A rape victim once wished for teeth "where it mattered". Now a device has been designed to "bite" a rapist's penis. The patented device looks and is worn like a tampon, but it is hollow and attaches itself with tiny hooks to a man's penis during penetration. "We have to do something to protect ourselves. While this will not prevent rape it will assist in identifying attackers and securing convictions," claims Sonette Ehlers, inventor of the device. Not everyone, however, is convinced of its usefulness. Lisa Vetten, of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) says: "It is like we are going back to the days where women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices. "We should rather focus our energy on changing men's mindsets and behaviour towards women." Ehlers, of Kleinmond, who has worked for the South African Institute for Medical Research, said she had been seeking a way to help women since meeting a rape survivor 20 years ago who commented that she wished she had teeth in her vagina. "Over the past three years I have been working on this device. It is now completely safe and ready to be manufactured and distributed," she said. It had been designed with engineers, gynaecologists, psychologists and urologists. It was "hygienic - no human hands will be involved in the manufacture". In the event of rape, the device folds itself around the rapist's penis, attaching to the skin with microscopic hooks. It is only when the rapist withdraws that he will realise the device is clamped around his penis. 'He will have to be put under anaesthetic to have it removed' "Its design will also go a long way towards lowering HIV infection as semen is contained in the device ... as well as preventing sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies," Ehlers says. As it is impossible to remove the device from a penis without medical help, hospitals and clinics will be able to alert police when assistance is sought. "This will rule out any possibility of the rapist's escaping arrest and speed up conviction." If the rapist tries to remove the device, it will only embed itself further. "He will have to be put under anaesthetic to have it removed. He will not be able to leave it as he will be unable to urinate." A woman would have to wear the device every day. "We never know when we might be raped. This device should become a part of every woman's daily routine, just like brushing her teeth." Last year, there were 52 733 reported rapes. In a study, the Gender-Based Violence Programme at the CSVR analysed 162 rapes in Johannesburg's inner city and found that one in four had been a gang rape. The study found that 56 percent of the victims had been raped by two men and 23 percent by three. Although Ehlers is optimistic that the device will go a long way towards reducing the high incidence of rape in this country, rape organisations are not so sure. "Women would have to wear this every minute of their lives on the off-chance that they would be raped," Vetten says. "I am concerned at how normal rape has become that we would even consider a device like this." Chanaz Mitchell, spokesperson for the National Network on Violence against Women, says although it is a good idea for women to protect themselves, men should take responsibility for their actions. "We still need to focus on men as perpetrators of this heinous crime." Mitchell is also concerned that the device might lead to further violence against victims. "Once the rapist realises this device is attached to him, he is more than likely to take his anger out on his victim." Mbuyiselo Botha, spokesperson for the Men's Forum, said anything that could empower women should be welcomed. "I would encourage my wife and two daughters to wear this device. It would send a signal to would-be rapists that they won't have it easy." Ehlers intends launching the prototype next month. "It will be available at supermarkets, chemists, anywhere where one would be able to buy tampons," she says. The device is to cost R1 and also be available in bulk packs.