Research Articles

Medico-legal documentation of rape or sexual assault: are community-service doctors equipped for the task?

Lamaine Fouche, Johan Bezuidenhout, Chantelle Liebenberg, Anthonio Oladele Adefuye
South African Family Practice | Vol 60, No 1 : January/February| a4680 | DOI: | ©
Submitted: 04 May 2017 | Published: 17 March 2018

About the author(s)

Lamaine Fouche, University of the Free State, South Africa
Johan Bezuidenhout, University of the Free State, South Africa
Chantelle Liebenberg, University of the Free State, South Africa
Anthonio Oladele Adefuye, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Background: Following upon two-year internship, community-service doctors make mistakes when they deal with evidence of medico-legal examinations in various settings. These mistakes result in alleged perpetrators being released by courts. This study investigated undergraduate clinical forensic medicine training, based on experiences and opinions of community-service doctors. This article focuses on incidents of alleged rape cases only.

Methods: The study was a quantitative retrospective cohort study that made use of a questionnaire with an adapted Likert scale. An electronic survey tool was employed to target 150 community-service doctors throughout South Africa. Percentages are used to display results.

Results: A response rate of 59.3% was achieved. Although 80% of the participants reported that they had undergraduate training on how to manage alleged rape or sexual assault cases, only 11.4% of the participants had hands-on exposure to an alleged rape case during their undergraduate training. In addition, the majority of the participants (77.1%) never had undergraduate training on how to complete the J88 form. These findings indicate that clinical forensic training in the undergraduate medical programme does not adequately prepare community-service doctors to meet the challenges of clinical forensic practice. The current curriculum should be adapted to address these shortcomings.

Conclusions: Perpetrators cannot be convicted if evidence collected cannot stand up in court. Proper training of undergraduate medical students prior to their community-service posting will ensure that medico-legal documentation is completed correctly, leading to the presentation of credible evidence in a court of law in order to ensure successful conviction of alleged perpetrators.

Full text of the research articles are available online at

S Afr Fam Pract 2018; DOI: 10.1080/20786190.2017.1348046


clinical forensic medicine; community-service doctors; medical training; medico-legal documentation; sexual assault


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