In this digital first era, users need to be aware of technology-facilitated gender-based violence and how to report it says Wits GEO.  

A collaboration between Sunnyside Hall’s student development and gender equity office and the Wits Gender Equity Office (GEO) hopes to make students aware various forms of online violence and harassment.

The event named “Siders for Survivors,” cleverly plays on the residence name “Sunnyside,” and took place at their main study hall on May 18, 2023. The GEOs started off with definitions and examples of gender-based violence (GBV) students may experience on campus and ways to report and find help.

However, it wasn’t until technology-facilitated GBV (TF_GBV) was mentioned that people sat up in their chairs and started engaging in the discussion more enthusiastically.

TF-GBV  refers to acts of harm, such as sexual, physical, psychological, or social abuse, that are carried out or intensified using digital tools like social media. It includes cyberbullying, online harassment, non-consensual sharing of intimate content, and any other harmful behaviours online.

GEO intern Ebenezer Maimele presented the six categories that fall under TF-GBV to the group. Maimele said something as innocuous as sharing posts that portray someone in a negative light could be classified as an act of TF-GBV. Bystanders can be held legally liable for any harm caused depending on what they post or repost.  

Maimele, said people can be “upstanders” instead, by abstaining from liking, sharing, or reposting TF-GBV posts. In this way one avoids complicity and can take further action by reporting TF-GBV they come across on the timeline.

Attendee, Chioma Nzelu (18) said, “We often perceive gender-based violence as highly aggressive and explicitly violent, but it can also be subtle and considered normal or a daily occurrence.” 

Tiisetso Maleke (25), GEO member said she hopes more students report any misconduct experienced on campus, “we are there for everybody,” not just women. 

Mukelwe Mdluli (21), Sunnyside’s student development and gender and transformation officer, shared the sentiment, and said awareness is the first step in empowering students.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits GEO armbands which were gifted to the attendee’s of the “Siders for Survivor’s” event. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers