Statement RE: SRC Suspensions

Last week, UCT’s Communication and Marketing department sent out an email about two incidents of sexual violence that have been reported and the suspension of two SRC members.

This email concentrated on condemning the release of the perpetrator’s names rather than speaking through the measures in place to aid anyone at UCT who has experienced sexual violence. This institution needs to be clear about what mechanisms are in place to support survivors post-trauma – they cannot make a cursory allusion to them with no links/contact details to get to those resources.

They cannot simply point to the existence of these support structures without any report on what progress has been made to make these institutions better. Many problems pertaining to these structures and disciplinary processes have been pointed out for many years. Before claiming that justice will be found through these procedures, UCT needs to be clear about what they have done to make these processes more fair and less traumatising to the survivor.

UCT needs to ensure that their communications to the wider public show that they are committed to a survivor-centred approach and not simply to absolve themselves of legal liability.

The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) will be monitoring the progress of these cases. UCT Survivors is often present in SART meetings and proceedings and will do what we can to keep an eye out too.

Here is a link for UCT’s statement: https://www.news.uct.ac.za/images/userfiles/downloads/media/2017-07-06_SRCSuspensions_EM.pdf

Here is the link for SART’s statement: http://www.uct.ac.za/sites/default/files/image_tool/images/328/media/releases/2017/2017-07-07_SARTStatement.pdf

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.

Disability and Sexual Assault

After an accident on UCT premises for which the department was responsible, I found out about the DU (Disability Unit) who informed me of my rights. Surgery and some physio at UCT was covered, which was a basic requirement for any accident on campus. Later I failed to sue UCT and paid for bio-kinetics myself. It’s a lifelong issue, now over a decade (impacted 2 more joints) and my foreign medical aid had bailed.
I got invisible disabilities and returned after a couple of years. The DU could not help in any way, I had depression and 2 other illnesses besides physical disability. To be at UCT, I had to rent accommodation very close to campus (more expensive) as my chronic illness made Res inaccessible. I also had to pay a doctor’s visit monthly while my chronic illness was a lifelong issue. I don’t know if that’s a departmental (Humanities) issue, medical aid did cover some. Has it changed that one needs to prove a gynecological chronic illness every month?

Later I got sexually assaulted on campus by an employee, I was one of 2 or 3 sexually assaulted students by that man according to a Varsity writer. I had to encounter him several times a week. Reinette Popplestone could not understand why I was asking her for advice/ access assistance. I was targeted because of my disability, I was coming down steps with difficulty and he sexually assaulted me. Friends could not always wait for my last lecture to accompany me. She referred me to DISCHO without telling me DISCHO was window-dressing. Instead of resolving the issue, they caused the man to verbally assault me further on campus because I had complained. DISCHO still had the nerve to be more window-dressing after that, ignoring the question ‘Isn’t that proof of his guilt if they didn’t tell him my name/description allegedly and he yelled at me in a crowd insulting me because I had complained against him?’
DISCHO didn’t look for witnesses. Later SAPS couldn’t find any. The VC’s office took 4 months to reply, which was 7 months after my initial complaint. The DU allowed me to use disabled transport then. Some months later I was sexually harassed by one driver who has one’s number for the job. Ms. Popplestone said it was because of the way I dressed!! I asked “How could you say that!?” surprised that she, too, supports rape culture. She said it’s what she’s been told. I can’t believe I actually had to describe what I wore. [I can’t wear jeans bc of knee injury, I didn’t wear dresses/skirts either. Let’s not go there, just both incidents were in winter, was my jacket too puffy? I got it on sale so it was actually a size too big.] and I was sent to the DISCHO again!!

I had to somehow manage to come to campus for lectures & tuts at the end of that year and write my exams without transport on odd days and while still encountering my (1st) sexual assaulter occasionally.

In my 3rd year I got disabled parking. I’d been for counselling at Rape Crisis, and at Triangle mostly. They stepped up for UCT’s failures. I still had PTSD.
When discussing options with Ms Popplestone, she said there doesn’t seem to be any solutions and asked me “why don’t I leave UCT?”. She confessed to me that she had been against my getting a parking disk(!!) but there’d been other co-managers then. I was always more than civil with her and didn’t put on social media or blogs that UCT, DISCHO  and the DU are pro-rape. There should have been a way to deal with that without having to explain to her that my country had only one uni which was hard to get in to and without the same courses; my one course was also unavailable in SA. I was asking for access and paying UCT for a degree!

