A WITS student was raped off-campus by two men who are not affiliated with the university.
The student, whose name will not be released to protect her identity, contacted the Sexual Harassment Office for assistance and was taken to Milpark hospital to receive medical attention.
“Rape is a serious issue in South African society, and Wits is a microcosm of South African society, so, very tragically, we are not immune to such terrible incidents,” Sexual Harassment Office director Jackie Dugard told Wits Vuvuzela.
The university community first learned of the attack when told about it by Vice Chancellor Adam Habib during a townhall meeting.
Habib said details were not yet known but a staff member had accompanied the student to Milpark hospital.
[pullquote]“Rape is a serious issue in South African society, and Wits is a microcosm of South African society, so, very tragically, we are not immune to such terrible incidents,”[/pullquote]
“As soon as we have more information we will of course provide it,” Habib said.
Wits sexual harassment advisor Maria Wanyane said her office is prepared to help victims of sexual assault. “The office provides support to all victims of sexual assault, irrespective of where the incident took place,” Wanyane said.
The office was established in response to revelations of sexual harassment between students and staff members. The office also provides counselling and acts as a support centre to Wits students and staff members.
The Sexual Harassment Office is located on the 6th floor of University Corner and can be contacted on (011) 717 9790.
New Guard: Campus Control‘s new liaision manager, Lucky Khumela, advises first years to be aware of crime on campus. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
What used to be a conference room inside Campus Control headquarters, Wits’s new security liaison manager, Lucky Khumela, sits behind his desk in the small room, smiling calmly, stroking the shiny, striped tie he is wearing.
“Police officers working in the suburbs love their jobs, more than those working in the township,” Khumela said.
“The magic behind that is very simple: appreciation. In the township they get ridiculed and taunted, here in the suburbs you find people who stop to say ‘thanks officer for doing your job’.”
However, ridicule and taunts are not limited to the townships with Wits security guards being the subject of abuse from students and their fellow staff members.
“Personally, I’ve seen how the security guards get ridiculed at the main gate by the so-called students and employees of Wits University. They get shouted at with things like: ‘It’s your job, you are not educated, you need to open the gate for me’,” he said.
Khumela is not fond of bureaucracy. He is quite the opposite, quoting philosopher Edmund Burke and revealing plans to center his approach to sexual violence on the poem “I Got Flowers Today” about a woman who is abused and ultimately killed by her partner.
[pullquote]getting Campus Control officers to “buy into the idea of being an officer that serves his community” [/pullquote]Wits is no stranger to the prescriptive, arms-length approach to an elusive security problem, one that has borne little enthusiasm from the student body. Khumela’s appointment, and the creation of post of liaison manager, represents a welcome change in approach.
“I want to sensitize the security workforce to understand their responsibility to the community and the university,” Khumela said
He pauses to lean back slightly in his chair, as if tossing around the significance of this statement, then adds:
“The two sides need to come together and understand each other’s responsibilities,” Khumela said.
He adds that he is busy assessing what type of training Campus Control officers may need to make this happen.
Beyond training, Khumela reckons it is mutual appreciation, and getting Campus Control officers to “buy into the idea of being an officer that serves his community” that will make the difference in crime prevention.
The qualified domestic violence facilitator says he is also aware of the need for Campus Control to embrace social media to improve communication with students. To this end, Witsies can now tweet @WitsSecurity to contact Campus Control.
Lawyers against Abuse, or LvA, is the brain-child of Professor Bonita Meyersfeld, associate lecturer and director of the Centre for Legal Studies. She sees the legal advice centre as a place that caters specifically to the needs of victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
The centre has two objectives. The first is to ensure that lawyers minimise the amount of trauma inflicted on clients. “Often lawyers are not mindful of the trauma these victims experience and asking clients too many questions can be re-traumatising,” said legal officer for LvA, Shayda Vance.
