Re-traumatised by Student Wellness

In my first year, I was raped, as a virgin, by a mentor in my res whilst I went to see him in his room. I was intensely traumatized by the incident such that when I had gotten back to my room, after the violence had all ended. I went to shower to wash away all the shame, the guilt, the pain, his scent – and unfortunately I collapsed in the shower, I was unconscious for 45 minutes. I was woken up by the coldness of the water. I decided I had to go see a doctor, I managed to get an appointment with Student Wellness, to see a doctor the next day.

I arrived 2 mins late for my appointment with the doctor – because I didn’t know where student wellness was, the doctor had not even arrived as yet but when he arrived he looked at me and told me that I was late, shouting, and he led me to his consultation room. He asked me what was wrong, I told him I fainted in the shower, and I was unconscious for 45 mins, and at the time, my stomach was swollen and quite painful – this happens whenever I am under a lot of stress as I have a medical condition that is exacerbated by stress. And then I also reluctantly told him that I was raped the day prior. He looked at his watch and back at me, and he told me I have too many problems and I have to pick one for him to focus on. He told me that he doesn’t have time to attend to my issues particularly since I am late. He said he only has 15 mins per student and that isn’t enough time for him to attend to all my complaints. He told me I just delayed him from a very important commitment he has after this consultation because I was late. He took my blood pressure and told me it was very low but there’s nothing he can do about that – he said I fainted because of stress and there’s no medication for that. Then he proceeded to tell me my time is up, and he needs to leave. And he said I understand you have a lot of problems so he said he will provide me with 3 free doctors appointments with him, within the next 2 weeks after he returns from a trip he had. I felt so invalidated and disrespected.

Furthermore, after leaving his room,on my way out. I overhear him to speaking to a nurse about what he said, whilst I was busy settling my bill.The nurse comes to me an tells me, she can see from my folder that my complaint did not need a doctor and I should’ve just seen a nurse, and she proceeded to speak explicitly about what the doctor told her about me, and what she read from my folder. This conversation is happening in the waiting room, a full but quiet room, everyone heard her. I left student wellness still without HIV prophylaxis, STI meds or the pill, I left feeling worse than when I came. I couldn’t bring myself to putting myself in a situation where I could be invalidated again. So I went to the pharmacy and got the pill. I just had to sit and hope, I wouldn’t contract HIV. This year, I found out I contracted an incurable STI – HPV, and that I am high risk for developing cervical cancer. Because of that one doctor, who discarded of me like trash. No words can capture the trauma, I lived, and continue to carry with me.

Sexually assaulted in matric

I don’t really know how to start this, and I have no idea if it is relevant since it did not happen at UCT.

In October 2009 I was a 17-year-old matriculant. I have been chatting with a guy on Mxit and finally decided to meet him one Friday night. I told my parents I would sleep over at a friend’s house (she was in on it, of course). Well, I met the guy who took me to a restaurant. He was a lot older than the age he gave me on Mxit. I think he might have been close to 40.
After dinner, he drove around and eventually parked on the sidewalk of a dark silent street. He then started kissing me and removing my clothing. For some reason, it did not register what was busy happening. I mean, I knew about sex, but I could not comprehend that that’s what was about to happen. When he removed my underwear, it still did not register. It was as if I wasn’t even there. When it eventually happened, my brain somehow made the connection and all I wanted was for it to end. When it ended, I got dressed quickly and ask him to take me to my friend’s house and when I got there, I realized that I just lost my virginity. I wanted to save myself for marriage.
I did not tell anyone about this and quickly “forgot” what had happened. I never saw it as rape, because I never really said no. Only recently I started remembering how scared I was when he pushed me back on the car seat.
I’ve always dreamed of being a psychiatrist, but after that night I just did not want to be anything anymore. I wrote end of year exams without studying and miraculously still ended up being the top matriculant at my school. I went off to varsity to study Psychology in 2010, but had to see a counselor as I suffered from severe depression, and she also diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder. I had to drop out in October 2010 as I was failing. I never told the counselor about that night because I didn’t think it was linked to my emotional health.
Currently. I am a 24-year-old first year student at UCT, I’m getting distinctions in for all my courses, but I still don’t want to do or be anything.
I saw a group of younger women in the library the other day, looking very beautiful and feminine. Since that night, I have only been wearing jeans and t-shirts, so I decided to get a dress or two. At the store, as I was trying on dresses, I couldn’t help but weep in the changing room… I felt exposed, like anyone who sees the outline of my body in a dress can just reach out and touch me and I could do nothing about it.

