As part of its week of action against sexual violence, the #UCTSpeaksBack campaign has made a call for more adequate resourcing of support services, improved communication and the immediate suspension of alleged perpetrators.
On Wednesday, participants gathered outside Bremner Building to talk about the institutional silence around sexual violence and to highlight specific concerns about the way in which these matters were being dealt with on campus.
The gathering was convened as an open forum and Rape Crisis was on hand to assist and provide more information to survivors. Speakers included representatives of UCT Survivors, Patriarchy Must Fall, UCT for Disability Justice and the Black Academic Caucus.
During the gathering, a list of demands was read out. These included:
- Case reviews to be made public in a form that paid close attention to removing any identifiers of survivors or victims. “There is a difference between privacy or confidentiality and secrecy – the university seems to consciously constantly get that mixed up,” the statement said.
- A more effective feedback system to report back on statistics as well as a more detailed look at how the institution was responding. This feedback system should be the responsibility of an independent monitoring body consisting of students impacted by this issue.
- A review of the way in which sexual harassment cases were handled. “We cannot deal with sexual assault in isolation. When we speak about rape culture, we are talking about all incidents of sexual violence and the institutionalised culture that allows them to happen,” the statement said.
- A review of cases that were opened and not followed through.
- The suspension of perpetrators while under investigation and the expulsion of those found guilty. Those found guilty should also be on a list available to UCT members.
- The flagging of the names of alleged perpetrators even in cases where complaints were not followed through.
- Compulsory gender-based violence sensitisation for senior management, Council and the Senate along with bystander intervention training for all members of the university community. “We cannot have a community that stands by in silence while sexual violence and rape culture flourish.”
- Adequate resources to be allocated to the issue.
- For the university to commit to dealing with repeat offenders without “dragging the survivor into it”.
- The need for comprehensive, effective and widespread communication in ways that are familiar to students so that it is clear what to do in an emergency.
- A specialised unit of counsellors from an organisation such as Rape Crisis, funded and resourced by UCT.
- Healing spaces on campus for student organisations, survivors and support groups dealing with these issues.
- More survivor-centred research over and above the Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO) review, which “happened over an alarmingly short period and contained surveys with a low response rate”.
Week of action
The week of action came in the wake of protests at Rhodes University and other campuses across the country, among them Wits and the University of the Western Cape.
According to a post on the UCT Survivors Facebook page, the protest aimed “to highlight the almost non-existent consequences for perpetrators of sexual violence at university campuses and other tertiary institutions”.
“These protests also expose the fact that our tertiary institutions are steeped in rape culture and that all members of the higher education community have a role to play in dismantling the shame and blame that is directed at survivors for what they have experienced,” the post said.