Campus Update 5 May 2016
A very constructive engagement took place two days ago, Tuesday 2ndof May 2016, at the Main Hall where students expressed their concerns relative to their safety in general and around rape and sexual harassment in particular.
One case of rape was reported in 2016 and one in 2015. However, one case of rape is one case too many. The rumour of “4 rapes in 3 days” has been investigated and no further survivors came forward or were identified. University communications over the past few days provided contact details and telephone numbers where these incidents could be reported. Thus far no official reports were received by the Gender Equity Unit or the Proctor’s office. This leads us to believe that even more awareness is needed to ensure that students and staff at risk know and understand their rights, the processes involved and the places to report such incidences.
The University’s Sexual Harassment Policy is currently being reviewed. Prof Pamela Dube, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Development and Support is spearheading this process, in conjunction with the Gender Equity Unit, the Proctor’s Office and the Student Representative Council. The input of all students is paramount to the review process. A policy that is designed to protect and serve students must have constructive student input. A series of workshops are being arranged where the input of all students will be gathered.
As in the past, students and staff are encouraged to report any incidence of rape or sexual harassment to the Gender Equity Unit at 0824559855 and to provide statements to help the university to identify the alleged perpetrators.
Any sexual assault case must be based on evidence and the process of gathering evidence is crucial. Without statements and evidence, perpetrators of sexual violence cannot be prosecuted. Key individuals at the University have already undergone training on counselling of victims, “rape kits”, the preservation and transport of medical evidence and liaising with the Sexual Offences Division of the South African Police Services. We will continuously ensure the further training of all persons involved in this process and to embark on an institutional – wide educational awareness campaign.
The University endeavours to create a safe campus where all our students and staff can learn, live and work, free from abuse and prejudice. Break the silence on rape and sexual assault.
Professor Vivienne Lawack