Don't downplay rape

24 March 2003
Varsity newspaper (March 13, 2003) reported that several rapes had taken place on the UCT Campus in recent months.

In seeming response, the latest Monday Paper headline reads “Campus Crime down”. John Critien, Executive Director of Properties and Services, is quoted, saying” 'I am grateful that 99% of the on-Campus crimes are not crimes that include murder, rape and armed robberies, but theft, trespassing and loss of cell phones'. He makes no further references to the alleged rapes, nor does he comment on how or whether UCT is dealing with the incidents. Instead, he goes on to talk about how UCT is dealing with “fringe crime”.

I am outraged by this level of insensitivity. One rape on Campus is a crisis and should be treated as such. How dare Mr Critien be “grateful”? Does he have any idea of the effect of rape on its victims? Has he checked to see whether any of the women who have been raped are still on this Campus? Does he know what it's like to be a woman on this Campus knowing that assaults on women are happening in broad daylight in the places where you work?

At a time when the broader South African community is speaking out against violence against women, Mr Critien is choosing to downplay the issue rather than to initiate discussion. In doing so, he is placing all women on Campus at risk and contributing to a culture where women are forced to live and work in fear.

Mr Critien says he'll tell us about the crime “hotspots” on our fringes. Thanks, but I'd like to know exactly what Mr Critien is doing to deal with the non-“fringe” crime in our midst.

Dr Rochelle Kapp
Academic Development Programme

I am very concerned about rape on our Campus and consider rape as one of the most serious of crimes.

My intention in the article was to reassure staff and students that prevention of crime on Campus is an absolute priority for us and the focus on crime “hotspots” was intended to alert the Campus community to these potentially dangerous areas.

Rape is a very complicated crime to fight because – as in general society – the majority of rapes go unreported. This makes it extremely difficult to formulate appropriate responses. Where rapes are reported, we do everything possible to assist the rape survivor, as we did in December last year following the alleged rape of a student in the Beattie Building.

This case was immediately reported to the appropriate authorities and is being investigated by the South African Police Services. One rape on Campus is one rape too many. Through the installation of surveillance cameras, through increased patrolling and other measures, we are doing everything we can to create an environment where it is difficult for rapists – indeed any criminal – to operate.

John Critien
Executive Director, Properties and Services

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