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Rape culture talk overshadowed by rape accusation

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Patricia Aruo
March22/ 2017

The facilitator of a talk on rape culture left the venue after he was accused of rape. 

A group of female students wielding sjamboks disrupted a talk last week in protest against the facilitator who had been accused of rape at Wits University three years ago. The talk on rape culture, hosted by Ernest Oppenheimer Hall (EOH) residence in Parktown continued after the facilitator left the venue.

Tumi*, one of the attendees at the talk said the disruption happened just before the facilitator was supposed to open the event. She said that a group of women with sjamboks stood up and demanded that the man be removed from his hosting duties and the event itself.

Mahlatsi*, one of the protesters and a friend of the alleged victim, said, “The disruption was necessary because we could not let a rapist facilitate a talk on rape culture. That would be making a mockery of everything that we are trying to achieve by engaging with a male residence such as EOH which on paper seems to want to engage on such issues.” She said that they had hoped that ultimately, the facilitator would not show up at the event given his history.

The facilitator, who spoke exclusively to Wits Vuvuzela, said an allegation of rape was made against him in 2014 and a case was opened at the Gender Equity Office (GEO) after he initially opened a case against the complainant. The Gender Equity Office (GEO) confirmed that a case had been opened but “finalised”. According to GEO Director Crystal Dicks, the “GEO did not proceed with the matter,” and added that they could not provide any details “due to the confidential nature of complaints”.

The facilitator told Wits Vuvuzela, “Based on the facts of the case in question, I believe there is no reason to feel like I would need to be excluded or criticised about contributing to the very important matter of tackling rape culture. This considering that this case was finalised. I feel the criticism has unfortunately been misplaced,” he said.

Mahlatsi* added that the accused, unlike the rest on the panelists with a record of work and activism on the issue, had no credentials warranting his presence as a facilitator.

Tshepo*, one of the men at the event, disagreed with the actions of the women. “It’s the men who don’t rape that want to address the issue and educate fellow brothers on the effects of rape. But you go and beat them up,” he said.

Mahlatsi* said that the reactions to their disruption were varied. “People were triggered that we had just outed a rapist. For some, our actions were empowering and therapeutic and four women came up to us separately and told us that their rapists were within that very space where we had called out this man as a rapist.” Many of these women, she said, were grateful and offered solidarity.

Members of the house committee of EOH declined to comment.

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Patricia Aruo