500 signatures reached
To: Vice Chancellor Dr. Sizwe Mabizela
We demand a Sexual Offences Unit at Rhodes University!
Dear Dr. Sizwe Mabizela,
We demand that the university through the vice chancellor’s office commit to developing and implementing a strategic framework that will lead to the establishment of a Sexual Offences Unit on the Rhodes University campus. This framework must focus on effective and specialized responsive service delivery for student survivors of gender and sexual orientation based violence.
The prevalence of sexual violence on the campus (as recent as August), led to the tragic death of a female student, Khensani Maseko, who committed suicide as a result of being raped, and subsequently not receiving adequate support. This Sexual Offences Unit will form part of existing and new roll-out prevention programmes to which the institution needs to be accountable for, as part of initiating attempts to curbing gendered and sexual orientation violence towards women and minority groups (LGBTI+) on campus. This Sexual Offences Unit must follow the Sexual Offences Court Model which was developed in 2013, championed by the organisation Rape Crisis.
Why is this important?
Two years ago, with what sparked an international conversation on the issue of rape and rape culture, commonly known as the #RUReferenceList protests, women and non-binary individuals set precedent for other institutions across the country to participate in a national discussion on problematizing how unsafe campuses are. In 2016 women, from all walks of life across the country demonstrated in solidarity with those at Rhodes University – highlighting not only the prevalence of GBV in our society, but also the failure of institutions in protecting its students.
Since the advent of democracy, our institutions pride themselves in being leaders of transformation in society. They have prided themselves in being vehicles providing a vast range of knowledge to individuals entering their spaces. Yet, when it comes to issues of gendered discrimination and the effects it has on individuals – particularly women and minority groups – our cries seem to be invalid, and our experiences erased. We are tired of saying “enough is enough!” when it only suits the institution’s agenda. Your ‘enough’ does not suffice as every day we continue to live in fear of when our bodies will become another statistic to the vast crimes we experience on a daily basis.
A Sexual Offences Unit will ensure that survivors of gendered and sexual orientation violence are met with the utmost sensitivity, specialized support and resources that will help towards their healing processes. The Sexual Offences Unit should include: support staff who encourage students to go for prosecution through reporting their cases; this consists of 24 hour psychologists available at all times of emergencies, and a space for student activists to assist in sharing insights to developing better models aimed at reducing all forms of violence on campus. This unit needs to be cognizant of all socio-economic demographics of the student body, and thus be able to cater to survivors of all backgrounds.
The unit will provide sensitized support to student survivors who might not want to go through reporting their cases at the SAPS where they face further victimization due to a lack of training, resources and subsequently compassion. Rhodes University needs to cultivate a space that will ensure a prioritization of justice to survivors of sexual violence. In conjunction to this, the unit will have to implement the recommendations that were presented by the Sexual Violence Task Team at the end of 2016 in response to the demands of the student led protest #RUReferenceList.
This unit will be very important as students leave college and university environments to enter the working space where issues of harassment are also prone. Socialization plays a huge part in curbing violence in our country, and it should start at home, in this case, at school.
Rhodes University, much like society at large, needs to tackle gendered discrimination systemically through acknowledging and institutionalizing a culture of accountability in relation to the violence students experience. We need to push for our spaces of higher learning, the communities that we occupy every day, to internalize on a personal level policies and practices that speak to dismantling this culture of protecting perpetrators and stigmatizing survivors.
How it will be delivered
Email the signatures.
-Staging a Press Conference is also possible.
- Delivering them in person will be the last resort. Mobilization of visible bodies on campus will be essential in the deliverance of the petition to the Vice Chancellor.