The Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) has opened up discussions around gender-based violence in an attempt to create a safe space for victims.

THE CCDU has partnered with the iThemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre to host a series of talks addressing the issue of gender-based violence on campus.

The first session, out of six, was held on Wednesday, March 4. Sessions will be held every second week at the CCDU on West Campus.

Nombuso Masinga, a social worker at the iThemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre, explained how violence can be embedded in our culture. “We produce it, we teach it and we validate it,” she said. “It can happen at any time; everybody is at risk.”

Masinga said students “don’t feel safe on campus and are scared to stay late when alone. Students need to create awareness in order to report cases of violence.

“Campus is meant to be a free space, not a place to feel as if you’ll be victimised. It is important that students always practise safety principles and should not keep quiet. Always report any form of violence you see.”

Ntsakisi Muhlange, a psychologist at the CCDU who organised the sessions to address gender-based violence on campus, said we need to “create a space that normalises an individual’s feelings when in a group”.

Muhlange said talks such as this are critical because gender-based violence is an issue we deal with every day.

“We cannot deny the violence in our country, she said. “Students need to take a stance towards being kinder.”

There will be two types of group sessions. The first adopts a psycho-educational setting – the method of providing information and education to an individual seeking help – and is open to any person. The second is a closed support group – as some gender-based violence issues are sensitive – and aims to create a space of safety and trust between participants. The first closed support session begins on April 3.

Heemal Ryan, a fourth-year electrical engineering student, said he wanted “more information about how gender-based violence affects the individual in society”.

Ryan told Wits Vuvuzela he would recommend the CCDU to other students, as the “closed sessions would be more helpful for people who have been through it [incidents of gender-based violence]”.

The iThemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre was established in 2005 and provides counselling and treatment to survivors of gender-based violence.

FEATURED IMAGE: Nombuso Masinga aims to spread awareness on gender-based violence in our society. Photo: Laura Hunter.