South African Journal of Psychiatry

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Profile of rape victims referred by the court to the Free State Psychiatric Complex, 2003 - 2009

FJW Calitz, L de Ridder, N Gericke, A Pretorius, J Smit, G Joubert


Background. The psychological evaluation of rape victims to determine their competency to testify in court and whether they are capable of consenting to sexual intercourse is challenging, especially when the rape victim is mentally retarded.

Objective. To describe the profile of mentally retarded rape victims referred to the Free State Psychiatric Complex (FSPC) in Bloemfontein
from 2003 to 2009.

Methods. A descriptive retrospective study was conducted. The study consisted of 137 rape victims referred by the court to the FSPC for psychological evaluation from 2003 to 2009. Patient files were used to obtain information.

Results. The majority of individuals (n=129; 94.2%) in the cohort were female. The mean age of the participants was 19 years (range 3 - 52). The number of victims evaluated increased from four in 2003 to 36 in 2009. Most participants were diagnosed with moderate (67.2%), followed by severe (18.3%) and mild (14.6%) mental retardation. Only two of the victims were able to give legal consent to sexual intercourse. Only one participant was able to testify in a court of law. A noteworthy finding was that in only 25 (18.2%) cases, a clinical psychologist was subpoenaed to testify in court.

Conclusion. The vast majority of mentally retarded rape victims in our cohort, regardless of their level of intellectual functioning, were not
able to testify in court and were not able to give informed consent to sexual intercourse.

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