The Wits Gender Equity Office have stated that 29 rape cases were reported in 2017.

THE WITS Gender Equity Office (GEO) is contesting statistics that were released by the Department of Higher Education (DHET) about the number of reported rape cases that have happened at universities across the country.

According to the DHET, close to 50 rapes were reported across campuses in 2017. The University of Cape Town recorded a total of nine rapes, followed by Walter Sisulu University (WSU) with seven cases of rape reported.

Wits University only reported one rape to the DHET according to the statistics, but director of the GEO, Crystal Dicks, told Wits Vuvuzela that the statistics were inaccurate. She said, on September 3, the GEO had provided the DHET with an account of 29 reported rape cases for 2017.

The cases were further broken down into rapes that happened on campus, the number of accusers who were Wits students and accusers who had their names withheld.

Dicks said the university was able to provide these statistics as, unlike other universities, because the GEO was specifically established at the end of 2013 to deal with incidents of this nature.

“A high reported number of rapes can be seen as a positive thing because it means that more people know that they can come forward to the GEO,” Dicks said. For 2018, the GEO has received 23 rape cases so far, she added.

WSU does not have an office that deals with rape cases specifically. Yonela Tukwayo, spokesperson for the university, told Wits Vuvuzela, “Rapes are reported to campus control and we then advise students on the way forward.”

She added that the university works closely with the South African Police Services (SAPS).

Following the 2017 reported rape cases, Tukwayo said the university had increased the number of times that security personnel patrol the campus, especially around female residences.

WSU has had zero reported rapes this year but Tukwayo said that cases could have gone unreported.

Dicks said that the GEO was working closely with student support and the university’s Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee.

She added that the GEO provided feedback to the DHET’s draft policy in dealing with gender-based violence in higher education.

“[The GEO] welcomes and eagerly awaits the minister’s convening of a forum to discuss this crisis within the university community,” Dicks said.

Following the reported number of rapes last year, Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor has called an emergency crisis meeting with all universities.

Wits Vuvuzela approached the DHET for comment, but had not received a response by the time of publication.

FEATURE PHOTO: All incidents can be reported to the Wits Gender Equity Office. Photo: Mary Sayegh