Rape against Women in Tanzania : Studies of Social Reactions and Barriers to Disclosure

Abstract: This thesis assessed responses toward rape against women as experienced by the victims and victim supporters in the context of the interaction between victims, supporters, and formal agencies in Tanzania. The overall research design was based on triangulation with a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. A semi-qualitative study, in which free listings and semi-structured questionnaires were used, explored social reactions from 44 community nurses and 50 rape victims (Paper I). A tool developed from this first study was utilized for collecting data on people’s attitudes and their behavior toward rape and rape victims from a representative community sample of 1505 men and women aged 18-65 years (Paper II). Both studies helped to access suitable rape victims and supporters who participated in the third study to share experiences on the process of rape disclosure to formal and informal social networks (Papers III and IV). The results highlighted the salient social reactions and how rape victims perceived the impact of these reactions. Half of the participants interpreted rape situations based on social relationships, circumstances, and social status of the woman, rather than the legal definition. Two-thirds of the adults explained they would express negative social reactions toward a victim in some rape scenarios, and this correlated with their attitudes towards rape and rape victims. A variety of barriers in the informal and formal networks with potentially negative impacts on rape reporting, service utilization and, health outcomes were identified. In conclusion, successful interventions aimed at improving people’s response to rape, rape disclosure and, health outcomes in Tanzania should assume a holistic approach to address the negative factors identified at the individual, family and, community levels without forgetting the normative context that appears to underlie most decisions and practice.