I have to give Sonnet Ehlers props for creativity. I hope this device becomes a great deterrent to rape.
BOSTON — Sonnet Ehlers looked into the eyes of the rape victim and saw nothing.
“Her eyes looked like marbles, totally dead,” said Ehlers, who was working as a medical researcher at Kimberley Hospital in the Northern Cape of South Africa when a 20-year-old South African woman was being treated for rape injuries.
But Ehlers remembers clearly one sentence the young woman uttered: “If only I had teeth down there.”
South African Ehlers made a promise to herself to “do something about this.” Forty years later, the result is the Rape-aXe, an anti-rape device with “teeth.”
Rape-aXe is a flexible polyurethane condom-like tube that fits into the woman’s body. Rows of jagged plastic hooks line the inside of the tube — bent backward like teeth in a shark’s mouth — and lodge in a perpetrator’s penis upon entry. The perpetrator can withdraw from the woman, but the Rape-aXe remains clamped on. Trying to pull it off will cause discomfort.
Though the device causes great distress, it does not draw blood, Ehlers says, which is crucial in areas where HIV/AIDS rates are high. A man must seek medical attention to have the Rape-aXe removed. Until then, he cannot urinate, essentially tagging him until he gets to a hospital, she explains. Ehlers says she consulted an engineer, gynecologist and psychologist on the design.
In South Africa, which has been dubbed the rape capital of the world, women are begging for access to the device, Ehlers says. A 2006 Interpol study found that a woman is raped every 17 seconds in South Africa. A separate study found that of more than 20,000 reports of rape across South Africa, only 8 percent led to a conviction, according to a 2009 Amnesty International report.