[pullquote align=”right”]“Often lawyers are not mindful of the trauma these victims experience and asking clients too many questions can be re-traumatising,” [/pullquote]
Training and Facilitation
All the lawyers at LvA have been trained in trauma by Nataly Woollett and Sheetal Vallabh, the psychologists on the team. “When Boni started the organisation she reached out to everyone she thought would be interested and two psychologists were and they suggested the training,” said Vance.
The second objective has been to facilitate the victim’s interaction with hospitals, police and counsellors by forming partnerships with these bodies. They hope to prevent any further trauma caused by the fact that victims are often met with resistance from police and hospitals, said Vance.
“We’ll call and speak to the police or hospitals and at times accompany them if that’s what they want. We don’t just give them a number and send them on their way.”
Vance said the exposé of the sexual harassment around campus highlighted the need for the organisation because there were not enough places victims could go.
Fundraising and Volunteers
At the moment LvA is working out of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. LvA receives most of their clients through referrals because they are well-known in their networks. Their goal is to have an actual clinic by 2015 that will allow walk-ins.
The services provided by LvA are pro bono (free of charge). They are primarily funded through fundraising and they also receive individual donations. They hosted an annual art auction on Monday night at which they were able to raise R200 000.
LvA operates on a volunteer basis, and Vance said they needed more of them. “Anyone can volunteer in almost any field. We will find work for them to do.”
Eyebrows have been raised sky high in response to a lunch hosted by lawyers investigating sexual harassment charges at Wits.
Lawyers from Bowman Gilfillan invited a group of the harassment “victims” to an intimate lunch at Papa Vino’s in Rosebank last week – a move that many are saying is a little out of kilter with professional practice.
The email invitation sent by Bowman Gilfillan said: “We thought it fitting to arrange a lunch for all students affected by sexual harassment at Wits where all of us can meet in an informal setting and provide support for one another.”
It was made clear they would not be asking any questions related to the various sexual harassment cases at the lunch.
The lunch by the firm might have been very innocent in its intent but the ethical implications need to be taken into account, according to some legal experts.
Dr Murray Wesson, lecturer at the School of Law, University of Western Sydney said the lunch was “in bad practice”.
“Lawyers should not confer with multiple witnesses at [pullquote]Lawyers should not confer with multiple witnesses at the same time about issues that may be contentious at a subsequent hearing.[/pullquote]the same time about issues that may be contentious at a subsequent hearing. The reason is that this may give rise to collusion or the appearance of collusion,” said Wesson.
Wesson said while the invitation states that people will not be interviewed at the lunch, it also says that students will be able to drive discussions with one another. His concerns are around the fact that in such a relaxed and informal setting, conversation could lead to the allegations of the various cases.
Wits Centre for Ethics director Professor Lucy Allias said she found the lunch “strange”. She added that she did not understand how the invitation could be considered appropriate.
She said: “It seems to me very strange to invite victims of a highly personal, potentially extremely traumatic kind of abuse to a joint social event.”
One of the students, or accusers, who was invited but did not attend said: “I don’t want to be with other victims, all of us sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves.”
Response Wits Vuvuzela contacted Kirti Menon to get the University’s comment, she said: “I don’t think the venue is relevant and at this stage in the university investigations I would not like to comment further.” Wits Vuvuzela had been told that the sexual harassment cases are currently being wrapped up and the final reports will be out by the end of the month.
Katlego* perches on a wall outside the Cullen Library, an old Nokia in her hand. She shields the screen against the sun, so that the message is visible.
“Hope you will turn me into your personal slave,” one message reads. “Make me serve you and then reward me!”
“Whatever we might agree would be totally secret and safe with no strings attached,” says another. These messages are from Katlego’s lecturer.
“I remember the first time he sent me an SMS. He said something very explicit,” Katlego says.
She called the number back twice, not knowing who it was. There was no answer. “That’s when he sent an SMS, he was like, ‘Don’t call me, let’s just chat via SMS.’”
