Immediately after sexual attacks, victims are often in a state of shock. It is also common for them to feel guilty and believe that they could have avoided the rape. They may feel that they have lost control of their lives and may become unable to perform everyday tasks, or may have nightmares and disturbing flashbacks. Many rape victims also fear for their safety. Where impunity is rife, victims may still encounter their perpetrators and fear further attacks. Rape survivors can also develop depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
MSF support for the mental health of survivors includes initial counseling to help patients deal with shock, as well as counseling and follow-up care to prevent or manage post-traumatic stress.
Awareness and access to care
A crucial element of any project providing health care to victims of sexual violence is ensuring that they know about the services available, and about the importance of seeking care and of doing so as quickly as possible.
MSF is actively involved in raising awareness of the medical consequences of sexual violence. Talking to people door-to-door, and using theater, radio announcements, and billboard advertisements are among the tools our teams employ to communicate about sexual violence and encourage victims to seek help. We particularly emphasize the urgency of seeking immediate medical care.
In some areas, where care is not easily accessible, we have set up ambulance services that transport sexual violence victims to clinics where they can receive care.