Rape, sex assault shock at UCT

Cape Town – Nineteen incidents of sexual harassment have been formally reported to UCT this year, while seven incidents of rape, both on and off campus, were reported between May and August.

The incidents are documented in the second quarterly report of the UCT sexual assault response team (Sart), which was released earlier this month.

Some of the incidents of sexual harassment documented in the report include:

A male staff member (on dual employment between UCT and the Department of Health) who allegedly sexually harassed a female student by constantly trying to contact her. He also kissed her without her consent. He was asked to excuse himself from his duties while a decision on how the matter should be handled is being discussed by the two employers.

The complainant decided to pursue the informal route and asked that the alleged perpetrator receive a warning through the Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO). The alleged perpetrator received the warning. Sart has recommended that the university and the Department of Health take the necessary disciplinary measures against the alleged perpetrator.

A male staff member who allegedly sexually harassed an undisclosed number of female students. The case was heard at a UCT disciplinary enquiry. The accused was found guilty of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards female students.

The accused is required to attend a sexual harassment awareness workshop and has received a final written warning for a period of 18 months. If found guilty of sexual harassment within this period, he will most likely be dismissed. The Sart has tabled their disappointment with the disciplinary measure.

Three male students in one residence who allegedly sexually harassed a female student by going through her laundry and playing with her underwear while making unwanted sexual comments in her presence. One male student slapped her on her buttocks, “which constitutes sexual assault”. The report states that there were challenges in following up this case: “The complainant/survivor was not acquainted with the alleged perpetrators and could not identify them except that they seemed to be students in the same residence and knew her well – they referred to her by her room number.”

The complainant also stated that she did not want to pursue the case further. The option of changing residences was presented to the student and she is still considering this option.

Not all of the incidents recorded in the report happened at UCT and not all of the alleged victims were from the UCT community but the cases were reported to the university and in some of the cases UCT services were used for advice and support by survivors.

Earlier this year the university said Sart had been established to ensure a co-ordinated and consistent level of care and support to victims of sexual violence on campus. The report noted that while a number of no-contact orders had been issued for the protection of complainants/survivors, most cases were not followed up by formal disciplinary processes when the complainants/survivors indicated that they did not wish to pursue the case.

“Sart is currently in consultation with UCT’s legal experts concerning whether or not to prosecute cases in which the complainant/survivor does not wish to pursue the case further.”

In terms of the rape cases, two of the incidents occurred in the university’s residences.

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