her team has to do enough in providing information about the facility.
“I guess people don’t yet know about the clinic but the idea is to bring the service to the people because thats where they are needed. It’s about reaching out to rape victims at the community level,” she said.
The clinic is opened everyday and operates eight hours a day although it has plans to open 24 hours a day. But for now rape victims can use the clinic’s hotline number for after hours services.
“Rape is a very traumatic and painful experience and most of the people who come here would be very traumatised,” said Tolboom.
Brian Hove, the clinic’s Health Promotions Officer who meet the rape victims first when they visit the clinic, told this reporter that they try and make them understand that it is never their fault to be raped.
“We offer services such as medication for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and other medical care as a result of rape,” said Hove.
The facility also offers confidential emotional counselling support to help the survivor deal with the traumatic experience and the consequences, collection of evidence and medical examination for court processes, although this service is provided upon request.
Hove urged rape victims not to leave it until its too late to make a report.
“They have to seek treatment within 72 hours upon being raped to get the most comprehensive care,” said Hove.
For now the clinic has deliberately kept a very lean staff to make sure that the victims are in contact with a minimal number of medical and counselling officers.
“Its deliberate, we don’t want the victims to be in contact with too many people because sometimes they might feel embarrassed to do so,” said Tolboom.