“Wits is not a safe community,” first-year students told.

Students should report rape or sexual harassment at the Gender Equity Office GEO at Wits, and the police station, to ensure that action will be taken by both the university and the police.

This is the advice given by Palesa Mpapa, an investigation and advocacy officer at GEO, during a talk with first-year students on Monday, January 27. GEO co-hosted the talk on diversity, discrimination and gender-based harm with the Transformation Office (TO).

Mpapa also discussed what constitutes consent, saying, “Consent can be withdrawn at any point.” She said the GEO receives between 70 and 120 cases a year but not all cases go for hearings as some victims might choose psycho-social support.

“At Wits, we try to address these issues and that’s why we have talks with first-years, so that they are aware that Wits is not a platform for discrimination,” said Siya Hlongwa, Safezones facilitator at the TO.

Toxic residence initiations were also discussed at the talk. First-year students are reluctant to question these ‘traditions’ out of fear. However, they were encouraged to report oppressive activities and those that they felt uncomfortable doing.

“Initiation is supposed to be a process that assists you to go from one phase to another; from being a high schooler to a university student… to help you foster the change you need to get to the next step,” Hlongwa said.

Simthandile Nteyi, a first-year dramatic arts student told Wits Vuvuzela that, “I really thought the talk was informative and I really loved the consent video. These talks are important because of the gender-based violence crisis in the country, and coming into an environment this big, these things happen and you don’t know what to do.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Students at the Gender Equity Office and Transformation Office ‘gender conscious’ talk at the Science Stadium. Photo: Lwazi Maseko