EWN Special Report: SA students take a stand against #CampusRape

EWN shines the spotlight on how SA universities deal with rape cases and what policies are in place.

FILE: Dozens of students gathered outside the Bremner Building to discuss sexual assault and sexual harassment at UCT on 11 May, 2016. Picture: Shamiela Fisher/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As the alleged University of Cape Town (UCT) campus rapist appears in a Cape Town High Court, the spotlight has again fallen on how South African universities deal with rape on campus and the policies they have in place.

Eyewitness News has spent the past four weeks interviewing a number of students and staff at campuses in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, in a special focus on rape on campus.

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


In Grahamstown, students at Rhodes University have told Eyewitness News that rape culture is institutionalised and is not being dealt with adequately.

Four weeks ago, a controversial list was released on social media, naming 11 alleged rapists on campus. The list has yet to be verified.

While the university has encouraged students to come forward with cases of sexual harassment and offences, one student says it's traumatic for a survivor to be heard.

"I've recently put through a sexual harassment charge for one of my ladies and just seeing how much of a mission it was to actually do something about it; I mean he's the one in the wrong and she is the one who has to go through a lot of effort to do something about it."

In response, Rhodes Vice Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela says higher education institutions should lead the way in creating a safe legal environment that protects the survivor of sexual violence, instead of interrogating them.

"We've asked our Law Faculty to look at the national legislation.

I think it's in need of review so that it becomes a lot more survivor-friendly."

A UCT student holds up a poster during a protest against rape and sexual abuse on campus on 11 May 2016. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN


A Wits University student, who was raped at a residence in Johannesburg, has told Eyewitness News she kept quiet about her ordeal for seven years because she felt ashamed and dirty.

Simamkele Dlakavu was raped by a fellow student while living on student premises during her first year.

The 24-year-old says she now wants to speak out about what happened because she wants to give other survivors a voice and help put a stop to the silence and stigma around rape.

"To make sure that rape culture perpetrators are punished and that there's a social cost to it."

The Master's student first shared her story during a protest against rape on campus last month.

She says after she was attacked seven years ago, she was confused and couldn't speak to anyone about what had happened.

She says she only told her mother and sister a few weeks ago.

"I think there's a lot of shame that comes with rape and a lot of silence, especially from rape survivors. We just want to get over it, we just want to get past it.

"For me personally, I didn't want to discuss it with my own parents and my own siblings because I didn't want to have to explain and go through that process."

She also says she believes that rape survivors should name and shame offenders and has urged other women to report similar attacks to campus authorities or police.

WATCH: Inside SA's 'Rape Culture'


Meanwhile, Wits University's Gender Equity Office, says it has dealt with at least 160 complaints dealing with issues including sexism, online abuse, sexual harassment and rape at the institution in the past two years.

The office was set up after several students accused a number of lecturers of sexual assault.

The university launched an independent inquiry after at least four male lecturers were accused of sexually assaulting female students in 2012.

Six months later, the inquiry found that students felt let down by the university's harassment policies, and the way their cases were handled.

The Director of the Wits Gender Equity Office, Jackie Dugard, says since 2014, they have dealt with at least 160 gender-based cases at Wits, including attacks on students and staff.

She has urged rape and assault survivors to approach her office for help and counselling.

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


Meanwhile, some UCT students say they don't feel more at ease following the arrest of an alleged rapist earlier this year.

Cape Town police arrested the 35-year-old suspect after a four-month spate of attacks near Rhodes Memorial.

At least two women have been hospitalised after being sexually assaulted there since November.

At the same time, students and staff members have questioned whether sufficient systems are in place for sexual assault and rape survivors on various campuses.