Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Profile of Rape Victims Referred by the Court to the Free State Psychiatric Complex, 2003-2009

Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Profile of Rape Victims Referred by the Court to the Free State Psychiatric Complex, 2003-2009

Article excerpt

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 victim is mentally retarded and the sole witness against the accused. If the mentally retarded rape victim is not competent to testify and insufficient evidence is available, the case will be dismissed and the perpetrator goes free. Failure to prosecute and convict such offenders allows for continued abuse without fear of retribution. [1,2]

Research has found that only 3% of sexual abuse cases against individuals with developmental disabilities are reported in the USA. [3] It has been reported that at least 90% of people with developmental disabilities experience sexual abuse at some point in their lives, and in almost 50% of cases, multiple abusive incidents occur. [4] Sobsey [5] stressed that the likelihood of rape in this group of individuals is staggering, with 15 000-19 000 persons with developmental disabilities in the USA being raped each year. [5] An investigation conducted at a Canadian university showed that 20% of cases were reported, and in 99% of cases, the victims were sexually abused by people known to them. [6] Reynolds [7] emphasised that although females (with or without disabilities) represent the largest percentage of all sexually abused individuals, more boys and men with intellectual disabilities are sexually abused than those without disabilities. [7] In South Africa (SA), the South African Police Service (SAPS) Crime Information Analysis Centre does not provide a separate report of sexual crimes against individuals with mental retardation.[R] According to Pillay and Sargent, [1] this lack of reporting and documentation makes it difficult to estimate the incidence of such crimes in SA, and may perpetuate society's denial of the existence of sexual abuse of individuals with mental retardation. Calitz, [9] however, reported an increase in the referrals of mentally retarded rape survivors to the Free State Psychiatric Complex (FSPC) in Bloemfontein, SA. In 2009, 40 mentally retarded rape victims were referred, and during the first quarter of 2010, 46 new cases were evaluated. By the end of 2010, 90 mentally retarded rape victims were evaluated, thus showing an increase of 125% from 2009. [9]

Mental retardation is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV [10] as 'significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning (having an [intelligence quotient] IQ [less than or equal to]70) that is accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skills areas: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health and safety' The onset must occur before age 18 years. The DSM-IV also differentiates between four degrees of severity of mental retardation: mild (IQ level 50-55 to ~70), moderate (IQ level 35-40 to 50-55), severe (IQ level 20-25 to 35-40) and profound (IQ level below 20-25) mental retardation. For the purpose of this study, the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV were applied. [10]

The World Health Organization (WHO)'s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) [11] defines mental retardation as 'a condition of arrested or incomplete development of the mind, which is especially characterised by impairment of skills manifested during the developmental period, skills which contribute to the overall level of intelligence, i.e. cognitive, language, motor and social abilities.' [11] The ICD-10 also differentiates between four degrees of severity. The IQ range for mild mental retardation is approximately 50-69. As adults, the mental age of these individuals is from 9 years up to, but not including 12 years, and they usually experience some learning difficulties in school. Many adults will be able to work and maintain good social relationships and contribute to society. …

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