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.


Verbal and physical aggression in the UCT library

In my first year of university, I was in the library studying when a male student’s phone started to ring. I, along with a group of other students, was sitting on the floor because there were no seats available and the male student was seated close by at a desk. Instead of turning off his phone, he answered it and proceeded to have a conversation with whomever was calling. As his conversation continued, it became clear that he was not attempting to end the call so I went over to ask him to please take his call outside. He looked at me and then told his caller that he’d have to call him back because ‘some chick’ had said that he was disturbing her. I went back to my spot on the floor and after he wrapped up his call, he walked over to where I was to tell me that he thought it was rude to interrupt him on his call. I told him that it was rude to answer his phone in a library full to capacity of other students trying to study. He then asked me if I knew who he was (I did not) and proceeded to call me ‘a stupid bitch’ all the while standing over me while I was sitting on the floor. I was annoyed but very intimidated so I asked him not to speak to me in that way because a library was a silent place of study and then he started pointing his finger on my forehead, telling me to shut up and that I should go tell security if I had a problem with him but they wouldn’t believe me anyway. While this was happening, none of the other students intervened although everyone was staring. When he was back at his desk, I went to the front desk where the librarians were to explain my situation and they took me to the security guard. By this point I was shaking and in tears so the security guard asked me to just point out which guy it was. I did so, and he went over to ask the student to pack up his stuff and follow him. One of the girls sitting closest to me on the floor gave me her name, phone number and email address and told me she would corroborate my story. I followed awkwardly behind the security guard and the other student as we were lead to the CPS office in the Leslie Social and I was made to wait outside while the security guard took the male student inside a small office. I could hear him talking to some other CPS officers about what had happened and then to the male student to ask him to explain what had happened. Nobody came outside to sit with me or seemed to even know why I was there and there were no female CPS officers at all. After the male student made his statement, he was allowed to leave and I then made my statement and was told that someone would get in touch with me about it.

I was contacted by someone from DISCHO and it was explained to me that I had the option of a mediation with this student or that he would be disciplined in another way. I declined the mediation given how physically intimidated I had been in the presence of this other student and him being disciplined sounded like a better option. I heard nothing from DISCHO for months and then I randomly received an email from this student – whose name I did not even know until his email arrived – apologising for his behaviour. There was no call from DISCHO to tell me that this email would be arriving and I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to do in response to it. I had avoided the library for weeks after the incident and all I received was a list of excuses for why he had been verbally and physically aggressive towards me.