Rape victim assessment: Findings by psychiatrists and psychologists at Weskoppies Hospital

Kobus Coetzee, G Lippi


Background. A significant increase in rape victim assessment referrals by the courts has been noted in recent years at Weskoppies Hospital. Rape victims are referred by courts to determine: (i) their competency as a witness; (ii) their ability to give consent to sexual acts; (iii) their mental age; and (iv) their level of mental retardation. These evaluations are done by psychologists and psychiatrists at state hospitals. The findings are reported to the courts in a report format.

Objectives. To present the findings of the reports compiled by psychologists and psychiatrists on rape victims from 2009 to 2013 as they comment on the court’s referral questions, and compare these findings with similar studies done at other psychiatric institutions.

Methods. A total of 108 reports was obtained from the electronic database at Weskoppies Hospital. The findings of the reports were summarised on a datasheet and were categorised according to the referral questions of the courts. 

Results. In the 68 reports where mention was made of mental age, almost three-quarters found it to be between 4 and 12 years. Intellectual disability was found as the diagnosis in the vast majority of reports. Of these, the most common severity of impairment was moderate (n=22, 21.8%) and moderate to severe (n=21, 20.8%) in nature. Most reports (n=61, 56.6%) found that the rape victims were not able to consent to sexual intercourse. Seventy-one (65.7%) reports stated that victims were not able to testify in court.

Conclusion. Most reports stated that victims suffered from intellectual disability and their capacity to testify in court was impaired. More than half of the victims evaluated did not have the capacity to give consent to sexual acts.


Rape victims; Consent to sexual acts; Mental retardation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v21i1.394

Submitted: 29 August 2012
Published: 01 February 2015

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)