Sexual assault survivors’ perspectives on clinical follow-up in the Eden District, South Africa : a qualitative study

Holton, Gail ; Joyner, Kate ; Mash, Robert (2018)

CITATION: Holton, G., Joyner, K. & Mash, R. 2018. Sexual assault survivors’ perspectives on clinical follow-up in the Eden District, South Africa : a qualitative study. African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine, 10(1):1-7, doi:10.4102/phcfm.v10i1.1631.

The original publication is available at

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.


Background: Although effective follow-up of sexual assault survivors is linked to optimal recovery, attendance at follow-up consultations is poor. It is therefore essential that health care providers maximise the benefit of follow-up care for every sexual assault survivor. Aim: This study explored the personal experiences of sexual assault survivors to better understand the enablers of, and barriers to, attendance at follow-up consultations. Methods: This phenomenological qualitative study was conducted at the three hospitals which manage most sexual assault survivors within the Eden District. Using purposive sampling, 10 participants were selected. Consenting participants shared their experiencesduring semi-structured interviews with the researcher. Results: Authoritative, client-held documentation was a powerful enabler to accessing follow-up care. Individualised, patient-centred care further enhanced participants’ access to, and utilisation of, health care services. The failure of health care providers to integrate follow-up care for sexual assault survivors into established chronic care services was a missed opportunity in the continuum of care. Negative perceptions, based on others’ or personal prior experience of police, judicial and health care systems, were further barriers to follow-up care. Conclusion: This study highlights the need of survivors of sexual assault for integrated,patient-centred care, encompassing principles of good communication. Committed actions of all stakeholders are necessary to tackle negative perceptions that create barriers to follow-up care. A simple practical strategy, the provision of a scheduled appointment on official stationery, is easy to effect at facility level. As a powerful enabler to follow-up care, this should be implemented as a priority intervention.

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