I could never get extra time, it’s for people who really need it I was told. Same for my final year, with extra workload from the previous year and battling with what I thought was PTSD! Then I got a diagnosis and that didn’t help. I never complained of the issues with the DU as the decision-making seemed so arbitrary, and one doesn’t want to be further discriminated against by Ms Popplestone when one will depend heavily on access to finish a course.

A well-meaning lecturer was comparing me with another student with cancer, saying if she can manage why can’t I.

At departmental level I did not get deferred exams.

Online Harassment at UCT

It began in MAM1001W in 2012, rumoured to be the most difficult first year maths course in the country. Most of the year I was simultaneously trying to concentrate on what the teacher was saying and win the affection of this boy I liked, Mark*. We were chatting quietly, when a good-looking white boy told us to be quiet. A reasonable request – we were talking while the lesson went on in front of us.

A few weeks later, this boy added me on Facebook, “Nick.” No mutual friends, but I recognised him from maths class, so I accepted. I was flattered, but there was an unsettled feeling in my gut. How had he found out what my name was?

At first his messages were friendly, if not slightly weird. “I sense weird tensions between us,” he said. I was curious, and I wanted affirmation of my attractiveness. Regardless, I replied in a neutral way. I sensed he would take this bait and continue messaging me – this “sense” arose from the persistence I was used to in dealing with men who have wanted to be with me, or get into my pants.

Nick and I had spoken a total of four times in real life and online by the end of the year. They were short, surface conversations, with nothing unusual about them. But during the December vac his messages transformed into something else. “I’m basically in love with you”, he said. I replied, perplexed, “… you don’t even know me.”

From then on it was ugly. He spoke as if we had a relationship, not a vague acquaintance. His messages dissolved into threats. He told my then-boyfriend, Mark from MAM, that I didn’t truly like him. That Mark should cut his hair, wear contacts and stop wearing skinny jeans. That I actually like Nick, not Mark, and Mark should be more like Nick if he wants me to like him. In his messages, Nick mentioned something that only Mark and I had spoken about. He had been listening to our conversations in maths. Mark replied telling him, essentially, to leave him alone. Then Nick threatened to break Mark’s legs. Mark stopped replying.

After that, Nick became more incoherent, and more threatening. He said I shouldn’t be scared of him, that he could be my drug connection, that I’m a mean lesbian. That Mark and I “should start fucking each other (SEX :)SEX :)SEX :)SEX :))…please say you’re not a virgin….start pomping!!!!”

Then he started with the death threats. “Give enough time and i could resort to murder…. just like oscar…shoot you on campus and say you were violating me J” His last message to me on Facebook was in February 2013. It reads “DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE you insect of a woman”.

By this time I had changed faculties, and hoped I wouldn’t see him again. But all of it made me feel sickly fascinated. Like I was watching a reconstruction of someone else’s life on the Crime Channel. I didn’t even think to report it to the police or to DISCHO. Would they care about this online harassment? It seemed like too much administration, with too little reward. Getting a restraining order would require lawyers, costs, time. His words disturbed me, but I felt removed from them; dream-like. I blocked him and the multiple profiles he created to invite me on Facebook, and I thought this was enough.

It was an unremarkable day in November 2015 when I received an email in my private inbox – the subject line: “A secret admirer (who loves you)”. I was hit by a cold wave of shock, fear. How had he got my email address? He said he hoped I was “still single”. How did he know that Mark and I had broken up about a year ago?

After his email my family sprang into action. They met with Nick’s family, who already knew who I was because he had mentioned looking at my social media, talked about something I had said on Twitter. They revealed that Nick had a mental disorder. They spoke to Nick, and Nick gave his word to never contact me again, barring an apology letter.

His apology letter, which he titled “Big Nick’s Apology”, was filled with the delusional narratives he played out in his head. He wrote that it was a joke. That he did it because he was feeling hurt and “rejected”. He gave his word he wouldn’t contact me again.

But he did.

 

 

*Names have been changed

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