‘More flexible approach needed to deal with sexual violence at UCT’

Students who have been raped can get help and support at units and centers established within the campus.

UCT students hold up posters during a protest against rape and sexual abuse on campus on 11 May 2016. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - A University of Cape Town (UCT) student leader says a more flexible and less bureaucratic approach is needed to deal with sexual violence cases on campus.

Students who have been raped can get help and support at the discrimination and harassment unit, the UCT survivors' organisation or at the student wellness centre.

Eyewitness News spoke to several students and student leaders about the reality of sexual abuse on various South African university campuses.

WATCH: Inside SA's 'Rape Culture'

UCT SRC Vice President Ryan Prithviraj says the university's stance on dealing with survivors and perpetrators is way too administrative.

"Maybe what needs to be done is something more flexible, so we have existing measures but they need to be more accommodating and flexible for the different lived experiences. That's where most universities need to look at the way they deal with rape culture and incidents of rape or sexual harassment on campus."


Six universities have looked into have policies dealing with sexual offences, harassment or assault, on or off campus, by a student or staff member. But some policies are more detailed than others.

Rhodes University, University of Cape Town (UCT) and Wits University, which have all seen recent demonstrations over rape culture, each have step-by-step instructions and guidelines for staff on how to support a survivor immediately after an attack.

These include how to take a statement, discussions about ARVs and how to protect a person who has reported an assault as well as advice to the survivor on how to preserve evidence should they want to pursue charges. Nearly all the universities advise a survivor not to take a bath or change their clothes, as this could contain vital evidence.

There is also a commitment - specifically at Rhodes, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and UCT - to educate the university community about rape and other forms of sexual assault. During the protests at Rhodes students called for more discussion and education about rape culture for every student.

In terms of policy documents available, Stellenbosch University has specific policies in place, orientated to staff in the work place, and not for students. Stellenbosch is currently drafting a policy for both staff and students.

The policies at the two technikons EWN visited, namely the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), are part of their anti-discrimination codes and aren't as detailed as those at the universities. At CPUT the sexual harassment policy is in the academic rules and regulations for 2016 booklet, while chapters 15 and 24 deals specifically with sexual misconduct.

There is information available for students on what to do immediately after an attack and details of their support structures on their respective websites and in student handbooks.

All in all, the protocols in place at the institutions are specifically orientated to steps taken immediately after an attack, and do not necessarily make provisions for survivors who might come forward months later, other than the counselling support available.

Additional reporting by Emily Corke.

For Eyewitness News' special report on rape culture , click here