Coercion is not consent

It was a typical weekend night for us: he would work late and I would go out partying and I would come back to sleep at his place. I would be so drunk and we would have sex, because for the last two years of our relationship that was the only way I could bring myself to sleep with him. But I felt that I owed him sex, because he was my boyfriend and he was always so supportive of me and I really didn’t want to let him down. On this particular night I was drunk but still coherent and alert. It was the early hours of the morning and I stumbled into his room so looking forward to just going to bed. But he had other ideas. He asked if we could have sex and I said no, I was so tired and I just wanted to sleep. He asked again – please? No I said, I really just want to sleep, it’s already 4am. Please? He tried again. Ok fine I said and I lay there as he rolled on top of me. It was in that moment that I felt like I had just given up. Like I had no control. Like I was trapped. Like a part of me had just resigned myself to the fact that this was how it was going to be. And I lay there while he humped on top of me. I turned my head to the side so that I did not have to look at his face. I might have fallen asleep or might just have tried so hard not to be in my body at that moment, but I remember drifting in and out of reality.

That was the last time we ‘slept’ together and I broke up with him about a month later.

I buried that experience deeply. I didn’t talk about it; I didn’t think about it. Until recently, when a series of events this year meant that I could no longer ignore what my body was so desperate to be freed from. And when I did start thinking about it, all I could feel was a deep sense of shame and guilt: that I should have been stronger, that I should have said no more forcefully, that I should never have given in at the end. But now, through therapy, I have realised that those feelings are not true because it was HIM that was in the wrong. HE shouldn’t have been trying to have sex with someone who was drunk in the first place. HE should have taken my NO’s seriously. HE should have realised that when someone says ‘OK FINE’ that that is NOT CONSENT, that is being forced through coercion. HE should have looked at my body language and realised that the last thing I wanted was him inside of me. IT WAS HIS FAULT.

I’m still working through this experience and others and healing comes in waves. But one thing I do know now is that IT WAS NOT MY FAULT. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME and I AM NOT BROKEN. I am now on a journey to reclaim my body and my sexuality.

And I just want you to know that it is not your fault either.

Raped by a family member

Today I realised that my cousin raped me. I’ve been thinking about that night for so long and I’ve been doubting myself, because I can’t remember everything due to all the weed. But I realise now that the absence of one specific memory is actually proof — I can’t remember consenting.

My cousin already has a rape accusation against him. I’m feeling more sure of my realisation, the longer I think about it.

Furthermore, under South African law, no one can consent to sex while intoxicated. So really there are only two important facts here: I was stoned. And nonconsensual sexual intercourse took place. My cousin raped me.

What saddens me, is that I realised it today at a mass meeting against sexual violence and rape culture at my university, and my immediate reaction after realising it, was to keep it to myself and talk to someone first to “make sure”. We’ve been indoctrinated to doubt ourselves. We’ve been brain-washed to doubt our own experiences, emotions and thoughts. But I got up and spoke about it. Because I will not be an accomplice in the silencing and distrust of womxn.

The more I think about that night, the clearer it becomes. I was so uncomfortable the entire time. Anxious. The paranoia from the weed was hitting me really hard. I felt physically sick. I felt like crawling up into a ball and just crying. I felt unsafe. I felt violated.

Afterwards, every time I saw him, I was retraumatised. Everything about him disgusts me. I hate him. I hate when he looks at me. I hate when he tries to talk to me. I hate him coming into my house to help my mom with something. I hate having him near me. I hate hearing his name.

And I wonder why I only realise this now, months later. I am a survivor of rape. I am survivor who has been doubting herself and rationalising what happened for far too long. I’m done with this shit.

