Rape is still prevalent in this country and according to the Philippine National Police (PNP), it was one of the most commonly committed crimes in the last six months – from July 2022 until January 2023. Moreover, according to the PNP’s statistics, rape cases from the Philippines dipped from 5,192 (July 2021 to January 2022) to 3,762. On the other hand, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) reported that one in 20 girls and women (15 to 49 years old) have experienced sexual assault/violence in their lifetime.
It may be a good thing that rape cases dipped BUT what about the unreported ones? In this country where sexual violence against women and children is still pervasive, we don’t know the real numbers of sexual assault cases and it is disturbing to think that some of these cases go unreported with the survivors being scared to report the perpetrators thinking that they will get beaten up or worse – get killed.
In order to help the rape survivors, the police and hospitals must have rape kits available for the survivors to examine the sexual violence that they experienced.
In this article, we will guide you on what is a rape kit, how it works, how to prepare for it, what happens during the exam, finding rape kits in the Philippines, and where to find help if you have been sexually assaulted.
What is The Rape Kit?
A rape kit or Sexual Assault Forensic Exam is “a container that includes a checklist, materials, and instructions, along with envelopes and containers to package any specimen collected during the exam.” In short, every evidence and proof that you have been raped.
The goals of the rape kit are:
- To provide the best immediate care to the survivors; and
- To collect evidence that will be used to prosecute the perpetrators who committed the crime.
Now that we know what is a Rape Kit, we will now study its content and how it can help the survivors. The Rape Kit contains Bags and Paper sheets, Comb, Documentation Forms, Envelopes, Instructions, Materials for blood samples, and swabs.
- Bags and Paper sheets
- The Bags and Paper sheets are used for evidence collection. The survivor’s clothes and personal items they wore when the assault happened are usually contained here.
- This will collect hair samples from the survivor’s clothing or personal items they wore during the assault.
- Documentation Forms
- Forms that will help the survivors. These forms include the information of the survivor, the information of the perpetrator/s, and the details of the assault.
- They are used to store the swabs collected and other collected pieces of evidence to avoid contamination.
- Materials that will help and guide the healthcare professionals and the police through the evidence collection process.
- Materials for blood samples
- These are the tubes, needles and syringes, alcohol swabs, and other blood-pricking paraphernalia that will be used by the survivors. These can also serve as evidence.
- These are used to collect bodily fluids from various parts of the body that are potential areas of contact.
How to prepare for a sexual assault exam?
Preparing for a sexual assault exam is an important step for the survivors. Here are the steps on how to physically and mentally prepare yourself for the sexual assault exam. Remember, you are in a safe place and the healthcare professional who will be handling your exam is a professional and will not do any harm to you.
- Make sure that you are far away from your perpetrator and away from danger.
- Call local emergency services for immediate assistance and protection.
- PRESERVE THE EVIDENCE. Avoid taking a bath, eating, urinating, brushing teeth, or doing anything that can remove or compromise the evidence.
- Make sure that someone you trust will accompany you during the sexual assault exam.
- Always gather information about the details of your assault and its perpetrator/s.
- Be emotionally prepared. The sexual assault examination will be tedious and can trigger your trauma but keep in mind that the healthcare professionals handling your exam are trained to provide comfort, support, and safe space.
- BE HONEST when answering questions from the healthcare professionals and the police but remember that you have the rights to withhold other information if you’re uncomfortable sharing other information.
- It is important to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS as a survivor – especially if you want someone you trust to be present during your exam and the right to consent or refuse other parts of the examination.
- If you feel that the exam is exhausting you and making you feel anxious, you can take a breather and take your time. The healthcare professional must understand that you are prioritizing your well-being when you’re taking a break from the examination.
What happens during the exam?The sexual assault exam is to be done by healthcare professionals and is conducted with sensitivity and respect to the survivors. It is best for the survivors to seek the exam immediately after the assault so that if the survivors will file a case against its perpetrators, there are enough evidence. Moreover, the sexual assault exam is important because it ensures medical support and care for the victims.
- At the start of the exam, healthcare professional will explain to you the exam and its procedures. Take note that your consent is important before taking the exam.
- The exam usually takes hours to complete. The healthcare professional must take care of the exam and must always remain with the kit at all times.
- The survivor can give verbal or written account of the assault. With these accounts, the healthcare professional will now know which body part will be examined.
- There will be a physical exam to assess and treat the injuries such as bruises, wounds, lacerations, etc.
- The healthcare professional will then collect bodily fluids or samples that the perpetrator/s forcibly touched.
- The healthcare provider will then ask if the survivor have had consensual sex the last five days before the assault. With this step, the healthcare provider will know which DNA belongs to the perpetrator/s.
- If the survivor is drugged, there must be a toxicology kit that will be collected.
- During the exam, the survivor’s clothes and personal items that they wore during the assault will be collected as evidence.
Is there a rape kit in the Philippines?
In pursuant to the amendment of section 4 of the Republic Act 8505 known as the “Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998”:
“EVERY POLICE PRECINCT THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY MUST BE PROVIDED WITH RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT KITS IN SUFFICIENT NUMBERS IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE IMMEDIATE MEDICAL OR PHYSICAL EXAMINATION OF THE VICTIM BY THE EXAMINING PHYSICIAN WHENEVER NECESSARY. THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POUCE (PNP), IN COORDINATION WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (DOH), SHALL SET THE REGULATIONS FOR THE SELECTION, PROCUREMENT, DISTRIBUTION, AND PROPER HANDLING AND STORAGE OF RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT KITS.”
Meaning, all the police stations and even hospitals must have appropriate numbers of rape kit available when such kits are needed by the survivors.
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) have available rape kits but unfortunately, some hospitals in the Philippines does not have rape kits – so maybe we need to ask the government to make rape kits available in all the hospital in barangays, barrios, towns, and cities in the Philippines.
Finding help in the PhilippinesIf you know someone or if you experienced sexual assault, you may contact these organizations for assistance:
- Philippine Commission on Women
- Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center
- Gabriela Women’s Party - @GabrielaWomenPL
- Bahaghari (LGBT Organization) - @Bahaghari_PH
- Pantay (LGBT Organization) - @PANTAYTayo
In a world or in a country where we want to foster safer spaces, rape should not have a place for it. With the help of each other and with the help of our community, we must work hand-in-hand to make rape or sexual assault survivors live their lives normally, and to make them protected, cared for, and to make their perpetrators behind bars.