Katlego had never given him her number, and was initially surprised that he had managed to get hold of it. “But then I realised that he’s a lecturer. He can just look up my name and get my number.”
Katlego says she never considered reporting him. “It was so overwhelming; I thought, ‘OK, I’m just going to brush it off.’ I was a first year student, I didn’t want to jeopardise anything, didn’t want to get into trouble for getting a lecturer into trouble.
“I brushed him off. I told him look, you need to stop. He just said, ‘You can’t handle me, you can’t handle my attention’. But I told him that I was losing all respect for him as my lecturer. And I stopped replying to his SMSes.
“A man his age, it was really disturbing. Have you seen him on campus? He walks with his head down. He knows, he knows he’s surrounded by victims.”
Samantha* had a similar experience in her first year, when the same lecturer invited her to be his friend on Facebook. “He invited a couple of us black females on Facebook, including myself, lots of my friends. He sent one of my friends something really, really, really nasty. There are so many girls that I know. Actually more than six.
“If you ask any black girl who did [the subject] at some stage, they’ll tell you. He approaches everyone,” says Samantha.
Wanting to expose the lecturer, Samantha spoke to her friends, asking them to come forward. But they refused. “My other friend sat me down and said, ‘You don’t want to be that girl. You don’t want to be that girl that exposes the lecturer. You don’t want that reputation.’”
Samantha was unwilling to let Wits Vuvuzela see the messages the lecturer had sent her on Facebook, although she had kept them.
“He’d remember. He’d probably check all the girls he inboxed, and then he’d know. I want to do honours [in the department], so I’m not going to do that.”
However, Samantha is quick to praise the professor. “He’s such a good lecturer, honestly. He’s making changes in the department, good changes.”
Despite this, she admits that his advances on the young women that he lectures are “bad”.
“For me, it’s no big deal because nothing happened, I didn’t entertain it. But what if I was failing, what if I was poor? What does it mean for those girls?”
Yet another student, Ayanda*, has also been approached by the Wits lecturer. In her case, it was via Yahoo Chat. Ayanda claims that she wasn’t the only student approached by the lecturer, and she has friends who had a similar experience.
“He asks how you are and if you are interested in him. If not, he doesn’t mind. He doesn’t want a relationship, just sex. He has a relationship already.
“At first it was just creepy then it became sad. I honestly thought it was a joke, but jokes don’t continue for months.”
In response to Wits Vuvuzela, the lecturer in question has denied the allegations and said: “There are appropriate channels within the university for dealing with cases of sexual discrimination and harassment”.
A complaint can be laid with one of the counsellors at the Careers Development Unit (CCDU), after which “the process will be driven/guided by the needs and wishes of the complainant”, according to the unit’s sexual harassment policy.
The CCDU’s definition of sexual harassment is “any form of unwanted sexual advance, [which] can include physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviour”.
The student laying the complaint can choose not to pursue any process involving the alleged harasser, to get counselling, follow a process of mediation, or lay a formal internal complaint, resulting in a formal grievance and/or disciplinary process.
Can lecturers date their students?
Contrary to popular belief, relationships between lecturers and students are not explicitly forbidden.
The Wits human resources department has compiled a set of “guidelines” for lecturer-student relationships, which states:
“[F]or instance in the development of a romantic relationship, a staff member should consider carefully the possible consequences for him/herself and the student. Consensual romantic relationships with student members, while not expressly prohibited, can prove problematic.”
Wits Vuvuzela is investigating cases of sexual harassment that students have brought to our attention. If you have any information, please contact us at email@example.com.
Wits Vuvuzela will protect the identity of all its sources.
*Names have been changed.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, September 21 2012.
In this episode we take a look at the work of Joburg Theatre, through the eyes of the people that work at there. Justine, who has been at the theatre for more than 20 years, walks us through its history, and Mbongeni, a ballet dancer, tells us how he came to make this beautiful theatre […]