Sexual violence in Queer relationships

I’m a black queer student. Coming from a country where being queer is illegal, when I applied to universities, I thought that that the progressive UCT in South Africa would be the best choice, a fresh and enjoyable change. In many ways not being criminalized because of your sexuality was an emancipatory experience, but the joy of not having the law and police persecute you was short lived.

I had, in all the excitement of being in a new country, where there were openly queer relationships, ended up in a relationship, which I did not particularly want to be in, with an older gay white man. Early on in the relationship things were okay, but there was a clear shift to what I can now say very explicitly was a not okay period, which signifies a failure in UCT student affairs systems, particularly DISCHO and also my sexual education at the time or lack thereof.

It was three quarters into the semester that the line of consent was crossed, I was being assaulted, this is only clear to me in retrospect, and difficult thing to write. The relationship was going wrong, and my boyfriend was very possessive, at times stopping me from seeing my sister who was also studying at UCT, by not allowing me to leave his place. It was at around this time, that the emotional breakdown of the relationship meant that I no longer wanted to have sex, with this person whom I had previously been having sex with.

I had however not been taught by DISCHO that sexual assault could happen whilst in a relationship, that rape could happen with your partner. Nobody had ever told me that a “no” with a stranger carried the same weight as a “no” in a relationship. I lacked the sexuality, sexual and relationship education to empower me to get out of a situation that was clearly wrong. This culminated in a drawn out break down. Only finally when I broke of the relationship, during the early part of the second semester, did the situation escalate enough for me to understand what was happening.

After going to the person’s house to end things, he responded “Fine, but then let’s do it one last time, for me.” I didn’t use a question mark, because it wasn’t a question, and I don’t want to go into all the details. It was only then, where I realized what was occurring, the thoughts in my head at the time, while I lay there, were only this “possibly could be rape”.

I mean in my warped understanding I had been in a relationship with this person for six months. I had already at one point amicably slept with him, despite that being a long time ago. I also felt partly that he was entitled to sex.

Rape, in the little education I had from any institution was always gendered in the binary, so between men and women. I had the misconception that it was carried out by violent serial rapists in dark places. It was only a year later, in a law lecture where we discussed marital rape, where I clearly remember feeling overwhelmed and having to leave to go home. In that lecture, after two years of being at UCT, the idea that a relationship does not give consent to any sexual acts became clear to me.

I am writing this because it is clear to me now that forced sex even in a relationship is rape. Rape is and can be enacted on a gender non-conforming femmenine bodies, in queer relationships. My situation could have been remedied and reported if I had the knowledge I needed at the time.

Finding out a year later, and understanding what happened to me was a conflicting experience because I could put a label to the issue and the problem arising from it that affected me and I started working on fixing them , getting help and re-building my relationship with sex.

I hope that in writing this, that someone might know the things that I wish I knew when I got into that relationship, the things that I needed to know about sex and when it was sex anymore, but was actually sexual assault and rape.

Statement for #RapeAtUCT

Over the weekend, as the arrest of the suspected serial rapist dominated the news, we as UCT Survivors ask ‘What about all the perpetrators of sexual violence in their class rooms and residences that UCT has not offered a reward for?’ If the management of this institution are serious about tackling sexual violence on this campus, they need to be open about the perpetrators that are part of the UCT community. They need to be open about how their structures have failed survivors in the past. Last year, a review of the Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO) was commissioned and UCT management has yet to make it public for comment from the whole UCT community. It details some of the failures of these structures and details management’s negligence towards these structures as well as the questionable qualifications of those appointed to head up the disciplinary procedures that are part of these structures. We as a collective are calling for the immediate release of this document.

Council, one of UCT’s decision making structures, is meeting to talk about the document this week and we are calling for this meeting to be open to all members of the UCT community. We are calling for this meeting, which will discuss matters that impact our safety and well-being, to not happen at a secret venue cordoned off by private security. This meeting will happen on Saturday, the 19th of March. Security is conspicuously thin on the weekends leaving students vulnerable to attack, yet there will considerable security protecting 28 council members from the mere possibility of student protest.

