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Dr. Sonnet Ehlers

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Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was motivated to create it while working as a blood technician with the South African Blood Transfusion Service, during which time she met many rape victims. Ehler mentioned that she was inspired to create RAPEX (later renamed to Rape-aXe) when a patient who had been raped stated, “If only I had teeth down there,” suggesting the myth of the vagina dentata. Initially called RapeX, the name was changed in 2006 upon discovering that RAPEX is also an EU warning system against dangerous goods on the market.

The Rape-aXe is a latex sheath embedded with shafts of sharp, inward-facing barbs that would be worn by a woman in her vagina like a female condom. If an attacker were to attempt vaginal rape, his penis would enter the latex sheath and be snagged by the barbs, causing the attacker excruciating pain during withdrawal and giving the victim time to escape. The condom would remain attached to the attacker’s body when he withdrew and could only be removed surgically, which would alert hospital staff and police. Like most condoms, Rape-aXe also usually prevents pregnancy and the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

Rape-aXe was unveiled on August 31, 2005 in South Africa. Although media coverage at the time implied that mass production was due to begin in April 2007, the device has never been marketed to the public and it remains unclear whether the product will ever be available for purchase.



60 Dr. Sonnet Ehlers-Condoms with teeth… Literally!  #isharehope

Summary: Sonnet’s answer to the five questions! Listen to the full conversation on the player above; also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Question 1: How do you define hope or what is your favorite quote about hope?

Dr. Sonnet Ehlers:

If you can help out , it doesn’t go about yourself, but it goes about the next person. If we would give more love, we would be able to distribute more hope to everybody in the world. Once we have done that, we will have less fighting, less wars and less people that are disgruntled about things around them.

Love is really hope. Once you can distribute warmth, you have given what people need.

Question 2: Who has shared the most hope with you?

Dr. Sonnet Ehlers:

My mom played a very big role in my life and so did my father. My dad’s philosophy was “Never stir trouble, try and resolve it and therefore you can make people happy.”

Question 3: How have you used hope to make it through a difficult time in your life?

Dr. Sonnet Ehlers:

I went to school at the age of five and I went straight to boarding school which was a very challenging time in my life as a little one. I left home at the age of five and only coming home holiday times. It made me a very strong person and you can endure things. You can also pull through when you get into hard times. You can acknowledge and say, “listen, I can beat this”. I’ve always taught my children, there is no such word as I can’t. You can always. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do.

Stay positive. If you’re not positive and you’ve got a negative attitude, you’re not going to get really far.

Question 4: How are you sharing hope today?

Dr. Sonnet Ehlers:

My first hope came across in 1969. I had a patient that was raped. She said “if only I had teeth down there”. I said to her, I’ll give you hope. One day I’ll do something and I stuck to my promise about that. To me, the product that I’m working on, Rape-aXe, is extremely important to me because that gives women hope. It protects them against HIV, protects them against many other STDs and also they feel they’re slightly armed. It cannot prevent the deed, but at least it protects them. That’s my hope that I’m sharing with the women out there.

Question 5: How should I (the listener) begin to grow in hope or share hope today?

Dr. Sonnet Ehlers:

(Talking about how rape victims should begin to grow in hope.)
(1) Do not crucify yourself for what happened to you.
(2) Never blame yourself for it.

Listen to the full conversation on the player above; also available on iTunes and Stitcher.