Survivor support for sexual and gender-based violence

09 September 2019 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

I am writing to update you again on existing processes as well as the additional steps we have taken in terms of our response to sexual and gender-based violence.

The events of the past week had a profound impact on all in our community, especially survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. I am pleased that the Office for Inclusivity and Change (OIC) has reached out to known survivors in their care.

We have unfortunately not yet been able to reach everyone, so we urge survivors – whether they are members of staff or students – to contact the OIC should they need support at 021 650 3530.

As indicated on Friday, an ad hoc special tribunal has been established to expedite sexual and gender-based violence cases, and it started with sessions today. We urge survivors to use the online reporting tool to report cases in the next two weeks so as to expedite these cases through the ad hoc special tribunal. We must deal with the perpetrators! We know that survivors can report at any time, but we need to ensure that complaints are managed expeditiously through formal processes.

Although survivors are encouraged to access OIC services directly to ensure easier and better communication, they may also access these services through a trusted person. Enough is enough, and the time for talk is over. Dealing with alleged perpetrators must now be a priority. In order to make the process possible, we need survivors, or their trusted peers, to please report incidents via the online reporting tool or email the OIC directly and they will contact the survivor.

The OIC should be the first port of call, but in addition to the available OIC support, four academic staff members in the Faculty of Law are available to provide assistance in the process of utilising the online reporting tool. They are available by arrangement with their respective offices. They are Dr Fatima Kahn, Professor Pamela Schwikkard, Ms Yellavarne Moodley and Professor Dee Smythe.

It is important to note that UCT is committed to following due process to conclusion when a charge of sexual or gender-based violence is brought forward by a student or a staff member. In several cases UCT has dismissed students or staff members who have been found guilty of sexual or gender-based violence. The processes outlined above, which have now been implemented, will also help us deal with matters more speedily.

We understand the tremendous strength it takes to share these experiences, so once a survivor has contacted the OIC, they are personally supported and receive individual contact and correspondence throughout the process.

The following services are available to students and staff at UCT:

  • a sensitively managed consultation with survivors
  • alternative residence accommodations
  • extraction from domestic sites of violence to places of safety
  • 24hr standby support telephonic and physical support
  • one-on-one lay counselling
  • accompaniment to Victoria Hospital to receive medical care
  • assistance in completing the South African Police Service processes
  • assistance in appealing for academic concessions
  • referral to counsellors in the Student Wellness Service, SADAG or Rape Crisis
  • referral of the incident to a UCT disciplinary tribunal and/or alternative informal mechanisms.

Sexual and gender-based violence leads to trauma and can have psychological, behavioural and physical consequences that may make the survivor unable to work or study – this support is offered so that the survivor is able to continue and conclude their academic studies.

The African Gender Institute (AGI) is also creating an Open Space all week for solidarity and ‘holding’. The institute will be open from 12:00 to 17:00 every day in the Centre for African Studies Gallery. The AGI will offer support, refreshments, quiet and/or talking/listening, and other options, especially to anyone remembering their own stories of abuse or the abuse of friends and loved ones. All are welcome.

My commitment is absolute. Sexual and gender-based violence has no place at UCT. The time has come to deal with this decisively.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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