Last month, the statement informing the UCT community about the establishment of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) was literally a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ bullet point among issues such as housing and financial aid appeals. It gave no time frame for when this body will be up and running. It gave no indicator of how this body will report back to the UCT community. Included in this body are CPS, who at Patriarchy Must fall meetings last year students complained that some members had catcalled and harassed them. Also included are Student Wellness, a body which some students complain is difficult to get a timely appointment and some survivors have been dissatisfied with the service that they received there. These issues were brought up in the review process.

Also in this body, is a SAPS representative. The South African Police Service is an institution that survivors are reluctant to report to, for fear of victim-blaming, secondary trauma and not being believed. The person heading up this body, Sinegugu Duma, has written work that contains undertones of victim-blaming and placing the burden of responsibility on women in particular to not get raped. We welcome the inclusion of the Rape Crisis Centre into this body – an organisation that has served the needs of survivors for many years. But going from the lack of transparency and failures of previous structures, how do we expect survivors to trust the structures? We as a collective support the establishment of a body that is supposed to provide compassionate and survivor-centred care but we call for this body to be held accountable and we will be unflinching in our quest to ensure that it lives up to its mandate.

The statements that UCT sends out every time someone is sexually assaulted always carry the same message to female students in particular, ‘make sure it isn’t you’ next time – pushing students to change their behaviour to avoid rape is the same as saying ‘make sure the rapist targets someone else’. It creates a culture of victim-blaming.

There’s been no promise to comprehensively tackle the sexism and rape culture on campus that creates stigma for a survivor of sexual violence and discourage survivors from reporting. There has been no promise of campus wide sensitisation and education for staff members, workers and students about gender-based violence. The assumption (and UCT’s preferred narrative about sexual violence) is that all the perpetrators are people from outside UCT community which isn’t true for a lot of cases we’ve been told about.

It is an accepted truth within the research literature about sexual violence that majority of rapists and perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim or survivor – that would include, acquaintances, friends, class mates, staff members that teach them. But these are not the perpetrators that UCT will send out emails and warnings about – repeat offendors of sexual harassment and other forms of threatening behaviours that are known to the university structures but remain on campus are not who they will write to you about.   UCT has not made a clear commitment that perpetrators that are registered to study here and that have been appointed to work here will be expelled or even suspended pending an investigation (a measure they instituted once again for protesting students).

Even if these people are not the perpetrators, these are the people survivors are expected to approach post-trauma. These are the tutors, lecturers and residence mates that survivors need to interact with and get help from. UCT management and its structures need to make a commitment dismantling the everyday sexism and misogyny that not only fuels sexual violence but creates an environment of tolerance and silence about it. We as UCT Survivors are committed to dismantling the PR double speak that allows this institution to insist that it is doing enough when it comes to issues of gender justice because to be quite frank they’re not.

 

*Sexual violence = sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape

Intimate Partner Violence at UCT

When it happened I remember hoping that at any moment security would hear me screaming and make it stop. I didn’t care that they’d see me naked. Or that id have to explain that was my boyfriend. Or what I was doing there in the first place. They never came to save me. For a long time afterwards I didn’t know what to do. I tried to talk to him about it but he dismissed it saying that’s what I liked. He didn’t think I could read into that power exchange and the reason why my body became a site of violence. It took a suicide attempt, hospitalization and a semester off school to come back. I went to DISHCO and asked what my options are. We do the same thing on the same campus and I didn’t want to see him again. At best they offered me a talk with him. One I’d never be able to tell anyone about. What about him being expelled? Him staying as far away from me as possible? I was supposed to be graduating that year. I didn’t, he did. He’s doing his masters now and I have to see him everyday. I have to relive being violated everyday. My psychiatrist says I’m going to live with that forever. UCT has played no part in making any of it easier. On the same campus a serial rapist was given community service, what of me if that’s the way they deal with it? They asked me to take time off. When I came back they became insistent I take more time off. I don’t think it was to help me, more that as a victim of rape I was the liability. Not him.