‘The law favours perpetrators in cases of gender violence’

Both women say they want to speak out to try and put a stop to stigma around rape at local universities.

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.

JOHANNESBURG - Two Wits University students, one who was raped and the other assaulted, have told Eyewitness News they believe the law favours the perpetrators in cases of gender violence.

Both women say they want their names to be known and they want to speak out to try and put a stop to the silence and stigma around rape at local universities.

They spoke to EWN as part of a special focus on rape culture at tertiary institutions in the country.

Simamkele Dlakavu was raped at a student residence in Johannesburg, during her first year at the institution about seven years ago.

The 24-year old masters' student first shared her story during a protest against rape on campus last month, and says she couldn't tell anyone what happened because she felt ashamed.

She says she didn't report the case at the time because she feels the law gives the benefit of the doubt to perpetrators and not the survivors.

"Even when you go report rape, you need to prove that you were raped. You are not given the benefit of the doubt."

Fellow student, Thenjiwe Mswana, was photographed being choked by a male student during a Fees Must Fall protest on campus earlier this year; she says it's unfair that survivors have to see attackers on campus, while management investigates.

Both students say they'd like politicians in Parliament to debate ways to protect South African women, both on campuses and throughout the country.

WATCH: Inside SA's 'Rape Culture'

At the same time, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research says students across the country have brought the issue of rape culture under the spotlight again, forcing institutions to stop being complacent.

Protests broke out in Grahamstown last month, after a controversial list was released on social media naming eleven alleged rapists at Rhodes University.

Researcher Lisa Vetten says this is not first time a list like this has been published, and the public outcry has led to policy reviews.

"The first time a rapist was named on campus was in 1989 at UCT; even that, like now, caused somewhat of a crisis and you had UCT quickly putting together policies and the whole sector of universities following behind that."

But she says a lack of resources on several campus also hampers management's ability to help.

Meanwhile, students have challenged the sexual offences policies at tertiary institutions, saying they alienate survivors and protect the alleged perpetrators.

Women have described how they've been interrogated about the clothes they were wearing and whether they'd been drinking before an attack on campus.

Students at several tertiary institutions want management to change the way rape and sexual assault are defined in their policies.

Several universities use the same definition as the South African legal system, that rape and sexual assault are unlawfully and intentionally committed.

Activists says this definition is problematic because the onus falls on the survivor to prove that the perpetrator intended to rape them.

They says this is part of the reason people are often reluctant to report such attacks.

Most of the policies urge survivors to speak out, with University of the Western Cape encouraging people to report cases as soon as reasonably possible.

All institutions also encourage students and staff to report cases to the police.

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