10 March 2016
Dear colleagues and students,
The University of Cape Town is devastated to confirm that yet another female UCT student was brutally attacked, assaulted and raped off campus on Tuesday evening, 8 March 2016. We were informed of this matter only late last night. Although we cannot be certain, all indications are that the attack has similarities to three previous recent attacks that occurred near Rhodes Memorial and that the assailant might be the same person involved in these other cases.
The student was running along the bicycle path in the area near the bridge of Princess Anne Drive in Newlands when a man attacked her, threatened her with a knife, assaulted her severely and forced her into the bushes and towards the Rhodes Memorial area. The man held her captive for some hours and raped her. The man later forced her to walk to a garage where she was able to break free from the attacker and was assisted by staff to phone the South African Police Services for help. She was admitted to hospital. UCT is assisting the student in a variety of ways and will continue to do so.
UCT is working with the SAPS as closely as possible. We know that the search for this attacker is ongoing and intensifying. We understand that, by its very nature, this investigation is complex, but we are satisfied that the SAPS is giving all these cases its attention. We remain committed to assisting the SAPS in every possible way. We also remain hopeful that a breakthrough and an arrest will be made and that the attacker will be brought to a court of justice to face the charges that will be levelled against him.
We feel a deep sense of pain for any person who endures such an assault and violation, and for their family. It is a very sad reality that sexual violence, assault and other crimes against women and children are rife. The cases affecting our students are deeply traumatising for UCT as an institution but we are conscious that such crimes are a daily occurrence in the broader society of which we are part.
UCT feels a sense of responsibility for the safety of every student and staff member. Yet the reality is that we simply cannot monitor the movements of 35 000 people (the UCT community on campus) every day. With such attacks in the areas around our campus we feel deeply distressed for the safety of female students in particular. It is horrifying to be in a position where we know the person could attack yet again at any time. We spend millions of rand on security every year, yet our students live in a society where they can be attacked and brutalised when out running on a busy road. This is tragic and deeply upsetting.
We firmly hold the view that every student and staff member should be able to move without restriction and go where they please. Society should be that safe. Yet, in the light of the fact that these assaults are happening and the violence of the assault seems to be increasing, we again ask all students and staff (and women in particular) to avoid walking or running alone at all cost. It is important to avoid areas where you may be isolated or vulnerable to attack. Please think about your daily route and make arrangements beforehand so that you are walking or running in groups, particularly in the late afternoon, early evening or after dark.
UCT is in ongoing discussions with SAPS, SANParks and the Groote Schuur Community Improvement District to coordinate and strengthen our efforts to protect our community and to for this attacker to be arrested by the SAPS and prosecuted.
The university has recently established a sexual assault response team (SART), headed up by Associate Professor Sinegugu Duma. The team aims to provide survivor-centred, compassionate and comprehensive services on campus. It includes a medical practitioner, counsellors, staff from Student Wellness Service and representatives from Campus Protection Services. There will also be a prosecutor and representatives from the nearest police station, the Rape Crisis Centre and the Hospital Emergency Room.