An independent inquiry into sexual harassment reporting is now in full swing.
It started last week with two top powered legal teams from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and Norton Rose Legal Practices.
They are now making a call to all students to come forward with their stories or views on how to improve the system.
This is a separate inquiry from the internal investigation by Wits into staff members. The legal teams are making a further call to students who have been harassed, or any member of the university community with a view on the matter, to come forward.
A lawyer from Norton Rose, Joe Mothibi, said that the inquiry was aimed at finding out “what systematic problems there are in the university with regards to sexual harassment. What mechanisms are in place, are they adequate and how they can be improved”.
CALS Attorney, Jameelah Omar told Wits Vuvuzela that she was finding it “a big problem with a trend that students don’t actually feel comfortable speaking to anyone in the university about sexual harassment.”
Mothibi said: “We are doing this to let people know that we are receptive to their complaints”. The legal team would be supportive and students would not be made to feel that they did something wrong.
“The biggest difficulty that we have had is with students coming forward. I think there might be some confusion because there are two paralleled commissions running. Ours is not to look at specific incidences, but to look at trends so that preventative measures can be put in place so that sexual harassment doesn’t happen of any sort.”
According to Omar, the university was handling specific incidences of sexual harassment privately.
Mothibi added: “Cognisant of the rights of the alleged perpetrator and the victims, the university is dealing with it fairly for both sides and with maturity and sensitivity.”
By students coming forward with their views it would help determine how widespread the problem is and what needs to be done.
Omar explicitly added that by speaking up, “it is not contingent on them [students] actually making a formal report. So, say a student was actually sexual harassed they can come to us and tell us their story without it necessarily going any further. They are not forced to make any formal complaint.
“It is entirely confidential, we don’t need formal complaints, we don’t need evidence, and we don’t need anything to be proven.”
Mothibi said: “The idea is that the students contact us directly and come and see us under the strictest confidential terms with absolute assurance that it won’t get back to any other people in the university. “
Anyone who wishes to speak with the legal team can contact them via email: Joe Mothibi on email@example.com or Jameelah Omar on firstname.lastname@example.org